the essential Following the cancellation of mega-contracts for submarines by Australia, France recalled its ambassadors in Australia and the United States for consultations.
“This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on 15 September by Australia and the United States”, he added . “We have been in close contact with our French partners regarding their decision to recall the ambassador to Paris for consultations. We regret that they have taken this step, however we will remain committed in the days to come to resolve our differences, as we did at the other time of our long alliance “, reacted on condition of anonymity an official of the White House.
The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom announced Wednesday a strategic partnership to counter China, AUKUS, including the supply of American nuclear-powered submarines to Canberra, which effectively got the French out of the game. The abandonment of the French submarine project and the announcement of a new partnership “constitute unacceptable behavior between allies and partners, the consequences of which affect the very conception that we make of our alliances, our partnerships and the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe “, hammered Jean-Yves Le Drian.
France had signed in 2016 a contract of 90 billion Australian dollars (56 billion euros) for the supply of 12 diesel powered submarines to Australia, often qualified as a “contract of the century” because of its scale and strategic scope.
Since the announcement of the partnership, Paris has not taken off, deeming to have been betrayed by Australia as well as by the United States who have made the rivalry against China their number one priority and ask their allies for a greater commitment to their side in Indo-Pacific, a crucial area for the world economy.
The backdrop to this diplomatic crisis is the rise of China and its increasingly aggressive policy in the area, which worries many countries. In particular, trade tensions between Beijing and Canberra have not stopped growing since 2018. In recent months, China has imposed severe economic sanctions on many Australian products.
“A blow in the back” of Australians
The head of French diplomacy denounced Thursday a “blow in the back” of Australia, and a “brutal” decision of American President Joe Biden, which he compared to the methods of his predecessor Donald Trump.
France also canceled a gala evening scheduled for Friday evening to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Chesapeake Bay, decisive in the United States War of Independence, concluded with a victory for the French fleet over the British fleet, the September 5 1781.
Europeans now have a “fairly clear” idea of how Washington views its allies, it is stressed in Paris.
President Joe Biden, whose election was greeted with relief in Europe, has certainly promised to treat his NATO allies with more consideration than his predecessor. But from Afghanistan to the American-Australian-British alliance for which France has paid the price, it has acted unilaterally, assuming absolute continuity with Donald Trump’s “America first” slogan.
A disappointment well understood?
Australia said on Friday that it understood the French “disappointment” while wishing to continue working with Paris. “Obviously these are very difficult questions to deal with,” Australian foreign minister Marise Payne said from Washington. “But we will continue to work constructively and in close collaboration with our French colleagues,” she promised.
To read also: Submarines of the contract of the century: when Australia torpedoed France
Firing on all cylinders, Paris wondered how to trust Canberra from now on in the trade negotiations between the EU and Australia. “We have trade negotiations with Australia, I do not see how we can trust the Australian partner,” said Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune.
As for the United Kingdom, also a party to the AUKUS agreement, which left the EU explaining that it wants to regain its sovereignty, it is in the process of placing itself in a position of “junior associate” hiding in “the bosom “of Washington,” he lamented. The ambassador in London was not recalled, moreover.
In Australia, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison replied to Beijing’s anger after the announcement of this partnership which provides that Canberra has nuclear submarines, with more autonomy and more discreet than conventional submarines that proposed France. Beijing has a “very important nuclear submarine construction program,” he said. “They have the right to make defense decisions in their own interests, and of course Australia and all the other countries too.” Because China had reacted strongly, qualifying the acquisition of these submarines as “extremely irresponsible” and threatening in particular stability in the Indo-Pacific region. She also pointed out that she calls into question international nuclear non-proliferation efforts.