In a closed-door meeting in February 2010, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged his French counterpart not to proceed with the sale of two amphibious assault ships to Russia because it “would send the wrong message to Russia and to our allies in Central and East Europe.”
The French official, Hervé Morin, acknowledged that each of the ships — so-called Mistral-class vessels built for the French Navy to carry troops, landing craft, and helicopters — was “indeed a warship for power projection,” according to a confidential diplomatic cable on the meeting, which was made public by WikiLeaks. But Mr. Morin “asked rhetorically how we can tell Russia we desire partnership but then not trust them,” the cable added.
With Russia’s annexation of Crimea and some 40,000 Russian troops deployed near Ukraine, Western officials are no longer putting their trust in Russia’s intentions. But despite American objections, the sale is still on track, and the first ship is scheduled for delivery late this year.
During a visit here on Tuesday, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said his government would decide in October whether to proceed with the delivery of two of the ships, and asserted that France had struck the right balance between “dialogue and firmness” in its dealings with Moscow. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated in his meeting with Mr. Fabius that the sale was not helpful, seeking a way to prevent it, according to a State Department official. But Mr. Fabius later asserted to reporters that Mr. Kerry had not demanded that France cancel the sale...
…“The technology and capability represented by the Mistral should not be passed to a Russian Federation that continues to threaten its neighbors,” said James G. Stavridis, the retired admiral who served as NATO’s top commander from 2009 to 2013.
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