As the Ukraine crisis continues, France's foreign minister has said other countries must share the burden in imposing sanctions on Russia and that any measures should also include the energy and financial sectors as well as defence.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, speaking in an interview with CNN on Monday night, also suggested France had not ruled out reviewing the sale of warships to Russia – a contract agreed before the crisis in Ukraine broke out.
The United States has been pressing France, Germany and Britain to take a tougher line against Russia to punish Moscow for its annexation of Crimea and to dissuade it from intervening in east Ukraine. Asked if France was on the same page as the United States, Fabius said, "I think so, provided that everybody makes the same sacrifices" – a reference to other nations. "It's not sanctions against Europe, but Russia. Let's not forget that," he said.
The European Union imposed sanctions on Monday on a senior aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the commander of Russian paratroopers, as well as two confiscated Crimean energy companies. But while European Union (EU) powers Germany, France and Britain have all threatened tougher action against Moscow if it undermined the May 25 Ukrainian presidential election, they are hesitant to adopt sanctions that could harm their own interests.
For France, this would mean at least delaying the defence contract. For Britain, closing its mansions and bank vaults to magnates close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. For Germany, it would mean reducing its dependency on Russian gas.
French diplomatic sources said on Monday Paris would press ahead with a €1.2 billion ($1.66 billion) contract to sell Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia because cancelling the deal would do more damage to Paris than to Moscow. "We have a rule. When there is a contract it will be implemented," Fabius said. "The decision will be taken next October, but if we make new sanctions it has to apply to the defence, financial and energy (sectors), not only for defence."
The first carrier, the Vladivostok, is due to be delivered by the last quarter of 2014. US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said last Thursday that she had qualms about the French deal after several US lawmakers demanded Washington put pressure on France to send a strong message to Russia.
Fabius is due to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday.