France Reassures Baltics Over Russian Ship Deal
France’s European affairs chief Pierre Lellouche on Feb. 24 tried to reassure ex-Soviet Baltic states that his country’s possible sale of a warship to Russia does not pose a security threat.
Lellouche told Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite in Vilnius that “the ship would be sold to Russia as a civil vessel, without any military equipment,” according to a press release from Grybauskaite’s office.
The senior French officials also told the Lithuanian head of state that “France had not yet received an official request from Russia to sell” the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship, a move which has raised concern in several ex-Soviet republics including Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as well as Georgia.
The Baltic nations joined both NATO and the European Union in 2004, a move opposed by their Soviet-era master Moscow.
“On the French side we would really like to move beyond the Cold War, to turn the page on the Cold War,” Lellouche told reporters in Vilnius.
Lellouche began a tour Feb. 24 of the EU Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
France would become the first NATO country to sell advanced military technology to Russia if a deal is sealed for the Mistral-class ship, capable of carrying up to 16 helicopters, hospital facilities and a 750-strong landing force.
Earlier this month a NATO spokesman said the Western defense alliance had no objections to France’s plan to sell an advanced warship to Russia, but did note the concern of some allies about the sale.