Vladimir Putin and François Hollande in St. Petersburg, September 2013.
Alexei Filippov / Courtesy Reuters

Almost 70 years after landing on the beaches of Normandy, the United States has another opportunity to save France -- this time from itself. Unlike D-Day, the rescue won’t require combat. Nor will it divert many U.S. military resources. Instead, Washington need only commit a modest $1.6 billion -- a small fraction of its $640 billion defense budget -- to outbid Russia for two French helicopter carriers.

France’s determination to sell the ships has already led to a good deal of hand-wringing. U.S. leaders have been urging their French counterparts to cancel the sale since its announcement in 2010, and they’ve only ramped up the pressure since Russia annexed Crimea. Nevertheless, the first ship is still due to be delivered this October.

Despite what Russian propaganda might have one believe, the ships would hardly represent a major shift in the global balance of power. But they would give the

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