What fraternité? France continues to ignore the pleas of her allies by moving ahead with plans to sell two major warships to the Kremlin. The deal highlights the biggest problem for U.S. efforts to contain Russia’s Ukrainian excursions: weak European solidarity.France’s NATO allies—especially the U.S. and an increasingly alarmed Poland—worry that these Mistral class warships will shift the already fragile balance of power in an alarming direction, as the Wall Street Journal reports:
The Mistral, which looms over the town, is a potent weapon. The length of more than two football fields, the ship is designed to edge up to a shoreline and deploy more than a dozen tanks and attack helicopters as well as hundreds of troops. This type of ship is also an integral part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s defenses, using sensitive communications technology to coordinate operations with other NATO ships. The potential transfer of that technology to Russia has long worried policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic.
France has defended its decision to honor its $1.6 billion contract, which was agreed on after the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia, by appealing to economic concerns: the contracts provide more than a thousand jobs for the struggling French shipbuilding industry. In deference to this reasoning, some have called for the U.S. or NATO to prevent the deal by simply buying the warships out from under Russia.Whether or not the deal ends up falling through, it is clear that a unified Western response to Vladimir Putin’s foreign adventures remains elusive—a reality no doubt most apparent to Putin himself.