France kowtows to US by suspending Mistral delivery – Le Pen
France’s decision to suspend the delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carrier ships to Russia shows Paris’ obedience of American diplomacy, said National Front leader Marine Le Pen. Russia still believes that France will fulfill the contract.
"This decision is very serious, firstly because it runs contrary to the interests of the country and shows our obedience of American diplomacy," Le Pen told France’s RTL radio.
She added that suspension of Mistral warships is also serious “for the reputation of France and the value of its word in trade relations.”
“It will have a huge cost: four months of employment in Saint-Nazaire [where Mistral vessels are under construction], millions of working hours,” Le Pen added, “The delay will cause a fine of 5 to 10 billion euro.”
On Wednesday France suspended delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carrier ships to Russia because of events in eastern Ukraine.
“The situation is serious. Russia’s recent actions in the east of Ukraine contravene the fundamental principles of European security,” said a statement from the office of President Francois Hollande.
The French president later said that the conditions for delivering Mistral to Russia are ceasefire in Ukraine and political settlement of the conflict, Reuters reported.
In case of further complications, delivery would be delayed but the contract would not be suspended, he added.
The two ships were commissioned by Russia in 2011 at a cost of $1.6 billion. The first of these, the Vladivostok, was due to come into service at the end of this year, with the second, the Sevastopol, is due to be completed in 2015.
Other French opposition representatives criticized the decision of French government, saying that a possible suspension of the Mistral helicopter carriers will disrepute France as trading partner.
“Suspension of delivering the Mistral [ships] would be suicidal for the credibility and reliability of the French arms industry,” wrote Thierry Mariani, a member of the Union for a Popular Movement on Twitter.
— Thierry MARIANI ن (@ThierryMARIANI) September 3, 2014
The workers at Saint-Nazaire shipyard say they are shocked and outraged at Hollande’s decision.
“It is a reaction of bewilderment and scandal,” said Jean-Marc Perez, Assistant Secretary from STX Europe.
According to Perez, this is “another demonstration that the decisions taken by the government have consequences for employees."
"If the president's announcement concludes with suspending of the construction, it would create difficulties for hundreds of jobs... This is unacceptable, intolerable," he added.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the prominent leader of the Left Party, said that Hollande had “committed an intolerable betrayal.”
The president had submitted France to “the hands of the USA and NATO war policy,” the hardline socialist politician said.
Philippe Marini, a member of the Senate of France the Union for a Popular Movement also slammed the suspension of the Mistral delivery to Russia, saying that it “is evidence of ‘servility’ of the current [French] government to the United States.”
Another representative of the Union of Popular Movement, Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam, said that France “should respect the contracts which were signed.”
“France capitulated under pressure from the United States. If [Charles] de Gaulle [the leader of Free France during World War II] saw that!" complained Lionnel Luca and Jean-François Mancel from the union.
The majority of the readers of French Le Figaro newspaper believe that French government is wrong to suspend the delivery of the ships to Russia.
The poll asked: “Is the French government right in suspending Mistral ships to Russia?” Seventy-three percent of respondents answered “No.”
Meanwhile, The Russian Defense Ministry said it hasn’t received any official notification from Paris that France has suspended the Mistral helicopter carrier ships deal with Moscow.
“The French side currently hasn’t officially presented its position concerning the suspension of the contract, that’s why the fulfillment of our duties is going ahead without any changes,” deputy head of the ministry Yury Borisov told RIA Novosti.
According to Borisov, Russia doesn’t see “much tragedy in the situation about the [Mistral] contract” and “Russia’s position will be made according to international law.”
He added that French contractors are interested in cooperation with Russia as Moscow “has many other projects with them,” he added.
Russia says it believes that France will fulfill its contract to deliver the Mistral ships, Industry Minister Denis Manturov told journalists in Moscow on Thursday.
"We assume that the contract will be fulfilled according to the agreements," he said.
According to Maria Zakharova, deputy spokeswoman of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, “the reputation of France as a reliable partner who complies with the contract obligations, is thrown into a fire of American political ambitions.”
“Where are the times when Paris didn’t bend under the pressure of the USA, for example in the Iraqi crisis?” she wrote on Facebook.
In the meantime, a construction of Mistral warships is still on-going, a well-informed source told AFP.
The French government "explained that the conditions for delivering this ship were not in place at the moment, but there has been no order to stop building them," the source added.