WASHINGTON – Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, authored the following Letter to the Editor in today’s New York Times, responding to David Jolly's Oct 31 news article “France Denies That It's Ready to Deliver Warship to Russia,” which reported that France's finance minister, Michel Sapin, said tthat the transfer of Mistral-class warships to Russia would depend on Moscow's playing "a positive role" in Ukraine.
Warship Deal With Russia
NOVEMBER 5, 2014
To the Editor:
“France Denies That It’s Ready to Deliver Warship to Russia” (news article, Oct. 31) quoted France’s finance minister, Michel Sapin, as saying the transfer of Mistral-class warships to Russia would depend on Moscow’s playing “a positive role” in Ukraine. Even with the conclusion of a gas deal between Russia and Ukraine, it’s hard to imagine Russia playing a positive role in Ukraine any time soon.
Adding these powerful military assets to President Vladimir V. Putin’s arsenal is unthinkable as long as Russia illegally occupies Crimea, supports armed insurrection in other parts of Ukraine, and assumes a threatening posture toward NATO.
NATO pilots were recently forced to intercept at least 19 Russian long-range bombers and fighter aircraft skirting alliance airspace. If the deal for these amphibious assault ships moves forward, it will bolster Mr. Putin’s ability to intimidate our friends and allies, particularly those bordering the Baltic and Black Seas.
Rather than preparing to transfer the ships to Russia, France should work with our Western allies to permanently annul the deal. I understand France’s desire not to get stuck with the $2 billion cost of the vessels, and in May I proposed that NATO buy or lease the ships as common naval assets.
Since then, the security situation has deteriorated significantly. This proposal deserves another look as American and European leaders try to keep these warships out of Mr. Putin’s hands.
ELIOT L. ENGEL
Washington, Oct. 31, 2014
The writer, a New York Democrat, is ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.