A purchase of French-built Mistral class amphibious assault ships by Russia poses a threat to U.S. security and is aimed against Washington's allies, the chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee has said.
"It is deeply troubling that France, a NATO ally, has decided to ignore the clear danger of selling advanced warships to Russia even as Moscow is taking an increasingly hostile approach toward the U.S., its neighbors, and Europe itself," Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.
In line with the contract, the first warship is to be delivered in 2014 and the second in 2015. The warships will be equipped with Russian weapon systems, Navy chief Adm.Vladimir Vysotsky said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the contract as a sign of strategic partnership between the two countries.
The deal has alarmed Russia's neighbors, especially Georgia, whose relations with Russia remain very tense since the August 2008 five-day war between the countries over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, which Russia subsequently recognized as independent.
"Many of our allies in the region, such as Georgia and the Baltic states, have experienced cyber attacks, severe economic pressure, and even invasion by Russia," Ros-Lehtinen's statement reads.
Russia and France in January signed an intergovernmental agreement to build two Mistral class helicopter carriers at the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. Another two are planned to be built later in Russia.
Contract talks stumbled over Russia's demand for the transfer of sensitive electronic systems.
A Mistral class ship is capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armored vehicles, and 450 personnel.