[Ed. – Stay classy, Vlad. (Is Obama even that smart?)]
President Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of seeking to blackmail France into scrapping a contract to sell Mistral warships to Russia by offering to cut a record $8.97 billion fine against BNP Paribas SA. (BNP)
“We know about the pressure which our U.S. partners are applying on France not to supply the Mistrals to Russia,” Putin told Russian diplomats in Moscow today. “And we even know they hinted that if the French don’t deliver the Mistrals, they would quietly get rid of the sanctions against the bank, or at least minimize them,” he said without naming BNP Paribas.
“What is that if not blackmail?” Putin said. …
French President Francois Hollande has defied U.S. criticism and refused to cancel a contract to sell two Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Russia. …
Putin has “no evidence” to support his claims, which appear aimed at his domestic audience as well as public opinion in Europe, said Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent political analyst in Moscow.
“A responsible political leader wouldn’t usually allow himself to say something like this,” Oreshkin said by phone. “But Putin knows that the French aren’t particularly well-disposed toward the U.S. right now and he is trying to exploit that.”
Hollande’s office didn’t immediately reply to a phone message requesting comment.
BNP, France’s largest bank, agreed to plead guilty in court documents yesterday to processing almost $9 billion in banned transactions involving Sudan, Iran and Cuba from 2004 to 2012. The company will be temporarily barred from handling some U.S. dollar transactions.