Understand, the Russo-French warship deal met opposition was when it was announced. Japan opposed it. And Poland, with a Baltic Sea coast, was outraged. The Crimean invasion and annexation spurred more intense criticism from NATO military officers and knowledgeable defense analysts. So Putin and his cronies devoted a great deal of political jaw time to discussing the sanctity of construction contracts. The Kremlin argued, post-Crimea, that France couldn't break a signed contract. France will owe Russia millions of euros in penalties. Moreover, according to the Kremlin, breaking the contract will throw French shipwrights out of work.Of course, Putin had broken, with malice, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which guaranteed Ukraine's territorial sovereignty. Sanctity of contracts? False sanctimony. The tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 changed the political calculus. As Felix Seidler noted on his security policy blog several members of the German parliament have proposed that NATO buy the two warships.The idea has gained instant traction, and it should. NATO naval personnel regularly cross-train on allied ships. NATO's airborne early warning aircraft fly Luxembourg flags. The EU has discussed operating C-17 transports as a consortium.
A combined NATO buy, however, is precisely the kind of unified political response that Europe has failed to make. The message is clear. The invasion and annexation of Crimea is unacceptable. Putin's Kremlin cannot expect to successfully exploit economic interests and escape penalties for destroying the diplomatic agreements, which framed post-Cold War peace.A NATO-flagged Vladivostok -- with a new name -- could be equipped as a natural disaster response ship for operations in the Mediterranean. As for the Sevastopol? Finish the ship and keep the name. But deploy it as a NATO-flagged combat vessel.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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