BAFL: France’s plan to sell ship to Russia is threat to Baltic states

The pending sale by France of an assault ship to Russia is a threat to the Baltic states, according to the Baltic American Freedom League (BAFL), which wants the U.S. House of Representatives to adopt a resolution opposing the deal.

In a June 2 e-mail, BAFL President Vija A. Turjanis urged supporters to write to members of Congress asking them to approve the resolution calling on countries that are part of the European Union or the NATO defense alliance to not sell major weapons systems or offensive military equipment to Russia.

Of immediate concern is France’s plan to sell a Mistral amphibious assault ship to Russia and possibly license construction of up to three more.

Built by the French company DCNS, the Mistral class ships are promoted as multifunctional vessels, capable of being used for both humanitarian and military operations. A Mistral class ship was used in the summer of 2006 to evacuate refugees from Lebanon. The 21,300-ton ship can accommodate a crew of 176 and 450 soldiers. It can carry 16 helicopters.

“Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are very threatened by this deal, as is the entire region,” Turjanis wrote in the e-mail. “We need to do everything in our power to stop this sale of these Mistral amphibious assault ships. NATO has downplayed security concerns in Eastern Europe over this sale, even though Russia fought a war against Georgia, a country striving to become a NATO member, less than two years ago.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida, introduced H. Res. 982 in December. The proposed resolution would express “the sense of the Congress” that the president, secretary of state and secretary of defense should urge France and other countries not to sell major weapons to Russia until Moscow has met five conditions. Those conditions include withdrawing Russian troops from Georgia and revoking recognition of Georgia’s separatist regions as sovereign states; fulfilling its commitment to remove forces from the Transnistria region of Moldova; stopping actions that violate or threaten neighboring states; halting weapons and related technology sales to state sponsors of terrorism; and taking steps to enforce the rule of law and human rights within Russia.

The proposed resolution was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has told French officials he is concerned about the sale of the Mistral ships to Russia.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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