French Mistrals on Black Sea?
31 January, 2013
French Mistrals on Black Sea?
Dmitriy Rogozin: “French Mistral cannot endure Russian freeze”

Since the resignation of Anatoliy Serdiukov from his post of Russian Defense Minister last autumn almost every week we witness scandals ravaging this ministry. “French Mistrals cannot endure Russian freeze because they are designed to operate at minus 7 degrees Celsius at most,” – declared Russian Vice-PM Dmitriy Rogozin on 26 January.
To follow the line, it transpires that the agreement on the construction of two helicopter carrier Mistrals by France for
Russia, worth 1.2 billion Euro is a waste of money for Kremlin?! The fact of animosity between Vice-PM Rogozin and former Defense Minister Serdiukov was already known in the past but after the discovery of multi-billion financial machinations in the Russian Defense Ministry and Armed Forces and resignation of the Minister, Serdiukov has been subject to intensive pressure. Even his arrest may not come as a surprise.
Russian Army began purchasing arms from NATO Member States after the 2008 war with Georgia. The Kremlin realized that with a more serious enemy than we were to them in this war, much touted invincible Russian army may go unhinged and wall-eyed. Even during the several days of the war that raged in August, it became clear to Russians that they faced formidable problems in many aspects, be it army management, actions of air forces and generally air defense, as well as ground forces.
It was this August war that stimulated the then Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdiukov to launch a massive campaign of re-armament in the Russian Army, one of its priority directions being purchases of both particular specimens and whole trains of modern weaponry abroad and specifically in NATO Member States.
Georgia with its unrelenting NATO aspirations (one of the reasons of the August aggression of Russia) and critical needs in Western arms, found itself facing an announced arms embargo after the war. In contrast, Russia has embarked on seamlessly unhindered arms purchase spree in France, Italy and Germany – i.e. NATO countries – despite its rampant military aggression against a small neighbor and sovereign country and the NATO’s assumed affront and concomitant suspension of official bearings with Russia for one year.
Serious suspicions traverse the fabric of political reasoning that such a precious deal must have been hiding personal financial interests of Sarkozy and Putin, the tacit factor that perhaps played a decisive role in this controversial affair.
Indeed, signs of kickbacks were clearly observable in another – no less grandiose – deal that Moscow clinched in Rome. In 2010, Russia and Italy concluded a 30 billion ruble agreement on the purchase of 1775 armed car IVECO LMV till 2016. Later, Defense Minister Serdiukov claimed that Russian Army needed more than three thousand armed vehicles (called Lynx by Russians). In this case too, assumably, the deal involved the bargain between Putin and then Italian PM Berlusconi, the avowed friends (not that Berlusconi himself was not a novice in financial machinations in general).
On top of it, there were plans to obtain future soldier equipment from France and wheeled Centaurs tanks from Italy but by then Serdiukov was sacked.
Since last December, when new Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu brought his team to Russian Army, Serdiukov’s every decision has been diligently rolled back. For instance, military uniforms have been reshuffled regaining epaulettes; red stars will again shine wide open on military planes and helicopters. However, the main thing is the decision not to proceed to manufacture the Italian armed vehicles and two Mistrals in its own factories. In other words, only the agreements which are already in force, will go on.
As for the Rogozin’s scandalous statement that Mistrals will freeze in northern Russian seas at minus seven degrees, it is a bit exaggerated. Though, it is true that France did not intend this landing ships to transport seals in extreme north Atlantic conditions. It is quite possible that Russian north Atlantic and Pacific Ocean fleets would not be able to make proper use of Mistrals. If so, does it mean Moscow will instead deploy one of those Mistrals on the Black Sea, close to Georgian waters?
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