France may lose another multibillion shipbuilding deal to US
The United States has approved a massive arms sale to Greece, offering four new frigates and a major modernization package worth up to $9.4 billion, directly challenging a similar preliminary agreement with France.
The US State Department said it approved the potential deals on Friday, announcing the offer of several Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) ships in addition to a separate $2.5 billion plan to modernize Greece’s MEKO Class Frigates.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to improve the security of a NATO ally, which is an important partner for political stability and economic progress in Europe,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.
If executed, the scheme to update Greece’s frigate fleet would include the installation of a number of new systems, such as new five-inch artillery cannons and upgraded sonar. Arms dealers Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, VSE Corporation and the UK’s BAE Systems would serve as the primary contractors.
The announced proposal comes after France declared in September that it had reached a similar agreement with Greece to provide up to four new frigates for $3.4 billion (€3 billion). At the time, however, French military spokesman Herve Grandjean said that while some commitments had been made, no formal contract was yet signed between the two sides. He added that the deal would be finalized after a period of three months, a deadline set to mature sometime in the coming weeks.
Though it is yet unclear what the US proposal will mean for France’s deal, the move could be interpreted as a major slight by Washington, which already invoked the country’s ire earlier this year after unveiling a nuclear submarine deal with Australia despite a preexisting arrangement with Paris. France, which was slated to sell diesel subs to Canberra, responded by recalling its ambassadors in both the US and Australia, while President Emmanuel Macron sharply criticized the two allies in public.
Two weeks after the AUKUS bombshell, Macron took the stage with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis to personally announce the sale of French warships to Athens, saying it was time to “stop being naive” while touting the deal as a sign of “Europe’s strategic autonomy and sovereignty.”