|Mistral-class Amphibious Assault Ship|
Canada's own Prime Minister has called for continued sanctions over Russia, and Canada has been quite outspoken in it support for the Ukraine. We are even sending fighter jets over there. There was even a rumor that the RCAF would donate aircraft, but this rumor has been quashed.
France is in a bit of a "no-win" situation here. It cannot just simply cancel the sale this late in the game. One ship is scheduled for delivery this fall and construction of the other is well under way. The two Mistral-class ships are being sold without weaponry, so they are technically considered "civilian hulls". This makes things a bit more sticky. France is not really selling weapons to Russia, just a couple of really big boats. Sanctions would have to be bumped up considerably include the vessels.
Canceling the sale would have repercussions as well. Foreign nations may reconsider buying French equipment out of fears that deals may be cancelled to political whim. Since it has to compete the massive American Military Industrial Complex, France's defense industry cannot afford to be as picky with its clientele.
|Libyan Mirage F1|
Even if the sale was cancelled, Russia could still build its own Mistral-class vessels, since Russian engineers participated in building the Vladivostok and Sevastopol ships.
All of this could be excused however. If the French government really wanted to stop the sale, it likely could quite easily. Politically, it is still the most attractive choice. Unfortunately, stopping the sale would have huge financial repercussions.
A cancelled sale would likely lead to penalty payments, and France would be stuck with two very expensive ships and no buyer. France's military has no need of two surplus amphibious assault ships (they already have three), and certainly cannot afford them.
At the present time, it seems clear that there are only two ways to cancel the Russian Mistral deal. Tougher sanctions or finding another buyer.
Sanctions are not always the easy answer, especially when dealing with a nation of Russia's economic clout. Since economic trade goes both ways, all sides need to be prepared to take an economic hit. Some might equate it to a game of chicken. Russia produces a lot of energy and oil, sanctions against which would create global repercussions. Sanctions have gotten tougher after the downing of flight MH17, but it is hard to predict how far they will go from here. Worst of all, imposed sanctions still leave France stuck with two unneeded ships.
What France truly needs is the guarantee that it will not get stuck with these two ships. It needs a buyer. There have been calls for the EU or NATO to purchase the ships, as well as Canada.
The Mistral-class ships have been on the "wish list" of the Canadian navy for some time now. They have been put on the back burner, unfortunately, as Joint Support Ships have the priority right now. While the Mistral-class ships would likely be able to fulfill the role, plans are already underway to construct a German design.
|Dassault Rafale with some weapons and a rather "phallic" looking drop tank.|
How far will this admonishment go? Given Prime Minister Stephen Harper's rhetoric against Russia and Vladimir Putin, those that provide military equipment could well raise similar ire. If the Mistral-class ships are sold to Russia, any Canadian purchase would likely be a non-starter. Furthermore, France's attempts to offer the Rafale as a F-35 alternative would fall on deaf ears.
The Rafale is already seen as the "long-shot" among the possible CF-18 replacements. While it is most certainly a capable aircraft, it simply does not have the political muscle that the F-35, Super Hornet, and Eurofighter have. While Canada and France have good relations, those ties just are not as strong as those shared between Canada and the USA or the UK.
Canada could use those Mistral-class ships, though, and it absolutely needs new fighter aircraft. France would very much like to sell us both, as it would be a huge boon for its shipbuilding and aerospace industries. The Rafale has not yet been able to find many foreign buyers. Its single export customer, India, continues to drag its feet. While Dassault has been promoting the fact that the Rafale comes with technology transfer and "customer selected weapons", those benefits may cost extra.
Perhaps there is there possibility of a "package deal". For France and Canada, it could be a "win-win". France gets to avoid the stigma of selling ships to controversial buyer and manages to keep its Rafale line going a little longer. Meanwhile, Canada gets to beef up both its navy and air force without breaking the bank on homebuilt ships and the controversial F-35.
Such a deal may be prohibitively complex. It could very well be impossible given the mechanisms that are already in place. Then again, a similar deal almost resulted in Canada procuring F-14 Tomcats. Maybe it is worth trying again.