Should France halt its sale of Mistral ships to Russia? Angel Merkel says no, because this sale is not part of the current round of sanctions. And a future round of sanctions is not exactly about to be triggered:
“The question of exports to Russia falls under stage three. About when to trigger stage three, if there is more destabilisation we have agreed, also myself bilaterally with the US President, that if elections take place we won’t trigger stage three. We see elections have taken place successfully, but that there were also negative elements of destabilisation [in east Ukraine],” she noted.“If there is further destabilisation, yes, stage three—we’ve always said it,” she added.
Business as usual, nothing to see here.As for the notion that the United States might purchase the Mistrals itself, thereby sparing French jobs, we just note in passing that the French bank BNP Paribas is on the verge of having to pay the United States a fine in excess of $8 billion for circumventing U.S. sanctions against Sudan and other countries. It might be overly simplistic to think that any of that money could be used for other means; the U.S. financial regulators pursuing the case are supposed to be operating independently of political considerations. But when you look at the figures (the Mistral contract is $1.6 billion) and consider that the French bank is getting ready to plead guilty to knowingly undermining official state policy, perhaps it’s not so crazy to think that BNP should pitch in and help the French shipbuilding industry as part of their settlement.It won’t happen. But it’s worth thinking about. Even if the two stories aren’t directly linked, they both contribute to an overall portrait of the stranglehold that business interests have on European foreign policy.