NATO has no money, capability to buy out Russia-bound Mistral warships – source

RIA Novosti/Alexey Filippov
NATO doesn’t have the necessary funds to meet the demands of US lawmakers and purchase French-built Mistral warships in order to prevent Russia from getting the vessels, a military source said.

"NATO’s budget is too small to not only purchase Russia-ordered Mistral helicopter carriers, but to even compensate France half of the penalties in accordance with the contract,” a military source in Brussels, Belgium told TASS news agency.

NATO’s military and civilian budget for 2014 amounts $ 1.6 billion, while the penalty for non-delivery of the two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia could reach $ 3 billion, the source explained.

“Moreover, NATO simply doesn’t have a structure that that could receive the ships. The Alliance has almost no military equipment of its own. So there would be no use in the helicopter carriers even if the money to purchase them is found,” the source said.

The idea of buying the Mistral vessels is “absurd from a military point of view” because the ships are “custom-built in accordance with Russian standards, which makes their use by NATO highly problematic and will require additional, expensive refitting,” he stressed.

The source has called the proposal by the US senators “a purely political project, in which NATO as an organization is physically unable to participate.”

“The main irony in this situation” is that even if several NATO member states will be able to allocate the necessary funds and purchase the ships – it’s not France, but Russia, which will get the money, he said.

“The contract has been paid and the redemption price will go to Moscow,” which today is “probably” more interested in money than in Mistral and “does not look too concerned” about the problem with delivery.

"The fact that this logic isn’t obvious to the US congressmen may only cause disappointment among allies and laughter among the Russians,” he concluded.

The comment comes in response to Friday news that eight US lawmakers forwarded a letter to NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, urging the Alliance to purchase the Mistral vessels.

Reuters/Stephane Mahe

“Sensitive to the financial burden that France may incur should it rightly refuse to transfer these warships to Russia, we renew our call that NATO purchase or lease the warships as a common naval asset,” the letter said as quoted by The Hill website.

“Such a decisive move by NATO isn’t without precedent and would show President Putin that our rhetorical resolve is matched by our actual resolve and that this Alliance will not tolerate or abet his dangerous actions in Europe,” it added.

NATO headquarters confirmed that it received letter, but provided no official comments on the possibility of the purchase of the ships.

Russia and France signed a €1.12 billion ($1.6 billion) contract for building two Mistral-type ships in June 2011.

Under the deal, Russia was supposed to receive the first of the two warships, the Vladivostok, in October this year.

However, the delivery has been postponed due the pressure on France by the US and EU, which imposed several waves of sanctions against Moscow over its accession of Crime and the crisis in Ukraine.

The second Mistral-class helicopter carrier, the Sevastopol, is scheduled to be handed over to Russia in 2015.

READ MORE:Mistral deal: France says delivery of warships to Russia still on hold

The Mistral-type helicopter carriers can accommodate up to 30 light helicopters in its hangar and on deck, although Russia plans to arm the Vladivostok and the Sevastopol with 16 heavy aircraft.

Each ship can also carry up to 450 combat troops (or 900 for short missions) in addition to the crew, complete with amphibious transports, armor and a command center.