French Secret Agent Apologizes for Sinking Greenpeace Ship 30 Years Later

(FILES) -- A file picture taken on August 14, 1985 shows the Greenpeace ecologist organization boat Rainbow Warrior which was sunk in the bay of Auckland on July 10, 1985 by French secret services, as it was en route to Pacific Ocean to protest against French nuclear tests

 

A former French combat diver of the DGSE secret service who was in charge of sinking the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in 1985 apologized on New Zealand TV, revealing details of the clandestine operation.

The two blasts occurred in the harbor of Auckland, New Zealand on the night of July 10th 1985. The Greenpeace ship was heading for Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia to protest against nuclear tests. The French President François Mitterrand gave a direct order to stop the ship by any means, as Le Monde daily investigated after the event.

File photo dated 01 August 1985 shows the bombed hull of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior, following its sabotage by the French secret service in the port of Auckland 09 July 1985 to stop it from protesting against nuclear testing at France’s Pacific Mururoa Atoll

A clandestine operation was planned and conducted by combat divers of the secret service DGSE. They were told Greenpeace is infiltrated by Communist agents and posed a threat to French national security, Jean-Luc Kister, the team leader who claimed himself responsible for the 1985 act of sabotage confessed to NZTV in a program this Sunday.

Undated picture of Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira who died during explosions on board of Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior

Kister, who continued his military service after the Auckland sabotage, said the act was weighing on his conscience for the past three decades so he felt the need to apologize to the family of the Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira, the only “accidental” and “innocent” victim of the explosions aboard the Rainbow Warrior.

“I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest regret,” the French colonel and former secret agent, addressed the family, the Rainbow Warrior crew and even the people of New Zealand, when he offered his apology.

He said he considers the sabotage of the vessel a great mistake by the French government and “an unfair, clandestine operation conducted in an allied, friendly and peaceful country.”

He noted the operation was “like using boxing gloves to crush a mosquito” but he and fellow frogmen had to obey orders because they were soldiers.

Kister was the leader of a smaller team inside a group of 12 secret agents which planted and detonated the two limpet mines that winter night. Two members of the group, Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart, were caught by Kiwi detectives and later sentenced to ten and seven years, but served only two years each.

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India, France May Sign 36 Rafale Fighters Deal Next Week

Rafale fighter jet aircraft, manufactured by Dassault Aviation SA.

 

New Delhi and Paris could sign a contract to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets as early as next week, The Times of India reported on Friday, citing defense sources.

NEW DELHI (Sputnik) — According to the newspaper, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will arrive in New Delhi on Tuesday to sign an intergovernmental agreement on the Rafale deal, which could be followed by the signing of a commercial contract.In April, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande agreed to supply the Indian Air Force with 36 French-built Rafale fighters.

The contract is still at the discussion stage, with the negotiating committee considering the 50 percent offset requirements, as well as the arms and equipment the fighters will be fitted with, The Times of India reported.

According to the newspaper, the delivery of the first aircraft to India will take place about two years after the contact is signed.

India and France have been negotiating the deal for over three years, during which time the deal’s budget has almost doubled.The initial price quoted to India for each of the 36 Rafale aircraft was 25 percent higher than the $200-million price tag offered to the Indian prime minister during his April visit to France.

The Rafale is a French fourth generation multirole twin-engine fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation.

And the Buyer is…:Malaysia May Buy Mistrals Initially Built for Russia

Mistral

 

During his Malaysian trip, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will discuss the possibility of delivering to Malaysia the two Mistral-class warships initially built for Russia, the French newspaper Tribune reported.

Earlier, the French media suggested that Egypt and Saudi Arabia were seriously contemplating the purchase of Mistral ships. Other nations believed to be interested in the two Mistrals include Brazil, Canada, China, India and the United States.

In early-August, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Francois Hollande agreed on the cancellation of a contract on the construction of two Mistral-class ships. France has already paid the compensation, but the sum was not made public.After the Russian equipment is dismantled from the carriers, France will be able to take charge of both ships.

Le Drian will arrive to Malaysia on August 30. On the way back, the minister plans to visit India to sign a contract on the delivery of 36 Rafale jets to New Delhi.

According to Tribune, the Indian military is also interested in the purchase of the Mistrals.

Russia and France discuss return of Russian Mistral ships’ equipment

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During this week consultations in Moscow, Russia and France discussed the situations related to the return of Russian equipment which was installed on the ships, a source said.

Russia and France held a new round of consultations on the Mistral-class helicopter carriers earlier this week in Moscow, discussing the return of Russian equipment which has already been installed, a military-technical cooperation source told RIA Novosti on Thursday.

“At the round of consultations held this week in Moscow, the sides discussed the force majeure situations related to the return of Russian equipment which was already installed on the ships,” the source said.

Mistral Saga: Should France Sell Ships Built for Russia to Brazil?

The Sevastopol mistral warship is on its way for its first sea trials, on March 16, 2015 off Saint-Nazaire.

 
With the $1.3 billion Mistral deal suspended indefinitely, France desperately needs a solution to the problem of its own making: how to deal with the warships Paris refuses to hand over to Russia?

Selling them to a third party has long been speculated as the best of the worst solutions available to France. Canada, China and the United States have been repeatedly named as potential buyers but these deals are highly unlikely to come through. The National Interest, an American bimonthly magazine, makes a special case for Brazil, whose fleet coincidentally needs a capital ship to serve as an offshore command center.

End of the Road?
End of the Road?

Mistral is a regional game changer

The main argument is that of regional ambitions and can be framed as an issue of leading versus following. In this respect, a Mistral is a game changer, according to the National Interest.

“An amphibious assault ship, like the Mistral, gives a navy the capacity to undertake an independent leadership role in a littoral crisis,” the magazine noted, specifically referring to disaster-relief operations.

This is an issue in Latin America. “Several Latin American countries have expressed frustration about their ability to conduct maritime relief operations independent of the United States,” the media outlet said, citing an operation following the devastating 2009 earthquake in Haiti as an example. Brazil was eager to contribute to the relief efforts but was sidelined by the US.

“In short, in maritime relief operations the ownership of an amphib makes the difference between a leadership role (including the ability to manage and steer the course of the operation) and a support role (in which another navy calls the shots). And for most countries, maritime relief operations happen much more often than active combat operations,” the National Interest explained.

Brazilian aircraft carrier São Paulo (A12)
Brazilian aircraft carrier São Paulo (A12)

Why would Brazil need a Mistral?

The Brazilian Navy’s only flagship – an aircraft carrier, dubbed São Paulo – was commissioned in 1963 by the French Navy. Paris transferred the Clemenceau-class ship to Brazil in 2000, where it is expected to remain in service until 2039.

By that time it will be 76 years old, which is far beyond the retirement age for military hardware. Moreover, São Paulo has often been reported to be in constant need of repairs and maintenance.Brazil cannot build an aircraft carrier by itself and no one is selling these ships at the moment. A Mistral or two could assume the leadership role from aging São Paulo.

They have another major advantage over aircraft carriers: the amphibious assault ships are “cheaper and easier to maintain than aircraft carriers.” They also “offer a single platform that can combine sea control, offensive strike and disaster relief,” the National Interest observed.

Sevastopol (L) and the Vladivostok warships, two Mistral class LHD amphibious vessels ordered by Russia from STX France in Saint-Nazaire, western France, on December 20, 2014
Sevastopol (L) and the Vladivostok warships, two Mistral class LHD amphibious vessels ordered by Russia from STX France in Saint-Nazaire, western France, on December 20, 2014

Amphibious assault ships gain in popularity… but not in Latin America

Not a single major Latin American country has expressed a real interest in purchasing a Mistral-like ship, yet more and more nations, including but not limited to South Korea, Japan, Italy, Australia, China, India and Russia, contemplate investing into these warships.

“The [Latin American] disinterest in amphibs is curious, particularly because amphibs are ideal naval vessels for countries that don’t anticipate having to fight in the near future. While operating fixed-wing aircraft carriers has strained the naval budgets of Brazil and Argentina, amphibs don’t stretch means nearly as far,” the magazine pointed out.

Although the Mistrals offer offensive combat capabilities, the region could benefit from their role in managing the aftermath of natural disasters, as well as aiding in the efforts to fight drug and human trafficking. In this respect, their purchase is unlikely to spark a regional arms race, the National Interest stated.

“The Mistrals can increase Brazil’s regional influence not merely by existing, but also by doing things on a daily basis. [They] would immediately become the most impactful warships owned by a South American navy since the early days of the twentieth century. The two ships could even operate along the Amazon, which is navigable for big ships for large extents,” the magazine concluded.

The fate of the Mistral deal inked between France and Russia remains in limbo. According to latest reports, both sides are close to arriving at an agreement under which Moscow will receive compensation for the ships’ non-delivery.

But until this matter is settled, France cannot sell the Mistrals to a third party.At this point Russia does not need the amphibious assault ships built in France, because it has all the technology needed to manufacture similar ships at home. The growing global interest in this type of vessel opens up exciting export possibilities, especially considering Russia’s close ties with Brazil or China for that matter (the three nations are part of the BRICS forum).

In a few years’ time, Russia could start making inroads in this sector of the lucrative arms market and Moscow seems to have already laid the groundwork to secure deals in the future.

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Russia, France Prepare Agreement on Mistral Deal

Sevastopol (L) and the Vladivostok warships, two Mistral class LHD amphibious vessels ordered by Russia from STX France in Saint-Nazaire, western France, on December 20, 2014

Moscow and Paris are ready for an agreement on Mistral non-delivery, according to a military source.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) –A final agreement on French compensation to Russia for the termination of the Mistral delivery is still pending. Moscow has insisted on approximately $1.3 billion in compensation.”The governments of both countries need to sign the project document that expert delegations from Russia and France agreed on, and it’s ready to be signed,” the source said.

In November 2014, France canceled a $1.5-billion contract with Russia to deliver two Mistral helicopter carriers, citing Moscow’s alleged participation in Ukraine’s internal conflict.

Earlier this week, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the country’s government was encouraged to end the Mistral deal during the October 2014 visit to Washington.

Le Drian confirmed that the failure to fulfill the contract with Russia is costing the French economy $1.3 billion.

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French Mistral Ships Unlikely to End Up in US Ports – Defense Minister

The Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok is seen at the STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard site in Saint-Nazaire

 
The United States has not given any indication they would purchase the Mistral warships from France, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a speech to the US German Marshall Fund.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — In November 2014, France cancelled a $1.5 billion contract with Russia to deliver two Mistral aircraft carriers. The contract was terminated as a result of political pressure related to allegations of Moscow interference in the Ukraine conflict — claims delied by Russia.

“[Defense Secretary] Ashton Carter did not say he wanted to buy them earlier when I saw him,” Le Drian said on Monday.

Le Drian explained that the French government was encouraged to end the Mistral deal during an October 2014 visit to Washington.

Being asked if the Mistral ships could end up in US ports, Le Drian joked, “If we can agree on a price, why not?”

Le Drian described the decision to cancel the contract with Russia as “courageous” and a “strategic choice.”

“Now nobody is talking about the Mistral, but it is still costing us 1.2 billion euros [$1.3 billion] in the French economic situation which is difficult.”

A final agreement on French compensation to Russia for the termination of the Mistral contracts is still pending. Moscow has insisted on approximately $1.3 billion in compensation.

Le Drian visited Washington, DC on Monday where he met with his counterpart in the US Department of Defense.

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