France, always a wildcard in such matters, plans to deliver
a military helicopter carrier vessel to Russia in defiance of calls not to by key allies Britain and the U.S.
For his part, British Prime Minister David Cameron said it would be "unthinkable" for his country to fulfill such an order.
Officials speaking on behalf of French Pres. Francoise Hollande say they will honor the $1.62 billion contract for the two warships signed by ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011.
France was the first NATO member country to supply Russia
with military equipment. The Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok is set to sail from the STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard site in Saint-Nazaire, western France.
Recently, the New York Times noted that the deal for advanced naval armaments would "augment the Russian military’s capabilities against the very nations
that now appear to be most vulnerable to the Kremlin’s pressure."
While Western leaders hope France will not deliver warships to Russia after the downing of a Malaysian airliner
filled with civilians over Ukraine earlier this month, new statements by French officials are the latest sign that’s exactly what will happen.
Approximately 400 Russian sailors arrived in France on June 30 to receive training on the Mistral and are quartered aboard a Russian ship docked in the port of Saint-Nazaire.
"Just because the Americans say 'jump' we shouldn't jump," Xavier Bertrand, a former minister under Sarkozy and senior member of his conservative opposition UMP party, told France Inter radio. "France's word, its signature, must be respected."
Hollande, a Socialist, according to polls remains one of the most unpopular presidents
in modern French history.
"Hollande is not backing down. He is delivering the first (ship) despite the fact he is being asked not to," Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, head of Hollande's ruling Socialist Party, told Tele television on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Nick Witney, a defense analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations, told The Wall Street Journal in June that the dispute over the sale illustrated "how Europe's reliance on Russian resources risks unraveling strategic alliances that helped the West win the Cold War."