Well, NATO might not object to Russia buying warships from France, but pretty much everybody else does. While a spokesman for Anders Fogh Rasmussen used the issue to assure everybody that NATO and Russia are harmless pals (one wonders), the Western media and several NATO members have reacted with caution. Unsurprisingly, Georgia is concerned by the news (ironically, suggests RFE/RL, Russia wants the warships to address naval weaknesses exposed during the Georgian war), and Lithuania and Estonia are hoping to prove that the sale would be in violation of an EU weapons code.
Haggling over the Mistral orders (one will be built in France, the others probably in Russia) could thus give the Kremlin bargaining clout in the coming years. An early sign of that, cynics say, is a decision to boot a Georgian-run Russian-language television channel off France’s Eutelsat satellite. France pooh-poohs the ex-communist countries’ protests as paranoia. Russia cannot be treated both as a NATO ally and as an enemy, France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy said this week. Yet that is how Russia seems to see things. Its new military doctrine paints NATO, and particularly its enlargement, as the biggest threat to Russia. The ex-communist states know that protesting against a done deal will only make them look weak and paranoid. Still, they don’t like it.