Ambassador Araud’s interview with MSNBC
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JOURNALIST (MIKA BRZEZINSKI) : France says it will no longer deliver a powerful warship to Russia next month because of its support for separatists in Eastern Ukraine. French President François Hollande made the announcement yesterday after initially resisting pressure from the US and other countries.
The warship is part of a 1.6 billion dollars deal between France and Russia. Russia is accusing France of bowing to pressure from the US and warning it will likely increase tension.
Joining us now is France’s Ambassador to the U.S., Gérard Araud. It’s very good Mr. Ambassador to have you on the show this morning.
First, tell us, if you can in your own words, exactly what the message is that you want to send by cancelling or at least suspending this deal?
GERARD ARAUD : Good morning. Our first goal is to end the Russian interference in Ukraine. After that, ceasefire. After that, decentralization in Ukraine. The sanctions are not an end in themselves, they are a tool. So we are increasing in incremental ways the pressure against Russia. So now the Russians have crossed a new red line by sending their forces, their tanks. So we have to react and France has decided to react on its own.
JOURNALIST (MIKA BRZEZINSKI) : So in terms of this warship now not going to the Russians, is the deal suspended or is the contract ended? Those are two different things.
GERARD ARAUD : For the moment what we are saying is: the conditions are not met for the delivery of the warships. We do hope that in the coming weeks, in the coming months, if there is a political settlement, a political negotiation, if there is the evidence that the Russians have stopped their intervention in Ukraine, I think we could have a look at the contract.
JOURNALIST (ANDREA MITCHELL) : Hi Mr. Ambassador, it’s Andrea Mitchell here in New York. Is the goal of France now to try to get Putin to back down? And do you think that Putin’s last minute plan, that he apparently wrote on a of slip of paper, is that plan specifically to get NATO to bow to Russia until after the NATO summit? Is that the timing of what Putin you think is up to?
GERARD ARAUD : I think the timing is obvious. Mr. Putin is trying, as you say, to undermine the unity of the alliance. It’s a sheer maneuvering. But at the same time, it’s to the President Poroshenko of Ukraine to decide whether the Russian proposals are acceptable or not.
It has to be a negotiation between Ukraine, Russia and the separatists. We don’t have to dictate the terms of the agreement.
JOURNALIST (MIKE BARNICLE) : Mr. Ambassador, your president has been fairly critical of the lack of action in the Middle East with regard to Syria by the United States indicating that “if two years ago we had acted to insure transition we would not have had an Islamic State”. I would like to underline the word “WE”. It almost always falls to the United States to act in these occasions. What would you think France’s commitment would be going forward in action against ISIS if there is a partnership that comes together with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, France, England? What is France’s position there?
GERARD ARAUD : First, we need such a partnership. What we have done in an emergency is that we acted to stop the advance of the Jihadists. The American airstrikes have been very effective. We, the French, have sent immediately weaponry to the Kurds. So, in a sense, that was an emergency reaction. Now, we have to build a coalition of all the countries which are interested and which are on the front line. You said the Saudis. We need also the Turks because as you know a lot of foreign fighters are going from Turkey and going to the Islamic Emirate. In this context, I think that the summit organized by President Obama through a meeting of the UN Security Council about the foreign fighters will bring certainly a useful outcome.
JOURNALIST (MIKE BARNICLE) : What is the level of concern internally, domestically, within France, within Paris, about… you know, with regard to immigration policies, with regard to home-grown terrorists? They have a problem in Great Britain, we potentially would have a problem here. What’s the level of concern domestically within your country?
GERARD ARAUD : You know, we have now, right now, we have identified something like 360 French citizens fighting in Syria and Iraq. We have identified since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, around 1000 French citizens who went through Syria and now through Iraq. It is obvious that these people are going to come back with some expertise. So, I can say there is a high level of concern in my country, and I think all of Europe.
JOURNALIST (THOMAS ROBERTS) : Mr. Ambassador, when it comes to the situation with Russia, Vladimir Putin has responded to the denial of the delivery of the amphibious warship, saying that France will suffer the biggest blowback, financially, because of the lack of delivery. How do you respond to that?
G. ARAUD : There are moments when you have to put your financial interest behind your strategic interest. What the Russians are doing, is such a threat to the world order, such a threat to European security right now that we had to react. And we have to say, very bluntly and very simply, right now, the conditions to deliver the warships are not met, it is up to the Russians, actually, to respond to our call. We have no interest in a long-term confrontation with Russia, it is obvious. Russia is not the Soviet Union. It is not an existential threat to our way of life. But, Russia has to respect the basic rules of international life.
JOURNALIST (MIKA BRZEZINSKI) : Ambassador Araud, thank you so much for being on the show this morning.
G. ARAUD : Thank you very much.