‘No one else will buy Mistral that France built for Russia’
RT: The Mistral deal has put a focus on whether France is a reliable trade partner. How likely is it that it might sacrifice that reputation to satisfy its allies' principles?
Jean-Pierre Thomas: The problem is that now France [is among top] exporters of military goods in the world and France asked to respect its signature. That's the most important. The hesitation of the French government is not fair, is not serious for a great country like France. I think that the French government is really willing to deliver the Mistral, but it hesitates because of early pressure of the United States which is not acceptable. But at the end of the day, if they wait too much with this hesitation: “We will deliver,” and then “We are not ready, the conditions are not there,” the international pressure will be so high that the delivery will be impossible.
RT: It will cost France dearly if it fails to deliver, possibly having to pay up to $3 billion to Russia. Has it got that kind of money to spare?
JPT: France now has a deficit and debt. But this government is a specialist in increasing the debt and the deficit. The price of a Mistral [helicopter carrier] is 1.2 billion euro (US$1.4 billion), but with the penalty [for not delivering it] it can go up to two billion euro ($2.4 billion). If we don’t deliver the Mistral, of course Russia will go in front of international justice and we will pay this penalty. But there is another cost – the unemployment. Some 1,000 [jobs] could be destroyed – around 800 inside the company building the Mistral, and 200-300 outside, in small and medium sized companies working for them. So the cost will be very significant. If France doesn’t deliver the Mistral, this ship can be delivered to nobody because everything inside it is written in Russian. In two years, Russia can come back and say: “OK, I can buy it but with a 30 percent discount.” On the business side it has no sense.
RT: As a back-up plan, there was a US suggestion that NATO buy the ship if the deal collapses. But a military source in Europe was quoted as saying it just can't afford it. How likely is it that France could find another buyer?
JPT: The fact that the American Congress offered to buy the Mistral [is proof] that Americans are putting pressure on Europe, especially on France. And France is an independent country. I don’t understand this proposition, it has no sense. It seems that the US asks France not to respect signature…It is completely unfair.
RT: In your opinion, what should France do?
JPT: There is nothing to do. Now France is asked to deliver the Mistral. If France doesn’t do it, the signature of France will be damaged. And who will buy French military equipment if they know that [it may not abide by an agreement] for diplomatic reasons? You have two times: the time of the contract, the business time, which is confidence in the long-term, and you have the time of diplomacy and politics, which is short-term and they are changing. These are two different things and they should not be mixed...business is confidence. And France needs growth to keep its commercial and public balance to ensure employment.
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