The “French LSTs” was a reference to announcements
last fall by Russian Navy officials that they are considering
buying a foreign-made, helicopter-carrier assault ship,
such as the French-built Mistral. The lead ship of the class,
Mistral, a 21,300-ton ship about two-thirds the size of the
U.S. Tarawa-class amphibious assault ships, visited St. Petersburg late last year to be inspected by Russian officials.
But Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky, the Russian Navy chief,
said in December that the navy also was talking to the
Netherlands and Spain about acquiring that type of
ship in an effort to modernize the aged fleet. Russia was
proposing to buy one ship built in the foreign shipyard
and the rights to build more in its own yards.
The idea of Russia obtaining a ship that would facilitate amphibious and special operations actions provoked protests from its neighbors, including Georgia.
Six U.S. senators, all Republicans, sent a letter to the
French ambassador in December warning against such a
sale. And Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced a bill that would express the sense of Congress that
no NATO nation should sell offensive weapons to Russia.
But some analysts believe that Russian purchases of
military equipment from a NATO nation could aid the
normalization of relations between Russia and the
West, which has been a key goal of President Barack
Obama’s foreign policy initiatives.
Although Gorenburg said the Russian ships are in
such bad material condition the major combatants
never go far from port without a rescue ship, Fedoroff
contended that “the fleet is not that bad.”
He noted that Russian warships have been operat-
ing away from home fairly actively for years, includ-
ing contributing to the anti-piracy patrols off
For the future, Fedoroff said, achievement of
Russia’s ambitious shipbuilding plans “is a huge challenge, which clearly is being addressed at the highest
levels of the Russian government.
“President Medvedev has endorsed the priorities
and Prime Minister (Vladimir) Putin has promised that
appropriate resources will be made available for rearming the Russian Armed Forces, including the Navy,”
the ONI analyst said. ■
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