To honor or not honor a contract? (With the Devil?)

Les Navires Mistral

Are you following the story of “les navires Mistral”? In June of 2011 the Russians under Putin (at the time Dmitry Medvedev was the Russian president, but Putin of course was pulling the strings) ordered from France under Sarkozy, at a cost of 1,2 milliard d’euros, two of what are called the Swiss army knives of the Navy, a kind of do everything warship that can, for example:

projeter des hélicoptères, des soldats et du matériel pour mener des opérations loin de nos côtes, récupérer des ressortissants français ou des populations menacées, servir d’hôpital ou accueillir un vaste état-major qui coordonnera les forces de plusieurs pays…



Delivery of the first vessel was set for November of this year, that is now. Good for France, good for Sarkozy, and good for Putin’s Russia. All good. Until February of 2014, when—

Following the February 2014 Ukrainian revolution and Euromaidan movement, and the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, Russia began to send unmarked troops and military equipment into Ukraine in what has been termed a stealth invasion, beginning with the Crimea.

Now, in November of 2014, just a few months later, the Crimea is part of Russia, and large swaths of territory in Eastern Ukraine, including the Ukrainian cities of Luhansk and Donetsk are fully occupied and fully controlled by Russian Ukrainian separatists with the support of Russian armed forces, including artillery, tanks, and thousands of Russian army “volunteers.”

The response of the West, including Europe and the United States, was and still is to impose mostly financial sanctions on Putin’s Russia and its leaders. And it was right now, just at this point when the first Mistral vessel, still docked at Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique), was supposed to be handed over to the Russians.

So what was President Hollande to do? In France there’s a real difference of opinion, a real argument between those who would have France honor it’s contract by handing the completed Mistral vessel over to Russia as it committed to do in June of 2011 (these including Marine Le Pen and many UMP delegates to the General Assembly) and those who would say that Russia, by its very illegitimate invasion and annexation of the sovereign territory of an independent nation, Ukraine, is no longer a legitimate partner in the sale and should not expect to be treated as such.

Well so far President Hollande and his Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, are standing firm in their refusal to hand over the ship to Russia. Should they continue to do so? They have President Obama’s support.


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