Russian news agency RIA Novosti, citing French Le Figaro, reports that the agreement to sell Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia seems to be losing support in Paris:
The agreement to sell advanced warships to Russia is losing support in France because of Moscow's wish to get hold of sensitive military technology and concerns among Russia's neighbors, Le Figaro daily said on Wednesday.
Russia and France signed an intergovernmental agreement in January on four Mistral-class helicopter carriers - two to be built at the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, and two in Russia under a French license.
Paris has agreed to transfer to Russia a highly sophisticated control and communication system, Sinik 9, which builds on the Sinik 8 system that is installed on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, the flagship of the French Navy, the paper said.
According to Le Figaro's sources, Russia has pushed through an important change in the intergovernmental agreement, replacing French "assistance" in technology transfer to Russia with a "guarantee" of technology transfer.
A number of Russia's neighbors have expressed concern over the upcoming deal, in particular Georgia, Lithuania, and Japan, especially after a Russian Defense Ministry source said in early February the ships would be inducted with the Pacific Fleet to protect the South Kuril Islands claimed by Japan.
"The negotiations have started to irk even the most loyal supporters of the agreement, who are beginning to think that the price for France is too high," the paper says.
If what Le Figaro has learned is true, that would be welcome news, indeed, for most of Russia´s neighbours, and probably for the US, too. Letting the Putin´s "virtual mafia state" (US embassy cable) share advanced western defense technology would be both dangerous and incredibly stupid. Let´s hope M. Sarkozy realizes this, too, before it´s too late.