Unreal. But true. It appears that France will really not deliver the Mistrals to Russia and will pay 1.1 billion Euros in refunds and fines.. I was pretty sure that this was all bluff and that the French would hand them over within *weeks* of declaring that they would not. Not even I could imagine the Hollande government so terminally stupid. But then, they are hardly alone.
In this case, the entire Empire is doing something fantastically stupid.
Let’s set aside the economics which are pretty clear for everybody. Let’s look at this decision from a military point of view.
Let’s begin by remember that the decision to get the Mistrals was a political one, opposed by many, possibly most, Russian Navy commanders. Mind you – there is nothing wrong with the Mistrals, they are superb and very capable ships. The point is that they are not well adapted to Russian conditions except for in the Black Sea. The plan was to send one of them to the Pacific Fleet to provide a “Green Water” power projection capability and serve as a command ship. There were rumors that the 2nd one would be going to the Black Sea Fleet. In the first case, this would have required a lot of very expensive modifications. In the 2nd case, this would have been easier, but remember that these ships were ordered when Crimea was still in Ukrainian hands. Now with Crimea back under Russian sovereignty, Russia basically “owns” the Black Sea so the addition of a Mistral would have been an “okay” to have, but nothing more. I would also note here that Russian ports (docks) are not adapted to this kind of ship and adapting them would also have required major investments.
One of the strongest arguments for the Mistrals was the fact that Russian shipyards simply did not have the time and capability to deliver such advanced ships and, especially, as fast as France. So these ships were purchased first and foremost as part of the strategy Medvedev and his Atlantic Integrationists to forge stronger political, economic, technological and military ties with the West and, second, as a (very controversial) “stop gap” measure.
But just the West’s economic sanctions proved to be a blessing for the Russian agriculture and a strong incentive to reform the Russian economy, the non-delivery of the Mistrals will be a absolute blessing for the Russian Navy which will now get 1.1 billion Euros to built exactly the ship it wanted all along! And you can be absolutely sure that the Russians now have the full plans and schematics of every single screw on the Mistrals and the docks which built them and that the ships Russia will build now will be similar, but much better adapted to Russian needs than the original one.
I will give credit to Hollande for one thing: if he would have tried not to pay back Russia and Russia would have been forced to go to court for many years, he would have damaged France’s reputation even further. But still, the loss is a huge one for France. I also feel sorry for the folks who built these superb ships and who will not see them sail under Russian flag because setting aside all the economic and military arguments against the purchase of the Mistrals, it would have been quite a sight to see them with Ka-52s on their deck.