The Mistral contract – To deliver or not

July 16, 2014

Hardly mentioned whatsoever in entries thus far, has been the proposed and contractual sale of 2 Mistral Class amphibious warships by France to Russia.  There is a brief mention in this entry and that is it.

Just how well fitted out these ships will be with regard to technology transfer of installed equipment is difficult to ascertain.  Technology transfer is a serious matter regarding both the ships themselves and also what is actually installed when they are delivered.

France states it will make a final decision on the delivery of the ships in October when the first is due.  In the mean time, Russian engineers have monitored the construction and Russian personnel are now training on the body of the first ship whilst in dock.


Needless to say, there has been much bemoaning and lamenting of the sale throughout the social media in Ukraine and some of the international MSM.  On line petitions have been created.  Hopefully, the Ukrainian military planners are working on methods to mitigate the risks any completed sales generate.  Perhaps the French will inform the Ukrainians of any weaknesses of the Mistral itself.  If not, other friendly nations who have acquired access to such information may.

However we are talking about only 2 ships – perhaps 2 ships too many, but nevertheless only 2 ships.  That the Russian’s have the right to construct another 2 Mistrals under license themselves does not mean that they will.  In fact they probably won’t, for various internal reasons within Russia and The Kremlin.

France currently defends the sale as to fail to deliver would be a breach of contract – though there must be a suspicion that cancellation clauses will exist within said contract under certain conditions.  The question is what those conditions are.

Thus it appears France seems fairly resolute in its delivery of the ships and honouring its contract.  Social media moaning and petitioning will not in any way change the French position.  Diplomatic pressure on the French, or technology and/or defence sector sanctions may or may not have an effect before October.

But what of the European legal sphere as opposed to the French legal sphere?

There would appear to be some room for manipulation within the European Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, and also under Title V of the EU Treaty.

Certainly there appears to be sufficient legal wiggle room to challenge the sales through the European courts under the current circumstances – and any such challenge will not be the swiftest of procedures, inevitably dragging any delivery date out and over the horizon pending court verdicts.  Any such challenge may even be successful depending upon the hawkishness of the court.

Whether any such challenge either to stall or actually stop the Mistral deliveries will be pursued, or whether it is already being pursued and by whom? Who knows?



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