Warner urges President Obama to oppose sale of French warships to Russia

mark-warnerIn a bipartisan letter to President Obama, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Bill Keating (D-MA) today urged the President to oppose the sale of French Mistral warships to Russia in light of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The letter was sent today, in advance of next week’s scheduled visit to the U.S. by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

“As you know, in the midst of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its continued training and arming of militants in Eastern Ukraine, France is scheduled to deliver two Mistral Carriers to the Russian Navy,” the lawmakers wrote. “Mr. President, Members of the NATO Alliance cannot continue to arm Russia – let alone arm her with high-tech military equipment that will only abet its efforts to undermine Eastern European governments that aspire to be modern, European democracies. France, and all NATO allies, must make tough choices when responding to this new, aggressive Russian foreign policy. We call on you to demand France suspend the sale of these two Mistral Carriers to Russia.”

The bipartisan letter also cites Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia to illustrate what Russia’s increased naval capabilities with the new ships could mean for regional security. “The head of the Russian navy, Commander Vladimir Vysotsky, stated that victory in the Georgian conflict would have been finished ‘in just 40 minutes’ had they been equipped with the French-made Mistrals,” the letter says. “Mr. Putin himself said ‘I can assure you that if we purchase this armament, we will use it wherever we deemed necessary.’”

The text of the letter follows:

 

May 9, 2014 

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC

 

Dear President Obama,

We are writing to express our shared concern over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and particularly over the military assistance our NATO ally, France, plans to provide Russia in the coming months.

As you know, in the midst of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its continued training and arming of militants in Eastern Ukraine, France is scheduled to deliver two Mistral Carriers to the Russian Navy. According to the French Defense Ministry, the first vessel, called The Vladivostok, is due to be delivered to the Russian Navy in October.  The second ship is called The Sevastopol, named after the port city on the Crimean Peninsula that Moscow annexed in March, and is due soon after.

While the French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian inconceivably describes these warships as nothing more than “civilian hulls,” these ships will provide Russia with newly-bought, advanced military power projection in Eastern Europe, the Southern Caucasus, and the Baltics. Each Mistral has the capacity to carry 16 helicopters, four landing craft, 60 armored vehicles, 13 tanks, and up to 700 soldiers.

In fact, in 2008, the head of the Russian navy, Commander Vladimir Vysotsky, stated that victory in the Georgian conflict would have been finished “in just 40 minutes” had they been equipped with the French-made Mistrals. Mr. Putin himself said “I can assure you that if we purchase this armament, we will use it wherever we deemed necessary.”

After striking the deal in 2010, then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy said “We have to consider Russia a friend and have to work with her to build a vast area of security and prosperity together.” Unfortunately, Russia’s aggressive stance toward its neighbors and its illegal efforts to destabilize countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus prove otherwise.

Mr. President, Members of the NATO Alliance cannot continue to arm Russia – let alone arm her with high-tech military equipment that will only abet its efforts to undermine Eastern European governments that aspire to be modern, European democracies. France, and all NATO allies, must make tough choices when responding to this new, aggressive Russian foreign policy. We call on you to demand France suspend the sale of these two Mistral Carriers to Russia. Let’s work together to strengthen the NATO Alliance, not the Russian military.


We thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

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