Speaking in Yerevan today, Defense Minister Serdyukov told journalists:
“We have announced an international tender for construction of a helicopter-carrying ship.”
He indicated Russia is talking about two ships. He also welcomed the French builders of the Mistral to join in the tender.
The tender will take place next month, and the winning bid will be selected before year’s end.
After months of negotiations with France on building Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, the Russians couldn’t reach agreement on the terms of a deal.
The two sides may have agreed on building two ships in France’s STX shipyard. French President Sarkozy told its workers last month they’d be building two ships with the Russians.
Maybe the Russians wanted to buy one and build three, but Serdyukov says the international tender is for two ships, so it seems likely Paris and Moscow had agreed on a ‘2+2’ formula. So something else is probably the sticking point.
RIA Novosti suggests talks with Paris stalled over its unwillingness to sell Moscow the NATO standard tactical communications system aboard Mistral, according to an unnamed expert who spoke to Ouest-France.
The expert said the comms system is tied to the SENIT 9 tactical combat information system. It’s described as an important node NATO isn’t prepared to share with Russia. The French expert says the Russians “don’t have a very good command of military computers and are trying to fill the gap.”
Officially, the Elysee says negotiations with Russia continue, it’s confident of a successful outcome, and it isn’t worried about the Russian tender. It hasn’t commented on participating in it either. Meanwhile, the French media claims Moscow has stopped its exclusive talks with Paris.