Moscow believes France's decision to suspend regular deliveries of Mistral helicopter carriers is a problem only for France itself. "This is a problem of France, we have no problems, our rights are secured by the contract," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "Court proceedings, I believe, will not take long if the issue is not resolved in accordance with the deal signed by the French side."
The contract covering the supply of the two helicopter carriers was signed in June 2011. The deal amounted to 1.2 billion euros. The first helicopter carrier "Vladivostok" was to be handed over to Russia in December 2014; the second, "Sevastopol" - in November 2015. However, due to the situation surrounding Ukraine, on September 3, 2014 the French authorities announced that "there are not the conditions necessary for successful delivery of the first helicopter carrier."
It is spelled out in the contract that, in case of failure of the order, the amount of the penalty can range from 3 to 10 billion euros, depending on the circumstances of the failure.
A member of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Igor Morozov, has commented on the issue. The senator believes that the situation will have a negative impact on the military-technical cooperation between Russia and NATO.
"It will not be difficult for the Russian side to win this process, because it was a period of very constructive substantive cooperation between Russia and France in the military-technical sphere. There were lawyers working on both sides. This contract was expected to serve as a basis for further cooperation and interaction in the military-technical sphere. But everything happened as it did, and I would like to give an overview of the negative consequences which will follow the Mistral story. Probably, first of all, Russia will have to learn from its military-technical cooperation with France," he said.
"The first lesson is that France is an unreliable partner. The leadership of France is completely dependent on the United States. We realize that the Americans have long developed a strategy of global supremacy and continue to implement it, including in Europe. France is fully under the influence of the implementation of the U.S. project. This is the first lesson. The second lesson is that it is good that the situation with the Mistral happened now, because we realize that these Mistrals do not have strategic, key importance for the Russian navy," Morozov said.
"Now we understand that in case we need to have military cooperation with foreign countries, we have to choose a completely different region. This may be China or Singapore. This means that the focus on Asia and South Asia for the development of our foreign policy in the sphere of economics and cooperation has been the right choice. I think that the situation to develop in the social sector of France, in Saint-Nazaire, where jobs will be lost... It will not be the biggest supporter of the ruling party of France. A loss of 2 or 3 billion is not as important in comparison to the damage to France's reputation in the arms market, and not only there," the senator said.
A senior fellow of the Institute of International Security Problems, Alexey Fenenko, also analyzed the reasons for Russia to order the Mistral helicopter carriers from France. "The decision was made under the influence of two factors. First, at the beginning of 2011 there was a worsening of Russia's relations with Japan and, in order to react to a possible dangerous situation in the Far East, Russia bought the Mistrals. Secondly, it was a political decision made by President Medvedev - to develop military-technical cooperation with the countries of Western Europe, especially France," he said.
"Since 1960, since the times when France was headed by Charles de Gaulle, France has always played a special role for Russia. Russia viewed France as a country with an independent military capability, as a country conducting its own foreign policy, which may, if necessary, even contradict the official line of the United States. France has always taken a special position among other countries of Western Europe due to the independence of its policies, including those towards Russia. President Jacques Chirac was not afraid to threaten the Americans with a veto in the UN Security Council at the beginning of the Iraqi crisis. The USSR, and later Russia, saw France as a kind of mediator in the relationship with the Americans. Ever since Charles de Gaulle developed a system, in the framework of which France was seen as a mediator between US and USSR, the country has always been consulted in case of emerging conflict. Now it is clear that France is longer going to play this role," the expert stressed.
Fenenko thinks that this is the most unpleasant moment for both Russia and France, which had previously acted as an intermediary between the two nuclear superpowers. "If France refuses to play this role, it turns out that for both Russia and China, and for many others, it is becoming a common NATO country. Is this really profitable for France? That's the big question."