French-Built Warships for Russia: Sold to Egypt

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 9/28/2015 02:50:00 PM
From scaring Russia's neighbors to fighting ISIS: a new role for the star-crossed Mistral-class warships.
I almost forgot to post about the continued travails of warships originally built by France for the Russians. With the outbreak of hostilities over Ukraine, the French government canceled the sale since the Mistral amphibious assault ships could be used to support Russian--how do we say it--excursions in neighboring countries. These warships are helicopter carriers that can also land troops during...adventures in others' territories. So, they have sat in French ports for a long time over what Russia will use them for nowadays. That is, until just recently when they were instead sold to Egypt of all countries:
Egypt will buy two warships that France originally built for Russia but refused to deliver because of Moscow’s role in the conflict in Ukraine, French President Fran├žois Hollande said...Egypt will pay €950 million ($1.06 billion) for the two Mistral class warships, French defense officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Russia agreed to pay €1.2 billion for the Mistrals, but the officials said the two contracts aren’t identical: Notably, France was supposed to help Moscow build future models of the ships in Russia. Transferring that capability isn’t part of the deal with Egypt, the officials said.

The vessels would add powerful capabilities to Egypt’s military arsenal, as President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi battles Islamist militant threats to his government in places such as the Sinai Peninsula and from across Egypt’s western border in Libya. For France, the deal closes an uncomfortable chapter in Mr. Hollande’s presidency that forced him to choose between cultivating Russia as a major customer of the French defense industry or severing ties because of Moscow’s support for pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine.
Actually, Egypt and other Arab governments have been moving closer to the Europeans for supplying their military equipment requirements. You can probably chalk that down to the United States' warmer relations with Iran. Plus, the US hasn't exactly cottoned up to the current Egyptian government which took the place of an elected (albeit Islamist) regime:
The accord is also a further sign that Egypt and other Arab governments have been moving to reduce their dependence on the U.S. as a military supplier. France has been eager to step in. Earlier this year, Egypt bought 24 Rafale fighter jets, made by France’s Dassault Aviation SA, AM -1.59 % for around €5 billion.
Using the warships for fending off ISIS seems to be a much less controversial purpose to put these warships to instead of, say, threatening former Soviet satellites (and Baltic states too). Moreover, selling the vessels to a Middle Eastern authoritarian regime instead of another in Europe hardly represents a step forward in rewarding "good governance."

At the end of the day, though, the ships had to be paid for somehow, in this instance by a (marginally) less odious buyer.