Editorial: the end of a blunder. Kremlin gets no Mistrals

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Photo: Urmas Nemvalts

Thankfully, the years of suspense around the France-Russia warship sales deal have come to an end. The vessels will never go to Putin's aggressive regime. Praise be to the Frenchmen, for finding a solution to the mess made by previous president. 

A part of the problem would have been the potential obtained by Kremlin armed by said ships, and the countermeasures forced upon other nations. The other result is of significance: will the free world act as one, or will it allow an authoritarian regime to split it using economic interests?

Strategically, Kremlin is interested in dividing NATO and when unable to achieve it in essence, outward show of NATO disunity will do. Good to know that the Mistral card, at least, is out for good.

The plan to sell Putin’s regime the two chopper carriers was an embarrassment before the agreement was signed in 2011, and a shame after that. At the time of the signatures, less than three years had expired since Russian forces attacked Georgia.

Sadly, the beatings about the bushes continued after the attack against and annexation of Crimea. Last fall, in the wake of Wales-summit, Paris finally begun showing signs of decisiveness – the ships would not be delivered and time would be taken to seek some solution.  

Behind the deal, there lay the strategically faulty assumption that even after the Russia-Georgia war the free world would still be able to treat Kremlin as a partner, press «reset» regarding the Putinist mischief and turn a new page. Secondly, we’ll have to remember the economic crisis and the desire in Nicolas Sarkozy to award the domestic win for shipping industry. As large civilian vessels are primarily built in East-Asia, and NATO allies with their declining defence budgets were no good to order military ones, seeking sales channels was understandable. That Mr Sarkozy, despising warning by allies, went for a deal with Mr Putin, however, created a can of domestic and foreign political worms tortuous to eat by next administration.  

While the announcement is curt concerning who might buy the vessels, the allies have in all probability been actively seeking some solution – allowing the French President to save domestic face.