Although the French have confirmed negotiations but not a sale, the purchase would be the first ever of such technological magnitude — and strategic comfort — involving a NATO member and Russia.
The moment is as remarkable as the possible precedent:
Over the past few weeks, Russia, in a new burst of military assertiveness, said through the secretary of its national security council, Nikolai Patrushev, that it was lowering the threshold for the preventive use of its nuclear weapons to include, beyond big wars, “aggressors” using conventional weapons in regional or local conflicts. At the same time, the State Duma, or Kremlin-controlled lower house of Parliament, approved a bill expanding the possibilities for using troops abroad.
Here was a combination of moves increasing pressure on the neighboring countries Russia regards as belonging in its sphere of influence that brought no allied reaction. (photo: Novaya Gazeta)