During his sojourn in Paris last Friday and Saturday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his entourage of Russian economics ministers and business executives signed a number of important commercial agreements with their French counterparts. These two-dozen deals will result in increased French involvement in various Russian energy and automobile enterprises, in return for sizable injections of French financing and technology into these sectors.
"We are on the way to achieving this goal to transform our good, high-level political relations in the sphere of the real economy," Putin joyfully told journalists. "I think it is a real breakthrough in the economic cooperation sphere."
Yet, the most important possible outcome of Putin's jaunt has yet to be announced. One reason why Russia's most influential leader visited Paris over the weekend was to continue negotiations regarding the possible Russian purchase of the Mistral, an enormous amphibious warship capable of carrying hundreds of soldiers as well as more than a dozen tanks and helicopters to the shores of another country. The Russian press has been discussing such a deal since this August. But there is some evidence that negotiations between Russian government representatives and France's Thales Corp., which builds the Mistral-Class Force Projection and Command Ship, have been going on for over a year.