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CASR — Canadian American Strategic Review — Editorial
Canadian Military Procurement – Economic Sanctions for Russia – April 2014
French Amphibious Warfare Ships for Russia? Economic Sanctions, Coincident Procurement Opportunities, and the Mistral
An Op-Ed by Steve Daly, CD
Update Sept 2014: Russian personnel have been training at Saint-Naizaire in advance of the planned October delivery of the first of two Mistral LHD
ships for the Russian Navy. That delivery was confirmed by the French government on 01 Sept 2014. But, by 03 Sept, Paris had performed a volte face, claiming that the
conditions for export "had not yet been met".
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius described how President Hollande made his decision: "Are the conditions there today for the delivery? No, but we hope that they will be in the future."
Defence News says that the 'cancellation' is only a delay as France buys time to manoeuvre. That fits. Ministère de la Défense officials have described the sale of
Mistrals as "a private commercial transaction". But, as IHS Jane's Defence Weekly notes, the 2011 "contract was structured as a government-to-government agreement rather than a
direct commercial sale".
CASR had previously noted retiring Conservative Senator Hugh Segal's support for Canada or NATO buying the
Mistrals intended for Russia. On the day Sen. Segal made his comment about Mistral, DCNS Technologies Canada Inc opened in Ottawa with an aim to compete in the Canadian Surface Combatant project. If a Mistral sale to Russia proceeds, DCNS profits. Would Canada reward a partly
state-owned DCNS by choosing their frigate design for CSC?
Also see Jim Dorschner's proposal for NATO-owned Mistral leased to Canada for the RCN.
Crimea and Punishment – Canada and an opportunity for sanctions on Russia for Ukraine
The world has watched with a mixture of disgust and trepidation as Vladimir Putin-led Russia has invaded and annexed a portion of the Ukraine. The Crimean Peninsula has been seized, an illegal
referendum held, and then used as a pretext for the formal annexation of Crimea.
Not since the end of the Cold War have tensions between Russia and NATO been so high. Russia has been unceremoniously tossed out of the G-8 and sanctions have been emplaced. Counter
sanctions have been declared and even the UN deemed the Russian actions illegal. As always, the trouble with such measures is that to be effective they must really affect the person whose
actions you are protesting. But Vladimir Putin may care little about anyone's opinion except his own. Sanctions, by themselves, will have little effect on Russian actions.
Something more is needed – Perhaps sanctions on the sale of western warships to Russia?
That something more has to be tangible, something that even an autocrat like Vladimir Putin can't help but notice. Preferably, it needs also to be something that causes embarrassment to the
Putin government whose actions (in the eyes of Russia's people) must be seen to have diminished Russia's international reputation rather than to have enhanced that reputation.
A concrete demonstration of NATO displeasure is feasible (even if it's made of steel and not concrete!). France's state-controlled DCNS  is contracted to provide two
Mistral class amphibious warfare ship to the Russian government. STX France has been building the two LHDs – the Vladivostok and the Sevastopol – in Saint-Nazaire
but the near-completed ships have not been delivered to the Russian Navy. There has been great concern on both sides of the Atlantic over the French sale of these vessels to the
Russians. Since the start of the Crimean Crisis, France has flip-flopped on whether it would deliver the vessels. And major considerations facing the French are the costs
associated with cancelling this Mistral order.
To the French, the Mistral is a projection and command ship (Bâtiments de Projection et de Commandement). DCNS/STX France have built three BPCs to the French
Marine nationale: BPC Mistral in 2006, Tonnerre in 2007, and Dixmude in 2009.  In late 2011, a contract was signed with Russia to provide two further Mistral
class ships along with associated services which includes technology transfers. As with the Marine nationale vessels, DCNS acted as prime contractor while STX France does the actual
assembly as subcontractor. An important difference this time is that STX also has a subcontractor ... in the form of a Russian shipyard.
The St Petersburg-based Baltiysky Zavod (Baltic Shipyard) is responsible for construction of stern section blocks for the two Russian Mistral ships. The completed stern sections were
then towed to the STX yard in Saint-Nazaire for mating with the French-built forward sections. The agreed plan is that the third and fourth planned Mistrals are to be constructed
entirely in Russia by Baltic Yards.
In response to the Crimean referendum, the then-foreign minister Laurent Fabius considered cancelling the delivery of the Mistral class ships to Russia as part of sanctions agreed to by
the US, Canada, and the EU. Then the French government reversed its position, claiming the Mistrals are 'civilian hulls' until Russia armed the ships. But this
position may change again. French President, François Hollande, has just accepted the resignation of his entire Cabinet.
France is in a tough position. The 'optics' of delivering a new warship named Sevastopol to the Russians in the midst of the Crimean Crisis are appalling. But reneging on this contract
will have a severe affect on an already shaky French economy – not least because France, gallingly, would be forced to compensate Russia for those St Petersburg-built hull
What France needs is an alternate customer for those semi-completed Mistral class ships
Canada can be that alternative customer. That a Mistral class amphibious warfare, command and control, and power projection ship would fill a huge gap in RCN capability goes without saying.
But this isn't primarily a naval decision. It's political. Prime Minister Harper has been one of the more outspoken leaders protesting Russian actions – not surprising as Canada is one of
the countries most isolated from Russian countermeasures. Much of Russia's power stems from the threat of turning off the flow of gas to Western Europe. Russia can't do that to
Canada. In fact, shipping Canada's own copious reserves of natural gas to European allies would be the most effective economic sanction Ottawa could impose on Russia over Crimea.
Then there is the possibility of poking Vladimir Putin in the eye by taking over ownership of the Sevastopol. That makes acquiring the Mistral class ship from France a political
decision. So what are the factors involved and how would Canada go about buying the Mistral class?
There was an ounce of truth to M. Fabius' claim that the Mistrals are 'civilian hulls'. They are warships built to current 'civilian' standards and they were to be delivered
without weapons systems or communications electronics. That is actually a bonus for Canada as the ship can be sent to a Canadian shipyard for fitting-out with the RCN's preferred systems. At present,
the only major Canadian shipyard not tied up in NSPS requirements is the Davie Shipyard in Quebec. In the midst of a provincial election, the Feds' political timing could hardly be better.
Kitting out a 'Big Honkin' Ship' – a Canadian maple leaf on the funnel of the Mistral class
For Canada, it would be a happy accident that Mistrals for Russia were to be delivered without any weapons or comms fitted. This allows the RCN to select the systems offering maximum
compatibility with Canada's in-service warships. The RCN is also in the advantageous position of being in the middle of Halifax class frigates upgrades (the Halifax class
Modernization / Frigate Life Extension program) which means a modern sensor and C4I package are already selected. Canada need only adapt the FELEX electronics to the Mistral and get
Davie to install them.
For France, the stigma of having sold warships to Russia in the midst of a crisis is avoided. France saves face and dodges the huge economic consequences of a cancelled
Mistral sale. By offering an immediate purchase of the Mistral, Canada effectively enforces sanctions on Russia for its actions against Ukraine. And into the bargain, the RCN
gains a new capability.
Since the 'Russian' Mistrals are at an advanced stage of construction, Canada could take on the ship (or ships?) in very short order. Vladivostok was to be operational with the Russian
Navy in the second half of 2016. Sevastopol was due to arrive in St. Petersburg in Nov 2015.
Even in naming a Mistral, the Government of Canada would have attractive choices. As an amphibious warfare vessel, HMCS Juno Beach leaps out (and has a French connection). But
the Mistral would also have a Canadian Command and Control role. The centenary of World War One (and Canada's emergence on the world stage) suggests another possibility: HMCS
Vimy Ridge. HMCS Vimy Ridge would carry her illustrious name well past the centenary. No greater remembrance of a seminal moment, forming the Canadian psyche, can be
It should be noted that even the public offer to acquire the 'Russian' Mistral would serve as notice that Canada takes Russian actions against Ukraine seriously and Canada is willing to
commit to concrete action. Acquisition of the ship would be a most advantageous result but the symbolism of our offer to ease France's burden from sanctions is even more
 The French Government owns 75% of DCNS shares; the remainder are owned by Thales. US Department of State files comment that the sale to Russia primarily benefits STX France
while noting that government-appointed DCNS Director, Patrick Boissier, once headed STX.
 BPC Dixmude, the third Mistral hull for the Marine nationale, was ordered in April 2009 as part of an economic stimulus package proposed by the former President Nicolas
 France's Mistral deal with Moscow has been valued at €1.2 billion (or $1.824B Canadian).
CASR | Editorials and Opinions | Strategic Overview | In Detail