France chooses Russia over NATO-calls for lifting of sanctions

France faces a tough decision to either deliver two Mistral ships to Russia and face the anger of its NATO allies, or to terminate the Mistral deal, paying a heavy price and further deteriorating its economy

Frnch President Fran├žois Hollande on Monday called for sanctions on Russia to be lifted, a move considered to be connected with mending relations with Russia due to the unsettled dispute over the delivery of two Mistral ships for the Russian navy. Amid tough Western sanctions on Russia, the French President's soft tone suggests he will look to resolve the Mistral dispute, a move that could be costly for France.

"[Russian President Vladimir] Putin does not want to annex eastern Ukraine. He has told me that…What he wants is to remain influential. What he wants is for Ukraine not to fall into the NATO camp… What we want is that he respects the territorial integrity of Ukraine. What we want is that he does not support the separatists," said the French president.

France would prefer to remain tight with both sides; the European Union and its NATO allies on one side and its military cooperation with Russia, which is worth 1.2 billion euros, on the other. The West's tough measures on Russia were seen as a direct challenge to France cooperating with Russia militarily, which would have inevitably had a huge impact on the French economy. It would appear evident that the deteriorating bilateral relations with Russia could be costly for France.

Despite the West's joint decision on Russia sanctions, many western countries would likely be divided over tightened sanctions, due to the fear of damaging their own economies. Some of them, like Germany and Italy, are heavily reliant on Russian gas. Therefore, it is not only France but many EU countries are irresolute in taking precautionary measures when it comes to sanctions imposed on Russia.