This Is How France Violated European Sanctions and Supplied Russia With Arms for 5 Years

Murad Jandali | 2 years ago




With the escalation of Russian military operations in Ukraine, and Western capitals pledging to restrict Moscow in many fields, military, economic and other, to stop the military attack; an investigative report revealed that arms sales between France and Russia continued throughout the period between 2015 and 2020, despite the European sanctions imposed at the time, while Paris denies that it has made any violation of those sanctions.

The exposed case has raised widespread controversy and questions about whether Paris is politically hypocritical and plays a dual role in its relationship with Moscow, and about what these military deals represent in breach of its international obligations.


France's Complicity

The investigative website, Disclose, blew up shocking information, based on secret defense documents and public sources, about the supply of military equipment by France to Russia between 2015 and 2020; that is, during the period when European sanctions were imposed on Moscow, due to its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

“France has secretly issued at least 76 export licenses for military equipment to Russia since 2015, and the total value of these contracts amounted to 152 million euros, according to the latest report of the French Parliament on arms exports,” the website said in a report on March 14, 2022.

“French President Emmanuel Macron, who chose to stand by Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion, overlooked an important piece of information, which is that Paris has provided Putin's army with the latest military technologies over the past years,” the website added.

“French weapons and military equipment helped modernize the Russian ground and air forces, as they are used today in the war in Ukraine,” it noted.

It is noteworthy that the French military equipment was delivered to Russia coinciding with the start of the Russian military intervention in Syria, and a year after the European Union imposed in August 2014 an embargo on arms exports to Russia, after its annexation of the Crimea and its army’s entry into the Donbass region to support the separatists in Ukraine in 2014.

However, this resolution at that time had an exception to allow these countries to sell weapons that had been previously agreed upon in deals before this date.

Although former French President Francois Hollande canceled the sale of two Mistral-class ships to Russia in 2015 under European-American pressure, it seems that the rest of the deliveries have continued secretly since that date.

The Hollande and Macron governments insisted not to cancel the arms deals signed with Russia, and Paris took advantage of a loophole in the European ban because it does not work retroactively; that is, it does not impose the cancellation of contracts signed before the resolution is issued.

European Commission officials pointed to France's complicity in breaching international obligations, stressing that Paris is obligated to respect the common position of the European Union countries in 2008, which prevents member states from exporting weapons that could lead to armed conflict, or lead to its prolongation.



According to Disclose's investigative report, the aerospace and defense companies Thales and Safran, in which the French state holds large stakes, were the main beneficiaries of arms deals with Russia during that period.

Regarding the quality of the French equipment, the website indicated that Paris has supplied Russian tanks with more than a thousand thermal cameras since 2012, one of which appeared inside an abandoned Russian T-72 tank in the Donbass region of Ukraine in 2014, the Russian combat aircraft and attack helicopters are also equipped with navigation systems and infrared detectors.

Numerous pictures of the ongoing war in Ukraine showed the participation of T-72, T-90 and T-80 tanks, in addition, Russian tanks are in the front lines; all were equipped with high-resolution thermal cameras bearing the Thales or Safran logo.

The documents revealed that since the signing of the contract with Moscow, the French Thales group has equipped 60 Sukhoi Su-30 combat aircraft with a TACAN navigation system, a SMD55S video monitor and its sighting lens.

These warplanes, which carried out thousands of raids and killed tens of thousands of civilians in Syria, have been bombing Ukraine day and night since last February 24.

Su-30s were also photographed flying over northeastern Ukraine, on March 5, after being shot down by Ukrainian air defense systems.

In addition to the helmets that were equipped with infrared screens, periscopes intended for Russian pilots, and an advanced navigation system provided by the Safran Group, which allows pilots of the Russian Air Force to determine their positions without using American or European satellites.

On February 24, Ka-52 attack helicopters were among the first to fly over Ukrainian territory, it is also clear from many of the photos published on the social media that some of these helicopters appeared firing their missiles in the invasion of Ukraine.

The website also documented a number of advanced French equipment that Russia received between 2015 and 2020, and which Russia is currently using in its war against Ukraine.

By deciding to continue these deliveries to Russia until at least 2020, France has given an additional military advantage to Vladimir Putin, whose army already enjoys a numerical advantage against the Ukrainians.

Thus, according to experts and analysts, France has contributed greatly to the development and arming of the Russian army, which is currently engaged in a military offensive in Ukraine; at the same time, it stressed its support for Ukraine's sovereignty and independence, and called for negotiation and a peaceful solution away from the equation of arms and war.

This was also confirmed by lawyer Hassan Alaswad in a statement to Al-Estiklal, saying: “Advanced French technology has contributed to strengthening the capabilities of the Russian armies; this, in turn, contributed to increasing the confidence of the Russian leadership in making the decision to war on Ukraine.”

On the causes and repercussions of the French-Russian deals scandal, lawyer Alaswad confirmed that “the relations between states are not based on moral standards, as for the French-Russian deals, we can categorize them within economic interests, political considerations and national security.”

“Therefore, it is natural that the interests of partners and allies differ. It is natural for countries to make secret deals behind the backs of their allies, and this does not cause serious repercussions, because all countries make covenants with their allies and break them at the same time,” he added.

However, the lawyer went on to say: “The leaked documents may cause some embarrassment for the French leadership, and it will have a negative impact on the mediation of Paris with Moscow to stop the war in Ukraine.”

Mr. Alaswad continued by saying: “Who will trust French words as long as actions contradict them! The truth is that one cannot expect otherwise from the French leadership, which have always pursued colonial policies that do not value the values, principles and the rights of peoples to self-determination.”


Political Interest

On its part, the French Ministry of Defense confirmed what was stated in the Disclose documents and did not deny its continued export of arms to Russia until 2020.

“France is in full compliance with its international obligations, in particular the Arms Trade Treaty and the European Union's common position,” a spokesman for the French Defense Ministry, Herve Grandjean, posted on Twitter.

“France has allowed the implementation of some contracts signed since 2014 under the so-called acquired rights clause that allows the execution of a contract concluded before the annexation of Crimea. This possibility is clearly stated in the sanctions regime imposed on Russia in 2014,” he added.

“The report submitted to Parliament on arms exports in 2021 shows that since 2014, the volume of equipment deliveries to Russia has decreased every year, approaching zero in 2020. No new contracts have been concluded with Russia since 2014, and no arms shipments have been delivered to Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine,” Grandjean  noted.

French President Emmanuel Macron has denied allegations that the government has violated European sanctions by agreeing to export military equipment to Russia since 2015, which Moscow is now reportedly using in its war against Ukraine, at a time when Paris is trying to broker a diplomatic solution to end the war.

Macron responded to a journalist's question during a tour of western France on March 15, saying: “Former French President Francois Hollande made very strong and orderly decisions at that time. All contracts that were among France's commitments and were not in line with what was decided in 2014 were suspended,” stressing that only contracts with very low amounts continued to be terminated.

“France made the decisions that it should have taken in 2014. I'm defending it here, even if it wasn't me taking it,” Macron said.

Commenting on the French position on the scandal of continuing arms sales to Russia, France 24 international affairs editor Khaled al-Gharabli said that “France did not respect its understanding obligations with European countries.”

He explained during a television interview on March 15 that “there has been a common understanding between the countries of the European Union, since 2008, that prevents the export of arms (which causes or fuels conflict) to Russia, but France did not respect the charter and continued to supply arms to Russia until 2020.”

“France is supposed to prevent its weapons from being used in killing civilians, as is happening today in Ukraine. From here we also find that France has not respected its moral obligation to supply Russia with weapons and equipment over the past years,” Mr. al-Gharabli said.

As for the political hypocrisy and the French double role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Mr. al-Gharabli pointed out that “France in the last war did not prioritize financial interest over morality, as the value of contracts is nothing in the world of arms deals and compared to the billions of dollars of weapons that were sold to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and used to kill civilians in Yemen.”

“The real reason that prompted France to continue selling arms to Russia is the political interest, in the sense of wanting to convince Putin that we want to reach a partnership with you despite the doubts and tension, and here we are selling you arms, but you have to sit with us and think about how we can ensure stability in Europe,” he added.