Russian premier Vladimir Putin met French leaders Friday on a visit aimed at boosting economic ties. But his trip sparked concern amid reports that Russia plans to buy a French warship that would significantly boost its military capabilities.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin concluded a raft of deals with French business leaders on Friday during a visit aimed at luring investment into Russia’s auto and energy industries. But his two-day trip has set off alarm bells in some parts of Europe amid reports that Moscow also has plans to purchase a French-made aircraft carrier that would significantly boost Russia’s military capabilities.
The commander of the Russian navy, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, has noted publicly that if the Mistral had been used during Russia's August 2008 conflict with Georgia, the Black Sea fleet could have deployed its troops in 40 minutes instead of the 26 hours it took to do so.
Such a blunt assessment has sparked unease in several nations formerly under Kremlin control, with Baltic governments expressing concern this week over any expansion of Russian military capability. Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said on Tuesday that his country wanted to know if a Mistral sale would include “top military technology". Lithuanian foreign ministry spokesman Rolandas Kacinskas on Wednesday told AFP that Vilnius was seeking clarification from France on "exactly what kind of equipment it plans to sell and what it can be used for".
Alex Rondell, president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, told French daily Le Figaro that a Mistral purchase would merely be Moscow’s latest attempt to regain its status as a superpower and reassert control over its former Soviet satellites. He, for one, has no doubts as to Russia’s long-term plans for the ship.
“This is why we are afraid,” he said.
Date created : 2009-11-27