Mistral-Class Ships Would Pose Military Threat to Estonia, Says Vice Admiral Kõuts ({{commentsTotal}})

Vice Admiral Tarmo Kõuts, former commander in chief of the Estonian Defense Forces, said the French-built Mistral ships currently scheduled to be sold to the Russian navy can be used to spearhead military operations, such as attacking smaller nations.

The Mistral class is an amphibious assault ship, also known as a helicopter carrier. Besides acting as a floating headquarters, it can transport up to 900 soldiers, 35 helicopters and a number of tanks, uudised.err.ee reported on Tuesday. It can also carrry landing barges.

Kõuts said the vessel's multifunctionality poses the greatest threat to Estonia.

Speaking about the recent events in Crimea, Kõuts said a similar scenario can play out in Estonia. He added that although the nation has good military equipment, trained soldiers and respectable reserve army, Estonia is a long way from feeling completely secure.

He said Estonia has nothing to combat the Mistral.

France agreed in 2011 to construct two such vessels for the Russian navy, a deal that has received heavy criticism from the Baltic states. Protest from the three nations have increased after the Crimea events with a protest held outside the French embassy in Tallinn a few days ago.

Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told ETV on Tuesday an arms embargo could be put into effect against Russia, and the delivery of the two ships could be postponed or the deal canceled.

The first ship, named Vladivostok, is due to be handed over to Russia at the end of this year, with the second, aptly named Sevastopol, the following year.

Three ships of the class are in service in the French Navy are named Mistral, Tonnerre and Dixmude. A deal for the two ships for the Russian Navy was announced by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in December 2010.

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