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French-Made Warship Destined for Russia Sets Sail

A French-built warship designed to strengthen Russia's ability to deploy troops, tanks and helicopter gunships embarked on its first test run Wednesday — just as Western powers are trying to rein in Russian President Vladimir Putin's military threat to Ukraine.

The Vladivostok helicopter carrier set sail from the French Atlantic port of Saint-Nazaire, while just a few hundred kilometers (miles) away in Paris, France's government hosted American, Russian and other leading world diplomats amid mounting tensions over Ukraine.

The warship is part of a 1.2-billion-euro ($1.6-billion) deal that marked the biggest-ever sale of NATO weaponry to Moscow, a deal that already raised eyebrows both within Russia's military circles and among France's Western allies when it was struck in 2011.

France has criticized Russia's military incursion into Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, but says it has no plans to scrap the defense deal. That's because France, like many of Russia's European trading partners, has found itself wedged between efforts to squeeze Russia diplomatically and its own economic interests.

It would appear that the people who live closer to Russia are less worried about its military ambitions than the US is. Both France and Germany seem much less eager to slap major sanctions on Russia than the US. The few approved yesterday at the EU summit meeting were mostly meaningless tokens. It is all a bit reminiscent of the refusal of key nations to cooperate with the US on the invasion of Iraq. On the other hand France and the UK have significant economic interest in Africa left over from their colonial days and they are both ready to launch a cost beneficial incursion there. The US doesn't do Africa, so they are seldom willing to go along for those rides.

Meanwhile Russia shows no signs of giving an inch on Ukraine.

They won't withdraw troops from Crimea

They welcome the referendum for affiliation with Russia

They refuse to meet with the interim government in Kiev

They are defiant of the proposed sanctions

 

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