|Russia Gets Mistral; U.S. Pressure Keeping It Out of Black Sea?|
|December 19, 2010|
By Joshua Kucera
Well, the Mistral deal between France and Russia that everyone was so exercised about – especially Georgia – has gone through, and barely anyone noticed.
As far as I can tell, none of the big English-language Georgian news sites have any notice of it. And this despite the fact that the news is not just a formality – the French agreed to include the various equipment that would make the ship dangerous, not just a shell of a ship. But as the blog Evolutsia.Netwrote, the response was “crickets chirping”:
The glaring incompatibility of the Mistral deal with Paris’ frequent lecturing on human rights and such has been qualified in the past with assurances that the warships would be sold ‘bare,’ or without the advanced equipment and electronics that really help make the Mistral the capable platform that its considered to be.
Russia seemed content with this for awhile, but last March it changed its requirements mid-course and demanded that the Mistrals be delivered with all the goodies intact. France, to its credit, held firm as long as it could. Unfortunately, ‘as long as it could’ lasted only until now.
Reported Defense News:
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Dec. 9 on a visit to Moscow that France was ready to transfer military technology if it won a tender to supply Russia with Mistral warships.
“There is no question about the technology transfer, no problem regarding technology transfers,” Fillon said at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
Part of the reason there isn't much hubbub on this from Georgia is that the ship – despite the early rhetoric from Russia's naval chief saying that it would help defeat Georgia much more quickly than the last time – will likely be stationed on the opposite end of the continent from Georgia, according to an analysis in RIA Novosti:
It looks likely that the first ships of this class will be supplied to the Pacific fleet. The Defense Ministry also mentioned such plans, and reliable sources suggest that the basic infrastructure for these ships is under preparation in the Far East.
The deployment of this kind of vessel to the Pacific has every justification. The Asia-Pacific Region is increasingly becoming the focus of attention for the world's leading countries. It is the center of interests for such key players as Russia, the United States, China, Japan and India, because it concentrates the world's fastest developing economies and almost half the planet's population.
Clearly, naval theaters of operation, above all near Africa and South East Asia, will only gain in importance over the next few years as maritime trade, shelf development and fisheries all expand. The significance of oceans adjoining Russia is also set to increase - especially in the Far East, where the economic potential of local waters and shelf exists in close proximity with inter-governmental disputes - primarily over the Korean peninsula and regarding the Kuril Islands.
One of the recently released WikiLeaks cables discusses in detail the Georgian opposition and the U.S. concern that the Mistral sale could “destabilize the Black Sea.” The conclusion of the cable:
The United States should take steps to discourage this sale, in both Paris and Brussels, or at the very least impose appropriate conditions on the sale -- such as firm commitments from Russia that the ships will not be deployed in the Black Sea -- that would put any Russian assertions about overall capabilities, versus their intentions in this region, to the test.
One wonders, then: did this U.S./NATO pressure work? Did they get Russia to promise not to deploy the Mistral in the Black Sea?
|< Prev||Next >|