News Column

US concerned over sale of French warships to Russia

May 9, 2014

WASHINGTON, May 8 (KUNA) -- The U.S. expressed its concern Thursday over two Mistral ships France is selling to Russia under a USD 1.5 billion-dollar deal made in 2011 when Russia aspired to have greater control of the Black Sea.

In a hearing with the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a representative of Illinois Adam Kinzinger said: "It's the first ever sale of a significant military capability by a NATO member to Russia." Representative Eliot Engel of New York advocated to increase NATO defense spending and coordinate an embargo on all arm sales to Russia, including a halt on the delivery of the French ships.

He said: "It will send a clear message to Putin that he will not be allowed to trample on the rights of his neighbors." Engel added: "The US and our allies should work with Paris to find a way for NATO to purchase or lease these advanced warships to expand our capabilities while preventing their delivery to Moscow." Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland stressed that the State Department has "consistently expressed our concerns about this sale even before we had the latest Russian actions, and we will continue to do so." At the committee hearing Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Terrorist Financing Daniel Glaser said the Treasury is "designing and implementing a strategy that uses targeted financial measures to raise the costs to Russia of its actions." Glaser affirmed, "Our approach is calibrated to impose immediate costs on Russia and to create conditions that will make Russia increasingly vulnerable to sanctions as the situation in Ukraine escalates." The Treasury has targeted corrupt former Ukrainian officials, Crimean separatists, and individuals in Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle. These individuals have significant holdings in the Russian economy including the chairman of the state-run oil company Rosneft Igor Sechin, the CEO of the Russian weapons and metals conglomerate Rostec Sergei Chemezov, and Gennady Timchenko who ran one of the world's largest commodity trading firms Gunvor.

In a separate hearing of the House Financial Services Committee, Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew said, "Russian companies are finding it harder to get capital and Russia's credit rating was recently downgraded to just above junk status. Our strategy has been to move in a systematic and targeted way." Lew noted that the Russian stocks have dropped 'significantly' causing investors to flee Russian markets. Additionally, the IMF predicts that USD 100 billion in investment will diminish from Russia this year.

President Barack Obama has signed three executive orders to provide the Treasury with the authority to sanction individuals responsible for the Ukrainian crisis. "In total, we have designated 45 individuals and 19 entities over four tranches of designation," Glaser asserted. (end)

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Source: Kuwait News Agency