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9 Feb, 2010 18:24

France OKs carrier sale to Russia

France has agreed to sell the Mistral helicopter carrier to Russia. The Russian Navy also has its eyes on three more similar vessels in the future.

The approval of the defense deal was announced Monday by Jacques de Lajugie, the international development director of France’s armaments board Delegation Generale pour l’Armement (DGA). He added the possible addition of three more helicopter carriers has only been discussed on the technical level, not on the political.

In a brief meeting on Monday, French president Nicolas Sarkozy told US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the deal will not pose a military problem, stressing that Russia should be viewed as an equal partner.

"One cannot expect Russia to behave as a partner if we don't treat them as one," the French president said.

Meanwhile, a source in the Russian government told RIA Novosti that the decision on purchasing the Mistral carrier would be made in the near future. The source added that in Russia there is still not a single opinion on the matter. “There are both those who favor the decision and those who oppose it,” the source told the agency.

Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolay Patrushev told journalists on Tuesday that at this point it is too early to talk about the purchase of the carrier.

“All points of view that are being voiced have a right to exist,” Patrushev said. “We, in fact, can build such a ship in our country but this will take time. We can surely buy it abroad, but we need money for it.”

He added that the matter is being analyzed at the moment so that the final decision will be well thought out.

Russia’s Navy voiced its intention to buy a helicopter carrier last year. The goal is to study the technology and tactical advantages of such a ship.

The French warship Mistral is the main candidate for the purchase, and she even paid a three-day visit to St. Petersburg in November so that top brass could examine it personally. However, the final decision has not yet been made and Russia is considering alternatives.

France currently has two vessels of this class deployed, which means additional warships will have to be commissioned if Russia wants an extra three. Some Russian Navy officials also speculated that the Mistral can go with a license to build similar vessels in Russian shipyards.

“For the first time since World War II, Russia buys such a big piece of armament abroad, so indeed it is unprecedented, but I believe it is the beginning of military imports,” Aleksandr Pikaev from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations told RT. “Sometimes it is easier to buy a ready product than develop it from a scratch. Russia accounts for maybe 2.5% of international GDP and spends very little money for its military, around 3% of Russia’s own GDP. Under these circumstances, it is very difficult for Russia to develop the full spectrum of weaponry Moscow might need, and therefore in some non-crucial areas, Russia has to enter the international military market.”