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Ukrainian war no longer obstacle to France-Russia military alliance?

Author : French newspaper Le Monde

Source : Le Monde

French generals are aware of the risks associated with the ambiguity of Russian position in military sphere, but recognize the importance of such relations when the armies are next to each other on the same territory
22:11, 23 September 2019

Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron
Le Monde

According to our information, the meeting held in the Russian capital on September 9 in the “2 + 2” format actually looked like a “3 + 3". The former Russian envoy to NATO and a shadow member of Kremlin diplomacy Dmitry Rogozin, who was under American sanctions, also took part in it.

On the French side, Secretary General for Defense and National Security Claire Landais was present. For several years now, her department has played a central role in bilateral relations.

Military cooperation between the two countries was violated by the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and since then has been very limited: a few exercises, several exchanges at the officer level. The countries also exchanged data in the fight against terrorism, shared their concerns about Islamic groups.

France was involved in a contract for the supply of two Mistral helicopter carriers in 2011 in the amount of 1.2 billion euros. In 2014, 400 Russian sailors lived in Saint-Nazaire. Before Crimea annexation, the atmosphere was good, and the parties actively discussed such a hypersensitive topic as the hypersonic missiles technology.

The war in Ukraine has put everything at risk. But the negotiations on breaking the Mistral agreement went well because they got the go-ahead from Vladimir Putin.

So far, the dialogue is at the level of two chiefs of staff, Generals Valery Gerasimov and Francois Lecointre. The leaders of the military intelligence of the two countries also began to talk to each other.

French generals are aware of the risks associated with the ambiguity of Russian position in the military sphere, but recognize the importance of such relations when the armies are next to each other on the same territory, at sea or in the air.

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In addition, these relations are sometimes so old that they remain invulnerable to political upheavals: in the framework of Franco-Russian relations, the memory of the Normandie-Niemen squadron, in which the Free France pilots fought with Nazi Germany under Soviet leadership in 1943, is still alive.

The first sector of ​​work concerns the prevention of incidents, that is, procedures that allow the military to prevent problems and misunderstandings in the conflict zone. They already exist at sea: sailors emphasize "professional" relations with their Russian counterparts and would not mind resuming visits to Vladivostok (which were regular until 2014) from 2020.

Both sides intend to make efforts in this direction in the Eastern Mediterranean. Paris also hopes to cover air and land wherever possible. In addition, France intends to create a “de-escalation channel” in the area of ​​cybersecurity in the event of an attack.

Recent Russian manipulation and destabilization actions against NATO forces have not been forgotten, but Paris believes it is better to talk in this area too.

The second topic is the Arctic. Russian and French military intend to exchange information on sea routes, which are becoming more accessible as the ice melts.

Finally, Paris expects Moscow to help, not interfere, with the settlement of the Central African Republic crisis. "This will be a test," they say at headquarters. France and Russia have already agreed to stop the embargo on arms to the country to help its embryonic army fight against armed forces.

Moscow could also send its fighters to UN forces in the Central African Republic. There is no guarantee that Russia will change its position, but Paris hopes that the difficulties of the Russian mercenaries from Wagner group will contribute to this.

Overall, the French defense community sees the resumption of dialogue as a positive factor. After the collapse of the USSR, French experts on the peaceful and military atom provided assistance in containing the brain drain and ensuring security at Russian facilities, in particular at the shipyard in Murmansk.

French engineers have always recognized the great knowledge of their colleagues and often get acquainted with the physics of nuclear weapons using Russian textbooks. "In these areas, it is better to talk and establish trust," an informed source is sure.

The same could be applied to the aircraft industry. The National Bureau of Aerospace Research has developed historical cooperation with Russia on issues such as aircraft noise and developed hybrid engines. “We are talking about science with our colleagues. We have created a joint award for young professionals,” French experts say.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the organization allocated grants to support Russian colleagues. Through this channel, France received space surveillance software several years ago. Communications at the level of the International Aviation Research Forum are also maintained between two countries.

But the Ukrainian crisis in 2014 put an end to mutual cooperation on ramjet engines that are used in missiles and, therefore, have an obvious military purpose.

Read the original article at Le Monde website

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