Don't let the Russians buy that ship, say Christian Democrats
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, November 27
The Christian Democrats held a special press conference at Parliament on November 26 at which they protested against the attempt of the Russian Federation to buy the Mistral, an amphibious helicopter carrier assault ship from France.
Member of the Christian Democrats Nika Laliashvili drew attention to the statement of Russian Naval commander Visotski, who said that if Russia had had the Mistral in their Black Sea Fleet last August they would have achieved their aims in 40 minutes rather than 26 hours. Laliashvili stated that since last August's war Russia has started improving its armaments. It is buying foreign combat vehicles and equipment, something significantly dangerous for the Georgian side. "Based on the fact that Russia already has 7 landing craft in the Black Sea, trying to buy a Mistral is a serious hint that our neighbour is preparing for a new attack and landing of troops on Georgian territory. This is a serious danger to Georgia's security and our allies should express their negative attitude towards this. They should not allow Russia to fill its armaments gaps with very powerful weapons,” Laliashvili said.
The Christian Democrats have also sent a special address to the Embassy of France in Georgia asking the French Government to refrain from providing the Russian fleet with assault weapons. The party introduced the content of this letter to the media yesterday. It underlines that Russian officials have begun speculating that Russia will be able to occupy Georgia easily if it has proper hardware in its fleet, meaning the Mistral. Laliashvili said that the President of France, the author of the ceasefire document which ended the Georgia-Russia war, should not now sign a decision to provide Russia with offensive weapons. The French side should realise how dangerous this step may prove, as no one expects that Russia will use such a strategic weapon for positive ends.
The Christian Democrats have also appealed on the Georgian Government to pay serious attention to this matter and do its best to inform Georgia’s neighbours and allies about it, as if Russia buys this vessel it will be dangerous not only for Georgia but Russia’s other neighbours and foreign countries and organisations as well. They insist that further straining of the situation in the Caucasus is not in the interests of Western countries or the USA.
As for the Mistral itself, neither the Soviet Union nor the Russian Federation have ever owned such a powerful and effective vessel. It can transport a tank battalion and hold 900 marine infantrymen on its deck. Operations can thus be conducted by special staff located on the vessel, which significantly simplifies planning, and achieving success in battle. It is very clear that buying such a vessel gives a serious advantage to the Russian side, especially if it is placed in the Baltic or the Black Sea.
“We are deeply concerned at the reports that France, a NATO member state, intends to sell the Mistral landing craft to Russia. Russia has not complied with the ceasefire agreement signed by the President of France and continues to occupy Georgia. It is also politically unjustifiable to strengthen the Russian military-marine fleet with Mistral class craft as this will massively increase the risks in Black and Baltic Sea,” Laliashvili suggested.
Nika Chitadze, military analyst, has told The Messenger that Russia’s attempt to buy this craft is prompted by several political, psychological and military factors. "Firstly, Russia needs such equipment because its armaments are out of date. Secondly, is Russia trying to put psychological pressure not only on Georgia but the rest of the world and it is also seeking to increase its prestige and influence by gaining such a vessel. Perhaps there is also a Medvedev factor at play here, as he is trying to prove that he is not less powerful than Putin and can strengthen Russia’s military,” stated Chitadze.
Chitadze added that Russia will not dare to undertake a wide-ranging military operation in Georgia but may use this new weapon to create provocations and exert psychological pressure.