Hollande and Mistrals "decision" 27/07/2015

Mistrals in Saint Nazaire by Bernard Grua


Mistrals, delivery or not delivery?
That's (still!) the question

On July 27, 2015, President François Hollande made a communication about Mistral class invasion vessels, the "Vladivostok" and the "Sevastopol", built for Putin's Navy. This communication did not create big waves in France. This is probably because most of the French people are on vacations between July the 14th and August the 15th and because it was, actually, a poor statement. However, as we observed, a great emotion spread abroad. There, people and medias understood that President Hollande would announce the delivery very soon. Actually, nobody knows the answer. May be, even not, the President Hollande? Then we propose you to go back to the "original" information and to refresh you with some background.


What said President Hollande?

You can read an article in Liberation, French National newspaper, dated July 28, 2015 Navires Mistral: Hollande prendra sa décision «dans les prochaines semaines» (Mistral vessels: Hollande will take his decision "within the next weeks").
Here is the main paragraph:

«Nous sommes dans cette discussion qui se prolonge (avec la Russie, ndlr) et qui renverra forcément à une décision que j’aurai à prendre et que je prendrai dans les prochaines semaines»

(We are in a discussion which takes more time than expected, with Russia, and we will be conducted, necessarily, to a decision that I will have to take within next weeks).

That's the problem with President Hollande's political wording, especially about Mistrals. He says something and does not say it, keeping all doors open. Everybody can understand on the way he wants. Everybody is "happy", though not at the end. You might think this is a strange way to lead a country. However you must remember that François Hollande came at the top of the French Socialist party because he never took clear positions but let adverse people think he agreed with all of them. He was the man of the "motion de synthèse". That's the way he continues to act at the top of France. Just go back to recent "positions" about Greece or Minsk agreements. In French we call it: "ménager la chêvre et le chou".


What is the game?

Our vision is that the delivery remains just on hold. Deal is still not broken, as we say for months. Everything can still happen. This game of saying: "I will take my decision later" is an old one.

  • On May 2014, President Hollande said that the first delivery was planned for October 2014. Question about final position would be addressed at this proper time.
  • However, on July 22, 2014, a few days after MH17 downing (during, once again, the period when most of France was on holidays - July 14 to August 15) President Hollande said:" I will deliver Vladivostok on October/November 2104. We shall see later for Sevastopol". It was a perjury. Many people in France and abroad felt outraged. We guided numerous foreign journalists, including Dutch ones, during summer 2014 in Saint Nazaire, France (where Vladivostok was built and Sevastopol in construction)
  • Then, beginning of September 2014, President Hollande told, for the first time,:"Delivery of Vladivostok is on hold". Nevertheless, invitations for commissioning Vladivostok under Russian flag on November 14 were sent.
  • On November 12, 2014, M. Le Drian (Minister of French Defense) said: "La situation d'aujourd'hui est le fait que la livraison devrait arriver prochainement sauf que la société DCNS a indiqué qu'elle ne disposait pas aujourd'hui de l'autorisation gouvernementale d'exportation nécessaire pour que le transfert ait lieu, et donc, aucune date de livraison ne peut être fixée à ce stade en effet, le président de la République l'a rappelé. (to summarize, the declaration is "we cannot plan, now, a delivery date"). See our article Transcription de la déclaration de M. Le Drian sur la livraison du Mistral.
  • On November 14, 2014, the official ceremony for Vladivosk delivery was canceled in Saint-Nazaire. However Russian sailors committed what can be considered as a piracy act on Vladivostok bringing it under Russian flag. Thanks to the immediate international mobilization of our activists, they had to get back. See our articles: The Mistral Vladivostok was under Russian flag on the 14th of Nov. (shared 1284 times on FB) and The Mistral Vladivostok without nationality following a Russian piracy act?
  • On December 5, 2014, M. Le Drian stated: "We MAY never deliver [the Mistral ships]; the Russians have to realise this. It is impossible to consider the delivery under the tense conditions we [currently] find ourselves in". He did not say, "Mistrals will never be delivered". See our article: France Says it May Never Deliver Mistral Ships to Russia. Some days after, M. Le Drian was in Poland to finalize a deal regarding French Caracal helicopters for Polish army. Was it the reason for his "strong" statement?
  • On April 22, 2015, when President Poroshenko had his press conference with President Hollande, he was trapped. President Poroshenko understood and he told us (look at the video in Chevchenko's square, Paris) that Mistrals would never be delivered. When one of our activists, Liza Dmitrieva, watched carefully the press conference video, she understood there was a translation mistake. François Hollande actually said, as usual: "Today, the condition are not met for a Mistrals delivery". At this time, we were a bit embarrassed while writing our article. We could not disclose the Ukrainian President was confused by M. Hollande's wording. See: Poroshenko optimistic about non delivery of Mistrals to Putin. As of July 2015, it is probable that recent President Hollande's words create some consternation in Ukraine, which may consider the question was already closed since April 2015

  • What can we understand?

    We can notice that the words are always: "Conditions are not fulfilled for a delivery" or "It depends on the application of Minsk agreement". No details, no explications are given. For example, Debaltseve was a bloody capture by Buriat (Russian Federation) troops just after Minsk2 signature. Did President Hollande ever say: "I will never deliver Mistrals"? No he did not say that.

    We observe, right now, that Russia and France are not able to conclude an agreement about penalties. It should have been done in May 2015. We observe a huge Kremlin's propaganda campaign to lie to and to scare French population about financial consequences of the Mistral deal cancellation. Meanwhile, there are no answers to these worrying statements by French government. We observe absolutely no communication about Putin's war in Ukraine by French government. From France, it looks like everything is normal in Ukraine. Why, do you think, we spend so much energy to fight against Kremlin's propaganda about Mistral (sorry most of articles in French)? Because there is a risk that this propaganda fog works.

    Two days ago, President Hollande talked about " a decision that (he) will have to take within next weeks " (i.e. could be months). Actually what does it mean? Probably something like: "The problem is not solved. I leave it like that. Me, François Hollande, I go on vacations. We will see later". It also means, decision could be delivery or non-delivery.

    Remember, Mistral deal is not broken. With what just said President Hollande, there is nothing new. Or, may be, a larger concern, for us, about the fact that Mistrals might eventually be delivered.

    We may launch strong actions in a next future. Stay tuned!
    "NO MISTRALS FOR PUTIN!"

    Auteur: Bernard Grua , Nantes, Bretagne, France, 29/07/2015
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    Photo: Mistrals in Saint Nazaire by Bernard Grua

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