France Responds To US BNP Fine, Will Train Hundreds Of Russian Seamen To Operate French-Made Warship

Tyler Durden's picture

In the aftermath of the Russian sanctions, which French president Francois Hollande vehemently approved after constantly slamming Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict, and even went so far to threaten the cancellation of a delivery of a powerful French-made amphibious assault warship, the Mistral, to be delivered to Russia something happened: in the latest demonstration of its impotence to punish domestic bankers, the US decided to slap a French bank, BNP Paribas with a $10 billion fine for money laundering.

As a result, France has suddenly found itself battling two populist fronts: on one hand it had to continue its foreign policy track of siding with NATO and the US when it comes to Russian developments; on the other it had to responds to howls of protest from the population bashing the US for having the temerity to punish its flagship bank (recall "France Furious At US $10 Billion BNP "Masterful Slap", "Racketeering" Fine").

Today, it was revealed that in weighing the two evils, it picked what it thought was the lesser one, and as the WSJ reports "a group of 400 Russian sailors are scheduled to arrive on June 22 in the French Atlantic port of Saint-Nazaire to undergo months of instruction before some of them pilot the first of two Mistral-class carriers back to Russia in the fall, said one of these people."

As the WSJ explains, the training is a pivotal step that deepens France's commitment to fulfilling the €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) contract to supply Russia with the carriers, which are built to launch amphibious attacks with landing craft, helicopters and tanks.

That this is taking place even as the U.S. and other allies have called on the government of President François Hollande to cancel the contract, "arguing the ships will significantly enhance Russian naval power at a time when the Ukraine crisis has raised tensions with the Kremlin to their highest levels since the Cold War," demonstrates conclusively that money talks and diplomacy walks. It also demonstrates that in the increasingly more fragile western alliance against Russia (recall further that German commercial interests have made it quite clear they will not agree with any further Russian sanctions over fears of lost revenue), Obama's foreign policy partners are dropping like flies when the opportunity cost is lost business with the Kremlin.

More from the WSJ:

Paris insists the training doesn't tie its hands and that it won't make a final decision on the delivery until October. But Mr. Hollande's government also has said France intends to honor the contract, and privately officials give no indication they will renege.


France's ability to reverse course on the delivery, defense analysts say, will be diplomatically and commercially constrained once the Russian Navy arrives on its shores to begin the training and prepare to drive the carrier home.


"Four hundred Russian trainees are rather difficult to keep below the radar," said Nick Witney, a defense analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations. Other observers say that Paris's credibility to deliver on future contracts is also at stake.

As noted, Obama will not be happy and the training of Russian seamen will surely be a topic of hot debate between Obama and Hollande when the two meet in Paris today, on the eve of D-Day commemorations on the beaches of Normandy, where ironically Russia's Putin will not be present, but Ukraine's new "chocolate king" president will be.

It is not just Obama who will be furious with the latest revelation, further impairing his foreign policy credibility: other European nations are sure to voice their anger too, most notably Poland which feels particularly threatened by developments in the Ukraine:

For months, France has faced staunch opposition from the Obama administration and other Western governments including the U.K. to the plan to sell the ships—criticism that has grown in the wake of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's breakaway Crimea region. In an interview published in French daily Le Monde on Monday, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski warned Russia might use the ships to "threaten neighbors."

"We have named Russia as an aggressor in Crimea, and I don't think France would want to be supplying useful arms to an aggressor," Mr. Sikorski said.

However, as stated earlier money, Russian money, talks:

The tug of war over the Mistral illustrates how Europe's reliance on Russian resources risks unraveling strategic alliances that helped the West win the Cold War. The European Union is deeply divided over how far the bloc should go in imposing sanctions on Russia over its Ukraine incursion. Russian natural gas powers homes and businesses across Germany, the EU's biggest economy, while Russian oligarchs store their fortunes in U.K. banks.


France's economy—hobbled by decades of de-industrialization and rising labor costs—is hungry for large defense contracts that could help get the country's beleaguered shipyards back on their feet. Saint Nazaire, a port which boasts a proud history of building France's biggest ships, now relies on the occasional cruise-ship contract for economic survival.


The government says about a thousand jobs are at stake, in a country with more than 10% unemployment and a stalled economy.


Calling off the Mistral contract, a French official said, would be akin to "shooting yourself in the foot," forcing Paris to take the costly step of reimbursing Moscow.


France has already completed the first ship and built half of the second Mistral, which is scheduled for delivery in 2015. The second ship is named The Sevastopol after the Crimean port that serves as a headquarters for Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

Incidentally, the Mistral will fill a key missing void in Russia's Black Sea fleet: the ability to launch amphibious assaults on bordering nations, such as Georgia.

The Mistral, which looms over the town, is a potent weapon. The length of more than two football fields, the ship is designed to edge up to a shoreline and deploy more than a dozen tanks and attack helicopters as well as hundreds of troops. This type of ship is also an integral part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's defenses, using sensitive communications technology to coordinate operations with other NATO ships. The potential transfer of that technology to Russia has long worried policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic.


The ship also plugs a crucial gap in Russia's armed forces. Moscow boasts one of the world's largest armies and a formidable air force. But Russia's Black Sea fleet lacks an amphibious vessel like the Mistral, capable of launching a land invasion. That weakness deprived Moscow of a crucial knockout punch in 2008, when Russian troops invaded Georgia but never managed to dominate the former Soviet countries shoreline, forcing a stalemate.


"A ship like that would have allowed the Black Sea Fleet to accomplish its mission in 40 minutes," Russian Navy Admiral Vladimir Vysotkiy said at the time.

Ironically, it was none other than former French president Sarkozy, who had brokered the truce between Russia and Georgia in 2008, who proposed building the ship which would have made Russia's annexation of Georgia a walk in the park.

The proposal to sell France's prized warship to Russia grew out of the Georgian conflict. In October 2008, France's president at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy met with his counterpart President Dmitry Medvedev in the Alpine town of Evian in a bid to shore up a fragile truce Mr. Sarkozy had brokered between Russia and Georgia weeks earlier. By offering to sell Russia the Mistrals, Mr. Sarkozy aimed to persuade the Russians that NATO was no longer an enemy.


Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili flew to Paris to protest the sale, but Mr. Sarkozy brushed aside his complaints during a tense meeting in the Élysée Palace, according to a French official. "Look Mikheil, Russia is not going to invade Georgia with this boat," Mr. Sarkozy said, according to the official. Mr. Sarkozy then quipped that it was no use worrying about a Russian invasion, because the Russians were "already in your territory."


Years later, the sale has come back to haunt France's government.

And now it is set to haunt the US as well: "Last month, Assistant Secretary for Europe Victoria Nuland told U.S. lawmakers: "We have regularly and consistently expressed our concerns about this sale."

Things are only set to get worse for the State Department once photos of hundreds of "sanctioned" Russian troops being trained by the French hit the front pages of newspapers around the world, in clear defiance of US policy:

French officials haven been poring over the technical details of the training session and deliberating how to temporarily house the Russian troops while they are in French territory without attracting too much attention, said one of the people familiar with the matter.


Russia and France had planned to lodge the troops in a Russian vessel docked in Saint-Nazaire, but the person said French officials are reviewing more discreet options.

Meanwhile it is none other than Putin who continues to have the last laugh, again, and again.

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stant's picture

Maybe France will sail them to ny and demand gold like they did in 71

GetZeeGold's picture



They'll have to get by the gauntlet of German U-boats. They just might try it with Russian personnel....what the hell do they care?

PartysOver's picture

That will be some crowded waters.  

PT's picture

Globalisation will bring us world peace!


zaphod's picture

Russia must be in very bad shape to consider purchasing French made ships. I'd rather go to war in a wooden canoe.

PT's picture

I had a wooden car - wooden seats, wooden engine, wooden brakes, wooden steering wheel, wooden radiator, wooden carbies ...
Trouble is, it wooden go!

Sorry.  Just beware what you say, it might remind me of something silly.

mianne's picture

BNP fined versus training Russian sailors . It is a case of the biter bit ( in French we say "l'arroseur arrosé", that is the waterer getting wet in return") Let us hope the ships have no leaks !!!

Why should French bank  BNP be fined and not American firms British Petroleum and Exxonmobil who also disobeyed the US boycott, this time  against Russia, by signing contracts  with Russian firms at Saint-Petersburg International Forum on 24 May 2014?
On 24 May,  British Petroleum signed a contract with Russian oil giant Rosneft for exploring oil in Central Russia . ExxonMobil signed a contract for taking part in building a terminal to the Pacific Coast for Russian liquid gas.
If BP and EXXONMOBIL are not condemned ten billion dollar fines each as well, we should suspect the American justice of extorting money from foreign firms for the sake of their unsolvent nation.

Tabarnaque's picture

This is brilliant! One has to marvel at the ability of these idiots in WDC to shoot themselves in their own foot. They are so arrogant that they have lost any sign of intelligence.  

NoDebt's picture

The rest of the world has already noticed.

COSMOS's picture

Will they be serving Freedom Fries in the mess hall of these ships?

The ten billion dollar fine is meant to tell the French you will lose more money if you sell those ships.

We will have to see how long French pride lasts.

power steering's picture

They make it sound like a spontaneous, knee-jerk reaction to US flubs. Obama is a fool buit I don't think you build 2 aircraft carriers and expect somebody will show up to buy them later like a spec home.

Stuck on Zero's picture

Maybe the two ships will be "Rainbow Warriored" before they leave dock.


Never One Roach's picture

France's economy, like many others, is in serious trouble. The last thing they need is a cancellation of some huge orders of manufactured goods (war materials here) and loss of future armament contracts. The weapons trade [as previously reported here on ZH and other papers] is a massive revenue stream for many of these countries. Shuttered factories and high Yute unemployment of anxious, distraught yung'ns is definitely NOT what these countries want.

TBT or not TBT's picture

The problematic youths are already unemployed or underemployed. They aren't in shipbuilding.

Urban Redneck's picture

The ten billion dollars for the clowning around of a few BNP asshats...

One could buy about a dozen Mistrals and create thousands of steel and shipbuilding jobs in France (even with their grossly inefficient labor system) for the same ten billion Bernanke/Yellen asswipes.

If one strung up Eric the Bagholder and took all his bankster extortion bucks they could finance some hefty job creation that might actually benefit "his people"...

Jack Burton's picture

That was one of the best one sentence descriptions of present American foreign policy I have read! "They are so arrogant that they have lost any sign of intelligence."

I see American foreign policy as a case of the government of the USA beginning to believe their own propaganda about their exceptionalism. If you heard Obama's speech on foreign policy at West Point, you will note that he claimed an absolute right to act unilaterally on the world stage, and to be under no obligations regarding international law, recognized borders and other nations interests. He said if the USA decides it is in American interests to act, then AMerican actions are legal, by the might makes right principal. In short, all other nations are obligated to follow UN mandates and international law, the USA, as exceptional, need follow no laws, rules or regulations. Thus the Iraq invasion was not a war crime, but a unilateral act by the USA, which is a right of the one exceptional nation.

This type of policy will lead to world war, just look at Ukraine yesterday, where Obama's Right Sector fighters killed 25 Ukrainian resistance fighters in their hospital beds. Perhaps more were executed , the count is still coming in. Still, by all norms of accepted warfare, this is a war crime. To shoot wounded men in a hospital is a war crime. But Obama supports the Kiev RIght Sector fighters as allies of the NATO, so nothing will be said or done. Also, a missile attack like 2 days ago, could be comsidered a war crime.

Ukraine acts under US direction. The head of the CIA and Vice President, and now Obama himself have all been to advie Kiev. The murders yesterday confirm that the USA leaders have told Kiev to act like the USA would act. NO international law applies to Ukraine. Ukraine as a US puppet, is now exceptional, and has rights Russia or East Ukraine do not have.

When payback for Kiev's war crimes does happen, and it will be paid back, then Obama will scream foul and demand an international war crimes trial. You see, there are two laws. The US and it's allies, i.e. Kiev, are endowed with the exceptional rights of making their own laws. At West Point Obama told the world that American Might, Makes Right. We will do what ever we please, and all others will be held to the international laws and be punished for breaking any of them.


JRobby's picture

 Foreign policy tends to get real arrogant right before a major conflict starts.


The Nova Mob in full stride now. We need Inspector Lee and the Nova Police now!

COSMOS's picture

Hey Jack didnt see or hear anything about those hospital murders on ZH or the news???

tonyw's picture

found this, poor English so something might have been lost in translation and of course not verified:


Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Obama's use of the term "American exceptionalism" is instructive.

The term has been used by three different constituencies:

Historians. De Tocqueville first referred to America as "exceptional". The idea being that as a country of immigrants fleeing repressive regimes and seeking freedom, America is unique among all nations.

Neoconservatives. They use the term in order to justify whatever stupid shit they want to do.

Communists. Wait, what?? "The exact term "American exceptionalism" has been in use since at least the 1920s and saw more common use after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin chastised members of the Jay Lovestone-led faction of the American Communist Party for their belief that America was independent of the Marxist laws of history "thanks to its natural resources, industrial capacity, and absence of rigid class distinctions". American Communists started using the English term "American exceptionalism" in factional fights."

Totentänzerlied's picture

"Right Sector fighters killed 25 Ukrainian resistance fighters in their hospital beds."

When at least 1/3 of your economy (read: tax base) is at stake, you don't fuck around.

Payne's picture

The French pride themselves on having several Mistresses.  Who is to complain ?

Ignatius's picture

Vive' la France, or some such.

TBT or not TBT's picture

Only the sociopathic ones. The ratio of the sexes over there is around 1:1, like in most other places, and like in most other places, attachment is mostly to one other person.

drendebe10's picture

How many more countries will the policies of yhe arrogant corrupt narxissistic illegal alien sociopathic liar in chief alienate and drive into the arms of Putin? How do u spell gross incompetence? L-i-a-r-i-n-c-h-i-e-f...

dontgoforit's picture

IMHO this is his plan.  I suspect he is a Russian plant - the real Manchurian candidate

PR Guy's picture



Watch out for those French made exocet missiles (as the Brits found out in the Falklands)



what's that smell's picture

those frenchies and ruskies suck! USA! USA! USA!


Kirk2NCC1701's picture

I get that you're being sarcastic, but not everyone else does, judging by the arrows.

power steering's picture

I junked you so clearly (?) I am a Mex

Pure Evil's picture

So does that make him a Gringo?

pejoritive: A pejorative (also term of abuse, term of disparagement, or derogatory term) is a word or grammatical form of expression that expresses contempt, criticism, hostility...

Winston Churchill's picture

Slang for Greek.

As in ,may as well be speaking Greek.

JRobby's picture

+ 1,000

There can only be one of two clear choices. Don't think about it.

If your choice differs from mine, we go to war.

Dem or Repub?

What channel do you watch?

This or that?

Him or him, He or she?


what a society of idiots we have become.


Jlasoon's picture

We're just making friends everywhere. 

GetZeeGold's picture



Apple pie and marxism.....what's not to love?


We just sent 5 highly trained muslim terrorists back to the're welcome.

ParkAveFlasher's picture

I'd be careful throwing around the word "apple" if I were you.  I do believe it's trademarked.

COSMOS's picture

Those guys will do the work for the USA in SYRIA.  That is why they were released and the US prisoner was just an excuse to get these boys on the ground in Syria.

Pure Evil's picture

Ah......the Qatar connection, or

"Dr. Regime Change: or How I Was Raped By A New Pipeline Shoved Up My Backdoor."

Tabarnaque's picture

The story about prisoner exchange doesn’t make sense. Why did they exchange 5 Taliban prisoners for a deserter? It looks more like Obozo wanted to do a favor to the Taliban. Bergdhal is meaningless for the USSA. So why free 5 Taliban commanders in exchange of a deserter?


There is more to this story.

autofixer's picture

Is anyone talking about the VA scandal now?  Baam! Winning!

Idaho potato head's picture

He wants to use them in Syria.

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Not so sure he's a real 'deserter'.  How do you know he's not being provided with "deep cover"?

Don't forget... the breadth and depth of Deception in the spy trade is way beyond the common man, and beyond most in the business itself.

Almost Solvent's picture

Same thoughts myself.


Obo is a fuckhead, but to "give up" 5 for 1 (deserter no less!) the WH had to know this blowback was coming. But might be worth it if he was not actually a deserter.

Dude might even be subject to a show trial - but when he's either found not guilty (freedom) or convicted (is there a live webcam in his 'cell'?) it won't matter because he will be put wherever the spooks want him. Maybe even back in the field!

IndyPat's picture

Maybe it was so the Taliban won't sing about the arms deal gone bad in Benghazi?

Just digging the hole deeper.

earnyermoney's picture

Notice 2 of the 5 "alledgedly" comitted war crimes as they slaughtered large numbers of shia Muslims. Hmm, which brand of Muslims run Syria and Iran? These guys are on Al CIAduhs' payrole. Can not leave Qatar until their work in Syria is complete.

JRobby's picture

Much, much, much more.


drendebe10's picture

Y nithin on ZH re terrorist dream team exchange for alleged coward , traitor muslim?  Another gr8 move by the arrogant narcissistic illegal alien ignoramus liar in chief.

Sudden Debt's picture

With the first BNP fine, all I was thinking: what about those American banks?
You can't fine a foreign bank, police your own shit first.

NoDebt's picture

Remember months ago when I told you the US is NOT your friend and not to depend on us to do the right thing?  I think you're starting to see what I meant by that.