NATO has no money, capability to buy out Russia-bound Mistral warships – source

RIA Novosti/Alexey Filippov

RIA Novosti/Alexey Filippov

NATO doesn’t have the necessary funds to meet the demands of US lawmakers and purchase French-built Mistral warships in order to prevent Russia from getting the vessels, a military source said.

“NATO’s budget is too small to not only purchase Russia-ordered Mistral helicopter carriers, but to even compensate France half of the penalties in accordance with the contract,” a military source in Brussels, Belgium told TASS news agency.

NATO’s military and civilian budget for 2014 amounts $ 1.6 billion, while the penalty for non-delivery of the two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia could reach $ 3 billion, the source explained.

“Moreover, NATO simply doesn’t have a structure that that could receive the ships. The Alliance has almost no military equipment of its own. So there would be no use in the helicopter carriers even if the money to purchase them is found,” the source said.

The idea of buying the Mistral vessels is “absurd from a military point of view” because the ships are “custom-built in accordance with Russian standards, which makes their use by NATO highly problematic and will require additional, expensive refitting,” he stressed.

The source has called the proposal by the US senators “a purely political project, in which NATO as an organization is physically unable to participate.”

“The main irony in this situation” is that even if several NATO member states will be able to allocate the necessary funds and purchase the ships – it’s not France, but Russia, which will get the money, he said.

“The contract has been paid and the redemption price will go to Moscow,” which today is “probably” more interested in money than in Mistral and “does not look too concerned” about the problem with delivery.

“The fact that this logic isn’t obvious to the US congressmen may only cause disappointment among allies and laughter among the Russians,” he concluded.

The comment comes in response to Friday news that eight US lawmakers forwarded a letter to NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, urging the Alliance to purchase the Mistral vessels.

An aerial view shows the Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok constructed for Russia at the STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard site in the port of Montoir-de-Bretagne near Saint Nazaire

Reuters/Stephane Mahe

 

“Sensitive to the financial burden that France may incur should it rightly refuse to transfer these warships to Russia, we renew our call that NATO purchase or lease the warships as a common naval asset,” the letter said as quoted by The Hill website.

“Such a decisive move by NATO isn’t without precedent and would show President Putin that our rhetorical resolve is matched by our actual resolve and that this Alliance will not tolerate or abet his dangerous actions in Europe,” it added.

NATO headquarters confirmed that it received letter, but provided no official comments on the possibility of the purchase of the ships.

Russia and France signed a €1.12 billion ($1.6 billion) contract for building two Mistral-type ships in June 2011.

Under the deal, Russia was supposed to receive the first of the two warships, the Vladivostok, in October this year.

However, the delivery has been postponed due the pressure on France by the US and EU, which imposed several waves of sanctions against Moscow over its accession of Crime and the crisis in Ukraine.

The second Mistral-class helicopter carrier, the Sevastopol, is scheduled to be handed over to Russia in 2015.

Mistral deal: France says delivery of warships to Russia still on hold

The French Navy’s Tonnere multi-purpose amphibious assault ship of the Mistral class at the Toulon seaport. (RIA Novosti/Alexander Vilf)

The French Navy’s Tonnere multi-purpose amphibious assault ship of the Mistral class at the Toulon seaport. (RIA Novosti/Alexander Vilf)

The Mistral-type helicopter carriers can accommodate up to 30 light helicopters in its hangar and on deck, although Russia plans to arm the Vladivostok and the Sevastopol with 16 heavy aircraft.

Each ship can also carry up to 450 combat troops (or 900 for short missions) in addition to the crew, complete with amphibious transports, armor and a command center.

Conditions have not yet been met for France to hand over the Mistral-class warship to Russia. According to the contract, it is due to be delivered on November 14, Paris said.

“The conditions today are not met to deliver the Mistral,”French Finance Minister Michel Sapin told RTL radio in an interview.

He added that the conditions the French government wants to see are “that in Ukraine the situation becomes more normal, and things cool down.”

The Russian agency responsible for foreign arms trade said on Thursday that France so far hasn’t sent any official notice that the Mistral contract may not be fulfilled.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said France had invited a new group of Russian Navy seamen and officers for training courses on handling Mistral-class warships, a move indicating that despite its ambivalent rhetoric France is continuing to fulfill the terms of the contract.

Launching the stern of the first Russian Mistral type dock assault helicopter carrier "Vladivostok" at the Baltic Shipyard. (RIA Novosti/Igor Russak)

Launching the stern of the first Russian Mistral type dock assault helicopter carrier “Vladivostok” at the Baltic Shipyard. (RIA Novosti/Igor Russak)

France may hand over the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia on November 14, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. He announced that Moscow had received an invitation to take delivery at France’s Saint-Nazaire shipyards.

“Rosoboronexport [Russia’s state owned arms exporter] has received an invitation to arrive in Saint-Nazaire on November 14, where 360 Russian sailors and 60 specialist trainers are already,” Rogozin said.

On that day, Vladivostok – the first of two Mistral-class helicopter carrier ships – should be handed over to Russia. The Deputy PM also assumed the second carrier, the Sevastopol, would also be in dock.

“We act from the fact that France must protect its own reputation as a reliable partner, including on issues of military cooperation,” he said. France has always stressed that for them this would be “the litmus test of their national pride and sovereignty,” the Deputy PM added.

On Tuesday, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that France will decide on delivery of the Mistral-type helicopter carriers to Russia only in November.

“The French president stated earlier that if the political situation does not improve, he will not permit delivery of the helicopter carriers,” Le Drian said. “The president will make a decision by November.”

Launching the stern section of a Mistral-class amphibious assault ship at the Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg. The ship will be christened the Sevastopol. (RIA Novosti/Alexei Danichev)

Launching the stern section of a Mistral-class amphibious assault ship at the Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg. The ship will be christened the Sevastopol. (RIA Novosti/Alexei Danichev)

Rogozin emphasized that so far everything is proceeding according to plan.

French shipbuilders in the Saint Nazaire shipyard have said, according to RIA Novosti, that the helicopter carriers are ready for delivery.

There has been no official statement from the French authorities yet.

Russia and France signed a €1.12 billion ($1.6 billion) contract for building two Mistral-type ships in June 2011.
Under the deal, Russia was supposed to receive the first of the two warships, the Vladivostok, in October this year.

However, delivery has been postponed due to the conflict in Ukraine, the impetus behind the international community’s pressure on France to cancel the contract.

Western allies have been pushing Paris for months, saying that France has to make sacrifices to meet its commitment to oppose Moscow through sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.

The second Mistral-class helicopter carrier, the Sevastopol, is expected to be handed over to Russia next year.

The Mistral-type helicopter carriers can accommodate up to 30 light helicopters in its hangar and on deck, although Russia plans to arm the Vladivostok and the Sevastopol with 16 heavy aircraft. The ship can also carry up to 450 combat troops (or 900 for short missions) in addition to the crew, complete with amphibious transports, armor and a command center.

European Union Lowers Growth Forecasts as Business Confidence Sags

“The economic and employment situation is not improving fast enough,” said Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission vice president for jobs and growth. Credit

“The economic and employment situation is not improving fast enough,” said Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission vice president for jobs and growth. Credit

“The economic and employment situation is not improving fast enough,” said Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission vice president for jobs and growth.

The Times – 5 November 2014

BRUSSELS — European Union officials on Tuesday sharply lowered growth forecasts as member states like France, Germany and Italy showed weak economic performance, and as business confidence suffered from heightened geopolitical risks.

Growth is expected to be a meager 1.3 percent in the 28-member bloc this year, instead of the 1.6 percent predicted in the spring, said the European Commission, the union’s executive arm. And the economy is not expected to get much better in 2015, when growth in Germany, the region’s economic engine, is expected to grind down to about 1 percent.

“The economic and employment situation is not improving fast enough,” Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission vice president for jobs and growth, said in a statement accompanying the closely watched economic forecast.

The European Commission’s Report on Economic Growth [PDF]
Shipping containers in the Hamburg harbor. Gross domestic product in Germany shrank by 0.2 percent from the first quarter.
Eurozone Recovery Stalls, With Weakness in Germany and France.
Shop windows in Rome advertise sales. The latest economic news dashed hopes that Italy was emerging from a decade of stagnation.
Italy Falls Back Into Recession, Raising Concern for Eurozone Economy.
Olli Rehn, the European Union’s commissioner for economics and monetary affairs, said growth this year is expected to flatline in the 28 countries of the Union.  E.U. Predicts Anemic Growth and High Unemployment in 2014.

Unless there are additional signs of growth and job creation in the next five years, “people could despair of the European project,” Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The recovery on the Continent continues to lag those in the United States and Britain. Over the next two years, annual growth in Britain is expected to be close to 3 percent, and the unemployment rate is projected to be 5.5 percent in 2016, according to the data released Tuesday. The unemployment rate in the European Union is not expected to fall below double digits, where it has been since 2012, until 2016.

The gloomier outlook will most likely raise expectations for the European Central Bank to take additional steps to stimulate the economy, though economists said they did not expect policy makers to take action at a meeting on Thursday.

The report on Tuesday did not take into account how the European economy might get a boost from a 300 billion euro, or $375 billion, plan to invest public and private money into infrastructure projects. Jean-Claude Juncker, who took office this month as president of the European Commission, has pledged to present that package before the end of the year.

But how much of an effect that would have on lackluster growth remains to be seen. The spending program is unlikely to “change the whole world,” Mr. Katainen said, but “its contribution can be significant.”

The lower forecasts, especially in the 18-nation euro area, where the commission cut its projection for growth this year to 0.8 percent from an earlier 1.2 percent, are a measure of how quickly optimism about a recovery has dissipated. France has failed to grow as hoped, and Italy struggles to make overhauls. There are also signs that the German economy is stalling.

In one of the more drastic downgrades for 2015, the commission lowered Germany’s forecast for growth by nearly a full percentage point to 1.1 percent.

Among the problems facing European economies like Germany is the prospect of a “new cycle of sanctions and countersanctions” related to the restrictions that the United States and the European Union imposed on Russia in retaliation for its role in the Ukraine crisis, and reciprocal moves by Moscow, European Union officials said.

Those tensions “could pose a larger roadblock to European growth prospects than currently envisaged in the forecast,” the officials said in a report accompanying the forecasts.

The tensions might also “have triggered a wait-and-see attitude among firms,” the officials wrote in a section of the report that focused on Germany.

Germany is expected to post growth of 1.3 percent this year, down from an earlier forecast of 1.8 percent. The French economy is expected to grow 0.3 percent this year, down from an earlier estimate of 1 percent.

Italy appeared to stand out as a poor performer: Its economy was predicted to shrink 0.4 percent this year compared with a forecast in May for growth of 0.6 percent.

The commission also expressed concerns about inflation, which it said would remain very low this year and would not come close to the target of just under 2 percent anytime soon. It projected an annual inflation rate of 1.6 percent in the European Union in 2016.

“With confidence indicators declining since midyear and now back to where they were at the end of 2013, and hard data pointing to very weak activity for the rest of the year, it is becoming harder to see the dent in the recovery as the result of temporary factors only,” officials wrote in their report.

The commission said it expected growth rates to improve somewhat in 2015, rising to 1.5 percent in the European Union and to 1.1 percent in the eurozone.

Even so, weaker-than-expected growth this year is likely to make it much harder for countries like France and Italy to achieve the bloc’s mandated targets to keep budget deficits and government debt in check.

France and Italy could face disciplinary action and steep fines if they fail to show that they are making sufficient effort to bring their economies in line with European budgetary rules. Mr. Katainen said those recommendations would be published by the end of this month.

Over all, the commission said, the most recent figures indicate a slow fading of the legacy of the sovereign debt crisis, with many member states still weighed down by high unemployment, high debt and low output.

That prompted Mr. Katainen, the commission vice president, to call on member states to agree on the €300 billion spending plan to bolster demand.

“Accelerating investment is the linchpin of economic recovery,” he said.

Germany also “can play a significant role stimulating the euro area and E.U. economy” by saving less and spending more, Mr. Katainen said.

German medium-size businesses are already feeling the negative impact of Western sanctions imposed against Moscow, as Russia is turning towards Asia-Pacific nations for high-tech machinery and engineering systems.

“The innovative German machinery makers and engineering companies, mostly medium and small businesses, are being hit the hardest,” Volker Treier, deputy managing director of the German Chambers of Commerce (DIHK) said, as quoted by the Business Insider Tuesday.

Treier said he expects German exports to Russia to fall by about 20 percent in 2014.

“On the one hand, they are being directly hurt by the sanctions imposed by the European Union or due to lacking clarity about how they should be implemented. On the other hand Russian firms that placed the orders are facing higher financing costs due to a credit crunch and ruble’s devaluation,” Treier explained.

On Tuesday, the German-Russian Foreign Chamber of Commerce (AHK) said that, based on a new survey of German businesses operating in Russia, the so-called Mittelstand companies (small-scale businesses that form the backbone of Germany’s economy) were being hit badly by the fallout from Western sanctions, particularly in the industrial manufacturing sector.

“China is the distinct beneficiary” of Europe’s sanctions policy toward Russia, AHK President Rainer Seele said, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal Tuesday.

French Defense Minister says decision on Russian Mistral deal due in November

mistral_class
French President François Hollande (aka General Hollande) will decide “during November” whether to deliver the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday.

“The president… said that if the political conditions did not change he did not envisage giving the authorization for delivery,” Le Drian told reporters.

Le Drian was referring to a statement by Hollande who had said that he would only hand over the first carrier – the Vladivostok – if there was a lasting ceasefire and a political settlement in Ukraine. Le Drian declined to say whether the conditions had now been met, Reuters said.

Surprised? Not at all. General Hollande is obeying orders from his patron, the Emperor savior of the world by way of wars. And if the Emperor says “don’t deliver the Mistrals”  the General kisses his hand and obeys.

Back in July, it was that other great egaliatarian president, Barack Obama, who urged Americans to tear free from the shackles of cynicism and to unleash some more of that hopium that got Obama elected in the first place. Now it is the turn of that other just as impressive socialist, France’s own General Francois Hollande, who just like Obama has seen his popularity rating crumble to unprecedented levels, come up with his own prescription for how to fix the troubles that ail France. In short: “less lamenting and disparaging, more confidence.”

From Reuters:

In the television interview to mark Bastille Day, when a crowd stormed a Paris prison on July 14, 1789, at the outset of the French Revolution, Hollande said his compatriots were more inclined than some others to put their country down.

“We are very proud but, at the same time, I would say there is a sort of sickness, which is not serious but which can be contagious, whereby we are always lamenting and disparaging,” he said.

“Speak well of your country because, when I’m abroad, people do speak well of France, of what it’s doing in the international arena, in the diplomatic sphere, on defense, the “operations” we have carried out for peace, but also innovation, companies.”

The president also cited entrepreneurs, major companies with significant exports, the tourist industry and agriculture.

“We have to fight but, most importantly, we have to have confidence in ourselves,” he said.

Bottom line: watch your president and government lie every day while pandering and preaching, working solely on behalf of the rich, while you rot away in your part-time jobs or worse, unemployed, surviving day to day on the measly pittance the government hands you to make you a docile little handout addicted serf, and at the end of the day, whatever you do, don’t become a jaded, cynical lamenter and disparager, but have “hope and confidence.” Truly the road to socialist utopia is paved with best intentions.

Things got much worse for Francois Hollande: The economy is lagging; his government is under fire; and his private life was exposed in a ravaging book by the former first lady.

The developments have helped push Hollande’s popularity to new record lows. Three polls released in recent days show that he has lower approval ratings than every other French president in modern times.

Going back to the Mistrals, Russia and France, via French ship builder DCNS, signed in 2011 a contract for the construction Mistral-class ships, a warship that can carry helicopters. The deal was worth 1.2 billion euro. The Vladivostok, the first carried, was expected to be in Russia’s hands by the end of 2014, while the second ship, the Sevastopol, is expected in 2015.

The sanctions against Russia imposed by the U.S. and its European puppets, including France, have added factor to the delays, which ultimately irked Russia. But DCNS told the Western nations their sanctions cannot prohibit the construction and transfer of Mistral ships to the country. Yep, breach of contract by France.

Russia will soon be building its own warships, Russian Navy Deputy Commander-in-Chief Rear Admiral Victor Bursuk said over the weekend. Admiral made the announcement on Russia’s frustrations over France, which is said to be delaying the turnover of its Mistral-class ships.

Bursuk told Echo of Moscow radio over the weekend the deal of the Mistral helicopter carriers was executed because “it was one of military-technical cooperation contracts.” He went on to say that future construction of ships of this kind will be built at Russian enterprises.

French President Francois Hollande in September had said he will disapprove the transfer of the Vladivostok vessel unless Ukraine situation improves. He explained the conditions surrounding the delivery of the ship is a political statement to the conflict.

Sergei Ivanov, Kremlin chief of staff, said on Thursday Russia will not have second thoughts and will sue France if the latter fails to honor the Mistral contract. “We will file a lawsuit and demand compensation [if the contract is not fulfilled], as it’s commonly done in a civilized world,” Ivanov told reporters.

The Vladivostok has finished a series of tests in September. It took off from the Saint-Nazaire French port for sea trials.

Russian news agency TASS, quoting an unidentified source from the French Defence Ministry, said that “despite France’s hesitations,” the first Mistral helicopter carrier will be delivered to Russia “by mid-November.” The carrier can carry 16 helicopters. It has a displacement of 21 tonnes, maximum body length of 210 metres, speed of 18 knots and a range of up to 20,000 miles. It can also carry several dozen armoured vehicles.

So, if you choose to keep the Emperor happy, Mr. Hollande, and not to deliver the Mistrals, you can shove them where the sun doesn’t shine.