16:09 GMT +327 May 2019
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    The French Mistral high-tech amphibious helicopter carrier assault and command ship is moored on February 18, 2011 in the bay of Toulon, southern France

    Why France is Boosting Its Military Muscle in Pacific

    © AFP 2019 / GERARD JULIEN
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    In an interview with Sputnik, Russian military expert Vasily Kashin gave his thoughts on France's plans to deploy its Mistral-class helicopter carrier to the area near the Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean to join the war games which will involve the US, Japan and Britain.

    Earlier this week, media reports said that France's Mistral-class assault ship is due to be deployed to the area near Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean where the vessel is due to join the military exercises which will include Japanese and US personnel as well as two assault helicopters from Britain.

    Commenting on the issue in an interview with Sputnik, Russian military expert Vasily Kashin specifically drew attention to the fact that the Mistral ship is expected to pass through the South China Sea while en route to Tinian Island.

    He recalled that Paris recently made a number of statements about its plans to increase France’s presence in the region, including a desire to support the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

    "It seems that we have another example of the EU-style behavior pattern, namely, persistent demonstration of one's involvement in world problems through lively gesticulation, not backed by any real opportunities," Kashin pointed out.

    He described the Mistral as the best vehicle that the European Union can currently send to the Pacific given that Britain, one of the two leading European naval powers apart from France, does not possess aircraft carriers.

    As for France, it has only one aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, which has been under repair since the end of its Middle East military mission in February 2017. The repair work is expected to last for at least a year and a half, according to Kashin.

    He also recalled that the Mistral is designed for low-intensity conflicts and has negligible survivability; theoretically, it could be useful in a possible war in the Pacific only as a carrier of anti-submarine helicopters.

    "But compared to the huge and superbly armed Japanese warships, including the Izumo-class helicopter destroyers, the Mistral's value will be extremely low. It is not quite clear what exactly the Europeans wanted to 'demonstrate' when deploying the Mistral to the drills," Kashin said.

    He warned that "in a situation where France can face China as a potential enemy, the use of the Mistral may lead to a catastrophe because the ship is almost defenseless."

    Focusing on why the EU is so interested in taking part in disputes and conflicts in the Pacific, Kashin mentioned at least two reasons.

    "First and foremost, the EU wants to demonstrate its significance against the backdrop of the European foreign policy flops. Secondly, Brussels hopes that the EU adhering to the American policy of deterring China will have a positive impact overall on EU security cooperation with Washington," Kashin noted.

    For these reasons, the EU is ready to spend significant sums related to its participation in military events on the other side of the world, something that comes amid the ongoing degradation of European military capabilities, including those of France and the UK, according to him.

    He also said that after the end of the Cold War, Europe turned into a kind of dependent for the US in military respect.

    While European defense capabilities are unable to ensure the EU's own security, Europeans spend significant funds to increase their military presence in the Pacific in the hope that it will allow them to demand US services in return.

    The US, for its part, demands that Europe should boost investment in the defense sector, hoping that it will help them free up US forces in Europe. The EU's position draws obvious fatigue and irritation from Washington, according to Kashin.

    "At the same time, Europe's current military impotence means that during any possible aggravation of the situation in Eastern Europe, Americans will be forced to concentrate all forces in this region to the detriment of their commitments in other parts of the world," Kashin concluded.


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