Senators Urge French to Scrap Warship Sales to Russia

Letter says, “Our nations will not be complicit in altering borders by force.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
National Journal
Billy House
June 5, 2014, 7:06 a.m.

Six U.S. sen­at­ors are ur­ging French Pres­id­ent Fran­cois Hol­lande to can­cel de­liv­ery of two French war­ships to the Rus­si­an navy, in a let­ter on Thursday ap­peal­ing for a uni­fied stand against Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin’s ag­gres­sion.

The bi­par­tis­an group wants Hol­lande to demon­strate, “Our na­tions will not be com­pli­cit in al­ter­ing bor­ders by force.”

The let­ter was sent by Demo­crat­ic Sens. Chris Murphy of Con­necti­c­ut; Dick Durbin of Illinois, the ma­jor­ity whip; Jeanne Shaheen of New Hamp­shire; Amy Klobuchar of Min­nesota; and Ed­ward Mar­key of Mas­sachu­setts. Sen. Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin, a Re­pub­lic­an, also signed the let­ter.

On Wed­nes­day, The Wall Street Journ­al re­por­ted that France is ready to de­liv­er the war­ships and is pre­par­ing to train hun­dreds of Rus­si­an sea­men to op­er­ate a them this month, de­fy­ing calls from the U.S. and oth­er coun­tries to keep the ves­sels out of the Krem­lin’s hands.

And Putin is an­ti­cip­at­ing more arms deals with the French. “We ex­pect our French part­ners to ful­fill their con­trac­tu­al ob­lig­a­tions, and if everything goes as we agreed, we will not rule out the pos­sib­il­ity of fur­ther or­ders — and not ne­ces­sar­ily in nav­al ship­build­ing,” he told a Rus­si­an news­pa­per.

But in their let­ter Thursday, the six sen­at­ors wrote, “These mil­it­ary war­ships are de­signed ex­pli­citly for the type of in­va­sion that oc­curred in the Ukraine.” The also ar­gue, “Any fur­ther arms sales from the French gov­ern­ment to the Rus­si­an mil­it­ary would en­hance Rus­sia’s power pro­jec­tion, abil­ity to in­tim­id­ate neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, and il­leg­ally seize sov­er­eign ter­rit­ory.”

The sen­at­ors do note that they “fully ap­pre­ci­ate that can­celing such con­tracts may have con­sequences,” but they also point out that, sim­il­arly, “we are ur­ging our own gov­ern­ment to sus­pend its agree­ments with the Rus­si­an de­fense con­tract­or Rosobor­on­ex­port.”

In fact, law­makers like Murphy have cham­pioned le­gis­la­tion to scrap Pentagon com­mit­ments to pur­chase items such as MI-17 trans­port heli­copters for the Afghan army from that same Rus­si­an com­pany, al­though such ef­forts pred­ate the events in Ukraine and Crimea. Par­ti­al­ity to home-state heli­copter man­u­fac­tur­ers has played a small role in those ef­forts.

But Rus­sia’s ac­tions, the sen­at­ors say, have “chal­lenged the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity to take a prin­cipled stand against those who wish to dis­rupt the in­ter­na­tion­al rule of law and the rights of sov­er­eign na­tions.”