France Moves Forward with Plans to Sell Amphibious Assault Ships to Russia

Posted: May 14, 2014 12:01 AM

Afghanistan: Update. Taliban officials announced that their Khaibar military offensive began with rocket attacks against the Kabul airport and Bagram airfield. The rockets injured no one and did little damage.

A mix of attacks has been reported in five provinces, including Nangarhar, Logar, Ghazni, Parwan and Kabul. News services reported 21 people killed.

Comment: With the drawdown of Western forces, incident and attack reporting is slower and less accurate. In the past two months, attacks and incidents have slowly increased, but ranged between 20 and 30 a day, with few killed or wounded. Most occurred in the Pashtun provinces of the south, supplemented by a handful of attacks in three or four Pashtun enclaves in northern Afghanistan. That information provides a baseline for following and gauging the severity of the new Taliban offensive.

Ukraine: Update. Official denunciations dominated reporting about Ukraine on the day after the referenda in Donetsk and Luhansk. Kyiv regime interim President Oleksandr Turchynov said that the referenda in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are not legally valid and promised that their organizers will be prosecuted.

A few pro-Russia leaders in the east called for Russia to absorb them. Russia called for more talks. The German Foreign Minister is trying to arrange them.

Comment: Leaders in Luhansk answered an important question today: they announced that Luhansk would not participate in the 25 May presidential election in Ukraine. Donetsk has not made that announcement, but presumably it also will decline to participate.

The refusals make 25 May a flashpoint. The Kyiv regime must try to hold elections in the eastern oblasts to avoid acknowledging de facto that the two are beyond its control. However, eastern Ukrainians must resist to show they are independent. Efforts by the Kyiv regime to hold elections in eastern Ukraine almost certainly will lead to armed clashes.

France-Russia: The French government announced that it will go ahead with its $1.6 billion contract to supply Russia with two Mistral-class helicopter carrier/amphibious assault ships because cancelling the deal would harm Paris more than Moscow.

News analyst reported that the United States has been pressing France to cancel the contract, as part of tougher sanctions against Russia. France refused.

"The Mistrals are not part of the third level of sanctions. They will be delivered. The contract has been paid and there would be financial penalties for not delivering it….It would be France that is penalized. It's too easy to say France has to give up on the sale of the ships. We have done our part," an official said.

Comment: The first of the two ships, the Vladivostok, is to be delivered by November. The second, the Sevastopol, will arrive in St. Petersburg for installation of Russian weapons systems in November 2015. It is to be assigned to the Russian Pacific fleet in the second half of 2016.

The Mistral can carry up to 16 attack helicopters, such as Russia's Kamov Ka-50/52; more than 40 tanks or 70 motor vehicles; and up to 700 soldiers. The Russian ships have been modified for operations in cold climates and icy conditions.

Apparently for France, a whole Ukraine is not worth the Russian contract for two Mistrals. (with apologies to O. von Bismarck.)

South Sudan: On 9 May, South Sudan President Kiir and rebel leader Machar signed their second ceasefire agreement this year in Ethiopia. Both South Sudan parties recommitted themselves to the cessation of hostilities agreement that they signed on 23 January. The prime minister of Ethiopia reportedly threatened to lock each man up until he signed.

Under the accord, a transitional government will be formed. The agreement also calls for a new constitution to be written, followed by new elections. Fighting was supposed to stop within 24 hours.

Fighting apparently did stop for 24 hours. On Sunday it resumed and continued on Monday. Both sides accused each other of attacking the other.

Comment: Arguably, the largest beneficiary from the creation of South Sudan has been the government in Khartoum because it stopped the resource drain from constant counter-insurgency operations in the south. Some experts predicted that South Sudan would devolve into tribal warfare after the northern Sudanese soldiers got out of the lines of fire. They predicted it would never be a stable country, despite its oil wealth, because of its complex mix of tribes..

End of NightWatch


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