• Eyal Pinko

Another defeat to Naval Group?

After the Naval Group kick-out from the Australian submarine program last September, the US State Department approved the sale of naval frigates to Greece on Friday, stopping a deal struck between France and Greece in September. On Saturday, France responded by stating that the agreement had already been reached.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency approved the sale of four Lockheed Martin multi-mission surface frigates for $6.9 billion, just two months after Athens and Paris inked a memorandum of understanding on a similar agreement for French-built ships.

The agency also approved a $2.5 billion Lockheed Martin proposal to upgrade Greece's MEKO class frigate, including adding and modernizing weapon and combat systems.

The US declaration hinted that France is facing a new commercial arms deal danger after the US snatched a large submarine contract from Australia in a surprise announcement on September 15 that strained relations between Washington and Paris.

When Canberra scrapped a long-standing arrangement worth billions of euros to buy conventional French submarines in exchange for US nuclear-powered vessels, France recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia, calling it a "stab in the back" by an ally.

On Saturday, the French Ministry of Defense stated that a contract for Greece to acquire three French frigates had just been inked, claiming that the deal had beaten out a competing offer from the US the day before.

"Since we have been in discussion with the Greeks, the US offer is no longer on the table ... We also signed the contract with the Greeks. It was initialed a few days ago," informed the French Ministry of Defense.

In October, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and French President Emmanuel Macron signed a memorandum of understanding for France to purchase three, maybe four, French Belharra frigates for three billion euros.

Naval Group will construct the French ships, which will be delivered starting in 2024.

The two sides have until the end of the year to negotiate a final agreement in the France-Greece pact.

After the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency's approval, the Naval Group may face another case of defeat, but this time in Greece. It is most probable that President Emmanuel Macron, who is fighting in the upcoming election, will lack the time and resources to fight for the Naval Group in Greece, as he did in Australia.

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