February 9, 2010
He revealed that, after much um-ing and ah-ing, France is to sell one, and possibly as many as four, amphibious assault ships to Russia. The Economist’s Charlemagne correspondent notes that after seeing one of these ships at St Petersburg in November 2009, Russian PM Vladimir Putin said on a visit to Paris: “I can assure you that if we purchase this armament, we will use it wherever deemed necessary.” Similarly a senior Russian admiral declared that if such ships had been in the fleet in 2008, Russian forces would have overrun Georgia “within 40 minutes”, rather than in 26 hours.
The WSJ notes that both the US and the eastern European members of NATO are not amused and it’s certainly unlikely that France’s decision will do anything to dispell the concerns in both the UK and the EU accession states that its vision for EU defence policy poses a threat to the transatlantic alliance.
Franco-British military cooperation is back in vogue within the MoD but actions like this highlight the fact that on crucial questions such as engagement with Russia, Iran’s nuclear programme and other key foreign policy questions of the day – opinion in the EU is divergent, and that is not something that the Lisbon Treaty could, or did, magic away.