French defence sales
Why France insists on going ahead with selling warships to Russia
EVEN before France signed a deal in 2011 to build two Mistral-class assault ships for Russia, the idea prompted widespread unease. Had Russia possessed such warships in 2008, boasted its naval chief, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, it would have won its war against Georgia in “40 minutes instead of 26 hours”. Russia's neighbours were accordingly troubled, but so were France's closest allies. In Paris before the deal, Robert Gates, then America's defence secretary, had what he called a “thorough exchange of views” with the French: code for a serious disagreement.
早在2011年法国刚签订对俄出售“西北风”级两栖攻击舰时，各地就纷纷表示不安。俄罗斯海军主席Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky也吹嘘，若是2008年俄就拥有这些军舰，那么击败格鲁吉亚就不必26小时，而只需40分钟。俄罗斯的邻国们同样因法俄交易合同而心头慌慌，就连法国最亲的同盟也略感紧张。合同签订前， 后成为美国国防部长的Robert Gates于巴黎和法国负责人进行了一系列自称是“透彻详尽的意见交流”洽谈：就一个严重分歧的处理准则。
Now, as the Ukraine crisis lurches on, the Mistral sale is creating fresh ructions. At a meeting in Washington with John Kerry, America's secretary of state, this week, Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, found himself forced to defend it. Earlier this month, Victoria Nuland, Mr Kerry's assistant secretary, said she had “regularly and consistently expressed our concerns” about the sale. But Mr Fabius was having none of it. France, he said on May 13th, would take firmness lessons from nobody: “the rule with contracts is that contracts which have been signed are honoured.”
随着乌克兰危机事件的蔓延，“西北风”军售合同再引骚动。本周于华盛顿和美国国务卿John Kerry的会晤谈话上，法国外交部部长Laurent Fabius不得不为本国此举加以辩护。本月初，John Kerry的秘书助理Victoria Nuland就称自己“一直对此次交易忧心忡忡”。然而，法国外交部部长Laurent Fabius却一点也不担忧。5月13日，他还对外宣称法国向来自我立场坚定，不受外界所动摇：“于此合同有一准则，那就是已签订的合同必须兑现”。
At a moment when Europe and America are trying to co-ordinate sanctions against Russia, the timing is nonetheless embarrassing. The mighty Mistral-class vessels, 199m long, are not gunships. But their capacity to carry and land hundreds of soldiers and over a dozen armoured tanks and amphibious craft, as well as to transport some 16 helicopters, greatly enhances power projection. The first of the two ships, named the Vladivostok, will be ready for delivery to Russia in October this year; the second, more pointedly named the Sevastopol, in mid-2015. Next month 400 Russian naval staff will arrive for training in Saint-Nazaire, the French Atlantic port where the vessels are being built.
There are 400 jobs directly at stake at the Saint-Nazaire shipyard (which also built the Queen Mary 2 cruise liner), and over 1,000 that depend on the contract. The French state has a 33% stake in STX France, the shipyard owner, and orders from the French navy help keep it in work. At a time when unemployment is high, President Fran?ois Hollande can ill afford to put more jobs in peril. And breach of the 1.2 billion contract would entail a fat penalty payment to Russia, which has already settled half the price. Hence France's consistent refusal to contemplate anything other than completing construction as planned. The contract, Mr Hollande repeated on May 10th, “is not in doubt”.
Could this change? Officials in Paris suggest that the only circumstances in which France might reconsider delivery would be an agreement with its allies to move to deeper “third-stage” sanctions, in such sectors as energy, finance and defence. But, say the French, this would have to include equally tough measures by, for instance, Britain against Russian assets in London. “There is an enormous amount of French ill-will towards the way the British are seen as having lived off the fat of Russia's oligarchs,” says Fran?ois Heisbourg, of the Foundation for Strategic Research. “The French will resist any idea that they take a unilateral hit.”
合同的执行会否出现转机呢？巴黎官员认为，要想法国重新考虑武器交易一事，唯一的可能就是法国和同盟国就在能源、经济及国防等领域“三度”制裁俄罗斯事件上达成协议。不过，法国也表示这必伴随着同等苛刻的举措，例如英反对俄在伦敦的资产。“英国一直被视为寡头政治执政者俄罗斯的寄生虫，对此法国向来是嗤之以鼻的。” 战略研究基金会的Fran?ois Heisbourg如是说。“法国对外界任何称它在打单边战术的评点都一一加之反驳”。
The French government will take a final decision in October, when the first vessel is ready for delivery, says Jean-Yves Le Drian, the defence minister. America may disapprove, but there is little domestic pressure to cancel the order, despite the Ukraine crisis. Mr Hollande has not withdrawn his invitation to Russia's Vladimir Putin to come to the 70th anniversary commemoration of the Normandy landings in June. There is almost no public or parliamentary debate in France over the warship sales, and both the political left and right are keeping quiet about any reservations they might have. Mr Hollande's Socialist government wants to avoid a fresh fiasco over jobs and industry. And the centre-right opposition party is keenly aware that the original contract was won by its own leader and former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.
国防部部长Jean-Yves Le Drian发言，等到10月第一艘军舰竣工待要运往俄时，法国政府会做出最后决策。美国或许会反对。然而法国境内，尽管受乌克兰危机影响，反对呼声并不高。Hollande也并未撤回对俄总统普金的邀请，届时欢迎普京参加诺曼底“6月登陆”70周年大庆盛宴。在法国，此次军事武器交易活动几乎毫无异议，无论是公众之间还是议会内部，无论是左翼党派，还是右翼党派，均守口如瓶，未发表任何个人意见。以Hollande为首的社会主义政府不想陷入就业和工业萧条的漩涡中。且中右翼反对党深刻意识到，最初的合同是由自己的领袖，即前法国总统Nicolas Sarkozy争取而来的。 翻译：徐珍 校对：张娣
1.instead of 代替；而不是
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