German Lawmakers Push to Stop French Warship Delivery to Russia

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August 1, 2014

File photo shows a Mistral helicopter carrier. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Arne Delfs and Rainer Buergin

Aug. 1 (Bloomberg) — Lawmakers from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party are pressuring the government to prevent France from delivering two warships to Russia.

European Union sanctions that took effect yesterday don’t stop France from selling the Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia under a 2011 contract. French President Francois Hollande last week held out the prospect of canceling the sale of the second carrier. The first is due for delivery in two months.

“The French are about to provide Russia with valuable support for military operations with the planned delivery of the two warships and against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, that’s completely unthinkable,” said Karl Lamers, the deputy defense committee chairman from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. “I strongly believe that a debate has been set in motion that even the federal government can’t escape.”

While the EU is imposing increasingly tough measures to get Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the destabilization of Ukraine, member countries are trying to contain the damage to their own economies, with France holding out against a ships embargo, Germany trying to protect industrial exports and Britain reluctant to scare away wealthy Russian investors.

The EU or North Atlantic Treaty Organization should buy or lease the ships, Lamers said.

Karl-Georg Wellmann, a CDU lawmaker who keeps the caucus informed about relations with Russia and Ukraine, said today on ARD public television that Russia must end the aggression in eastern Ukraine and acknowledge the country’s territorial integrity for tensions to lessen. Still, there is no evidence that Russia is wiling to hold talks to that effect, he said.

Mistral Value

Acquiring the ships for the EU or NATO “would certainly be a better alternative than to make the deal at all costs, as the French are doing,” Philipp Missfelder, the foreign policy spokesman of Merkel’s parliamentary group, said by phone. “It would make sense from the perspective of European security policy to acquire such a helicopter carrier.”

The Mistral contract is worth about 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion) and Russian sailors are already in France for training to operate the first ship. Hollande has argued that the sale of the first carrier needs to go through because it has been built and Russia has already paid for it. France has declined to reveal the penalty for breaking the contract.

–With assistance from Helene Fouquet in Paris and Ian Wishart in Brussels.

Copyright 2014 Bloomberg.

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