The saga of the French Mistral amphibious assault warship which was ordered by Russia years ago, and whose delivery - at least according to Putin - was the reason behind the US record $9 billion DOJ fine of French BNP (which the Russian president called "blackmail" by the US designed to intimidate France and prevent it from completing the transaction) just took a turn for the bizarre.
In a note written in the Atlantic Council's website, Democrat representative for New York's 16th district, Eliot Engel, has proposed that instead of letting France conclude its deal with Russia, now that even the BNP "blackmail" has failed to dent Hollande's intention to see the delivery to its end, that NATO (read the US) should step up and "collectively purchase or lease the warships as a common naval asset."
In other words, with cajoling, threats and even fines failing to make an impression on French weapon delivery intentions, and thus US foreign policy, it is time to start throwing away taxpayer money in order to spoil Putin's party.
Of course, this begs the question: what happens with the next order placed by Russia: will NATO step in and overbid Russia in the final instant (using US bond issuance proceeds to fund the transaction of course - bonds which are largely purchased by China, the Fed and, of course, "Belgium") again, and then again, and so on?
We wonder: are we the only ones who now see this as nothing more than the cold war arms race, in which the two sides would merely stockpile nuclear weapons in an attempt to have the greater "Mutually Assured Deterrence" fear factor, and which ultimately ended up bankrupting the USSR (or so conventional wisdom goes)? If so, who is getting the short end of the stick this time: because just how many useless and unnecessary military vessels can "NATO" accumulate before it finds they have zero impact on how Russia is truly waging New Normal warfare - using European energy flows?
Keep a close eye on this proposal to see if it gains traction.
Full letter by Eliot Engel below:
NATO Should Buy French-built Warships
[L]ast month I wrote to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, urging a plan by which the alliance would collectively purchase or lease the warships as a common naval asset.
This avenue would give us a win-win-win solution.
First, we deprive Putin of this valuable military asset. Such a step would help reassure nervous allies and partners in Central and Eastern Europe that would most feel vulnerable by this force multiplier in the hands of the Russian military.
Second, we would greatly enhance NATO capabilities at a moment when many of its members have been cutting defense expenditures. There is already ample precedent for NATO to purchase shared assets, including the alliance's fleet of E-3A AWACS aircraft. If Russia does indeed remain an aggressive force, NATO will have to refocus its energy and resources on European defense. The future success of the alliance in turn will depend on all NATO members sharing this burden and commitment. Purchasing these ships would give NATO a much needed shot in the arm.
Lastly, this purchase wouldn't leave France holding the bill. At a time when the European economy remains fragile, we shouldn't allow one of our allies to endure such a heavy financial blow.
Eliot Engel is a member of the US House of Representatives for the 16th District of New York and the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.