Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Was the Mistral a Bad Deal for Russia?

The short answer to the title for this post is apparently, yes. I spit coffee on my monitor today when I was sent this story and read it, because at first I misunderstood it and thought he was worried about an invasion of Siberia, then I couldn't believe it if the translation is accurate. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin really doesn't like the Mistral class vessel.
Two amphibious assault ships bought for the Russian Navy from France in a 1.2 billion euro deal will not be able to operate in temperatures below seven degrees centigrade, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin admitted on Saturday, in critical comments about the contract.

"It's very odd that ships for offloading a landing force, floating in our latitudes won't work in temperatures below seven degrees," said Rogozin, who has special responsibilities for the defense industry, in a meeting of the Academy of Military Science on Saturday.

"Maybe they thought we’re going to undertake special operations in Africa but I doubt that’s going to happen," he added. He did not elaborate on why the ships would not work in cool temperatures. It was also unclear whether he meant plus seven degrees or minus seven, as Russian-speakers often leave out the word for minus when they assume it is clear which side of freezing they are talking about.
Can anyone confirm whether he meant 7 degrees or -7 degrees? The difference is pretty important, because 7 degrees centigrade would be about 44.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Is that for real?

That would have to be what he meant, because surely he is not suggesting the Mistral is a failure because China might invade Siberia in the middle of a harsh January winter sometime in the future. The first article I read about this implied he was talking about -7 degrees, but after reading the RIA Novosti article linked above, I think he means below 7 degrees centigrade, or below 44.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Military-Industrial Commission Deputy Head Ivan Kharchenko complained about the Mistral deal earlier this week claiming it was a bad deal for Russia and the Russian shipbuilding industry. He also said the cost of cancelling the ships at this point was too high, and Russia would complete the contract for both Mistral's under construction. With both Military-Industrial Commission Deputy Head Ivan Kharchenko and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin being very critical over the past week of the Mistral's being purchased for the Russian Navy, it does not look like the Russians are very happy about the final outcome of this deal.

There was a lot of criticism by politicians in the United States of the Mistral deal between France and Russia when it was first announced. In hindsight it makes me wonder if that criticism and initial political opposition resulted in a sabotage the deal with details like this one.

Ironically, it was 45 degrees Fahrenheit in Damascus, Syria on Wednesday, which if we are to believe these news reports, is just barely above the operational threshold temperature of the soon to be fielded Russian Mistral class. Hmm.

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