PARIS, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- The European Union may acquire two Russian warships currently under construction in France, analysts say.
The possibility comes as the United States and Western Europe tighten economic sanctions against Russia, and Monday's denial of a German defense contractor's delivery of military components to Russia by the German government.
The first of two Mistral-class ships purchased by Russia -- essentially small aircraft carriers designed for helicopter takeoff and landing -- is nearing completion at the STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in southwestern France.
"It is being discussed in Paris as an option. It is gaining traction in Paris. There are diplomats and politicians in Paris who see that as a possibility," Eduard Tetreau of the European Council on Foreign Relations' Paris office told the publication Defense News, adding the EU could afford to undertake the $1.6 billion contract.
After Russia's involvement in Crimea and Ukraine, as well as the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, British Prime Minister David Cameron called it "unthinkable" his country could sell warships to Russia.
The French government has sought a way out of the contract without harming its shipbuilding industry. The German Navy proposed the EU purchase the ships, and Claudia Major and Christian Molling of the German Institute for international and Security Affairs wrote in May that the idea "offers the opportunity to solve the French dilemma by buying up the Mistral ships and using them for itself."