The Georgian Association Statement Regarding the Sale of the Mistral Helicopter Carrier to Russia

On Monday, February 8, 2010, Jacques de Lajugie, the head of international sales at the French Defense Ministrys weapons production agency (Direction Gnrale pour l’Armement or DGA), confirmed that the French government agreed to sell Russia one Mistral-class advanced amphibious helicopter carrier and is considering a request for three more.

Possession of this state-of-the-art assault ship will significantly increase Russias force projection capabilities in the Baltic and the Black Seas, which will considerably undermine the security of the US and NATO allies in the region. Russias willingness to use the Mistral assault ship against Georgia is evident in the remarks of Admiral Vladimir Visotskiy, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, who in September of last year noted that possession of this warship during the war with Georgia in 2008 would have allowed the Black Sea Fleet to accomplish its military objectives in forty minutes. In the conflict in August last year [against Georgia], a ship like that would have allowed the [Russian] Black Sea Fleet to accomplish its mission in 40 minutes, not 26 hours which is how long it took us [to land the troops ashore] (Interfax, September 11, 15).

The Mistral sale marks the first time a NATO country has willingly transferred to Russia an advanced offensive weapons platform. This is alarming given that the Kremlins recently released national military doctrine explicitly states that NATOs eastward expansion is the main external military threat to the Russian Federation. The French decision threatens NATO alliance solidarity and ignores Eastern European members, who have repeatedly warned against the Mistral sale.

The U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, during his recent visit to Paris expressed Washingtons concerns over the Mistral sale to his French counterpart, Herv Morin, but with little result. Unfortunately the interests of the French manufacturer, DCNS, based at the shipyards in Saint-Nazaire, prevailed over much more significant geopolitical considerations. This decision sets a precedent for other arms producers in Western Europe, who will now see Russia as a lucrative market for advanced naval military technology.

The Georgian Association in the United Sates, Inc. strongly protests the French governments decision to transfer the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship to Russia and calls on the United States Government to use all its diplomatic power to halt the sale. The Georgian Association also calls on the US government for pro-active Eastern European/Black Sea/Caspian policy to increase security and boost the regional cooperation.

Sincerely,
The Georgian Association in the United States

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