French warship deal must include technology: Putin
The possible sale of a warship by NATO-member France to Russia is attractive only if it includes transfer of the high technology that goes with the ship, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said.
"This is a good deal for the French shipbuilders," the Russian prime minister said in an interview this week with AFP in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.
"For us, this deal is interesting only if it is accomplished with a parallel transfer of technology" that Russia's civilian and military shipbuilding industry requires for its development, Putin said.
The deal under discussion between Russia and France comprises purchase of one French-built Mistral helicopter-carrying assault ship along with an agreement for joint production in Russia of up to three more such vessels.
He put the price tag of the vessel at around 300 million Euros and said the attention the deal had in France suggested it would be an economic boost at a time when the world is still feeling consequences of the 2008 economic downturn.
The prospect of France selling Russia modern warships has sparked worry among some of Russia's neighbors, notably Georgia, and has raised some eyebrows in the United States.
In April, a top US lawmaker said France should drop the sale because it "threatens to shake the NATO alliance to its core."
Putin however said the possible sale was as much about the hardware itself as it was about overcoming latent Cold War stereotypes and starting to match confidence-building rhetoric with actual deeds.
"Cooperation in a field as sensitive as military-industrial manufacturing of course leads to higher trust between countries," Putin said.
"In my view, this is no less important" than the technological and economic components of the proposed deal, he added.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday defended the planned sale.
"If Russia is expected to behave like a partner in every domain, including in the area of security and defence, then it must be treated like a partner in every domain," an aide quoted Sarkozy as saying in a meeting with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Putin rejected the worry voiced by Georgia and other ex-Soviet republics neighboring Russia over the sale, saying it was both militarily unfounded and politically discriminatory.
"France has such helicopter-carrying ships. So who is France preparing to attack? Why do people automatically assume that Russia will of course have to use this to attack someone?
Referring to the 2008 conflict with Georgia, Putin said he hoped there would "never again" be a fight between the two countries, but said Russia had no need for the Mistral warship to act militarily in Georgia.
"Modern strike forces give us the means to carry out any military operation from the territory of the Russian Federation deep into any part of the territory of Georgia," he said.
"And we don't need the Mistral for this."
General Nikolai Makarov, chief of the Russian general staff, said recently that Russia needed the Mistral to complement its naval forces in the far east and protect islands seized in World War II that remain disputed with Japan.
© 2010 AFP