Officials in Georgia expressed concern about France’s decision to sell helicopter carrier amphibious assault warships, Mistral, to Russia.
France has agreed to sell one warship to Russia and if completed, the deal would be the first major military sale by a NATO member to Russia, Western media reports say.
A lawmaker from the ruling party, MP Davit Darchiashvili, said while speaking at the parliamentary session on February 9 it was “an imprudent decision” by France.
“It is totally unacceptable when an ally takes a decision, which is not in line with contributing to security in the region,” MP Darchiashvili, who chairs parliamentary committee for European integration, said at the parliamentary session o February 9.
“This is alarming fact when a NATO-member state sells warship to an aggressor country… I think that the Parliament should also react and pass a statement on this issue,” MP Paata Davitaia, leader of On Our Own party and member of parliamentary minority, said.
Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration, said on February 9 that authorizing sale of Mistral to Russia “further highlights the need of Georgia’s accession into NATO.”
“We won’t be able to engage in arms race with Russia and NATO membership remains the only security guarantee for us. I think that such decision by France [to sell warship to Russia] will contribute to France’s decision-making when time comes and [France] will not hinder Georgia’s NATO membership,” Iakobashvili said.
Eka Tkeshelashvili, secretary of Georgian National Security Council, said in an interview with The Washington Post last week, that the proposed sale of the warship would signal Western acceptance of a Russian presence in Georgian territory and raise the specter of Russian military pressure on other surrounding nations.
“They’re saying, ‘If we have the ship, we will consider ourselves free to use it wherever we need to.' They don't see themselves restricted in any way,” she said.
Grigol Vashadze, the Georgian foreign minister, said last November in Paris that Tbilisi was “tremendously worried” about possible purchase the warships by Russia.
Russia’s navy chief, Vladimir Vysotsky, has said in September that a ship like Mistral would have allowed the Russian navy to carry out more efficient operation in the Black Sea during last year’s August war with Georgia. He also said such warship would take just 40 minutes to do the task that the Russian Black Sea Fleet ships did in 26 hours.