The French Mistral: The Case of the Russian Sale and Its Aftermath

(SLD Info, Paris, 16 February 2023) France took a financial hit of €409 million ($440 million) as a result of  its 2015 cancellation of the sale of two helicopter carriers to Russia, the national audit office said in its report on French arms exports. “In total, taking into account the result of negotiations with Russia, cancellation of payments, payments to Naval Group, modifications and the sale of the ships to Egypt, this transaction cost France €409 million,” the independent office said in its report, Support for Export of Military Matériel. The then French president, François Hollande, cancelled in August 2015 a controversial sale of the Mistral class warships, under pressure from the U.S., central European and Baltic nations, after Russia seized in 2014 the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. France paid Russia total reimbursement of €949.75 million for cancelling the order for the Mistrals, comprising a core payment of €892.9 million, and a further €56.8 million, the Sept. 15 2015 National Assembly report said. Egypt’s purchase of the two Mistrals followed Cairo’s 2015 order for French weapons worth €5.2 billion for 24 Rafale fighter jets, a FREMM multimission frigate, and air-to-air and naval missiles. Coface consistently made money between 2010-2021, with premiums exceeding claims, the report said, with only 2015 showing a net loss of €82 million due to the claims made on cancellation of the Mistral deal with Russia. The sale to Egypt limited the amount of claim, the report said.