I wouldn't be too sure the Russians will actually take delivery. The rest of NATO is emphatically not happy with the deal. The Baltic states in particular are screaming bloody murder and the US is unhappy fearing the ships might be used against Georgia in the future. No steel has been cut for the Russian ships yet and I wouldn't count on it happening.Aero-Wing, you may not care about popeye's service, but his service has netted him a great deal of knowledge, especially since most of it was on aircraft carriers, about vessels that propose to carry aircraft of their nationality onto the high seas. Most of us who have spent any length of time in this fourm are aware of popeye's experience level and respect it.
Perhaps with a little more time...and a little more open attitude, you will too.
As it is, the Mistral Class is the French answer to large deck amhibious assault. It's not as large or as capable as some of the other vessels out there, but it is a fair design, though it does seem to be top heavey. Reports also indicate, that in order to save money, at least portions of the ship were built more to commercial standards than to strict military ones. In battle, that could prove to be a costly decision.
Time will tell.
As it is, it is pretty clear the Russians are going to get some of these vessels. Maybe four or more.
The French are just completing their third vessel and are gaining experience with them that I am sure they will use to benefit the Russians in the sale.
I will also mention that when push comes to shove, the French have a miserable record with cooperative naval projects. PA2 was supposed to be a joint RN, MN project differing in details but with 90% of the parts common. It has not happened. Prime Minister Sarkozy officially pushed the program off to 2012 for budget reasons but the reality was the British and French could never come to terms on workload share. The Brits have a schedule to keep and weren't about to let the French slow down the procurement of these vital ships. They also feared based on experience that sharing work with the French would drive costs up, not down as the French claimed. The French were never satisfied with any British work share proposals, or even with the idea that they would build a licensed copy in a French yard. DCN didn't have a dock large enough and the French would not let the Brits build a complete ship, though that was discussed (with the proviso that the second ship of the three would be French, a non-starter for the Brits who had a schedule to keep). Two contracts for co-production were signed with much fanfare, and then quietly abandoned later.
Meanwhile there was a constant drumbeat from DCN to build a purely French, read DCN, design. Now the talk in France is to build a reduced size Gerald Ford class! Oh boy. That won't happen if France sells Mistrals to the Russians. The US wouldn't let them near our cats and A-gear. The French are not well thought of as it is among the US military, this would absolutely poison the well.
The French have had problems with co-production of other ships such as the Fremms and Horizon classes with the Italians after giving up on a joint French/RN frigate program. We shall see if the Russians and French actually close the deal. My bet is nothing ever happens.