Submarines: the breach of the “contract of the century” between France and Australia triggers a diplomatic crisis

the essential The United States announced the signing of an agreement with Australia and the United Kingdom a vast security partnership in the Indo-Pacific zone, which includes the delivery of nuclear powered submarines in Camberra.

“It’s really a blow in the back,” regretted the head of French diplomacy Jean-Yves Le Drian on France Info. “This one-sided, brutal, unpredictable decision is very similar to what Mr. Trump was doing,” he added.

He reacts to the announcement of a strategic agreement between the United States, Australia and London which led to the termination of the contract for the supply of French submarines to Australia.

France therefore sees a contract of 90 billion Australian dollars (56 billion euros) escaping its naval industry. She therefore immediately castigated a “regrettable decision” and “contrary to the letter and the spirit of the cooperation which prevailed between France and Australia”, according to a joint statement from the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs.

“Contract of the Century”

And it is not certain that Paris consoles itself with the conciliatory remarks of Joe Biden, who assured Wednesday that the United States wanted “to work closely with France” in this very strategic zone. Paris “is a key partner” of the United States, he said.

Despite Joe Biden’s language precautions, there is a real risk of throwing a cold spell on another alliance, with France, since it torpedoed what was sometimes called the “contract of the century” for the defense industry French.

The French Naval Group had been selected in 2016 by Canberra to supply conventionally propelled submarines (non-nuclear) derived from future French nuclear submarines Barracuda. In the amount of 50 billion Australian dollars (12 billion euros) at the signing, the value of this contract is currently estimated at 90 billion Australian dollars due to cost overruns and currency effects.

Acquisition of submarines

“The UK, Australia and the US are going to be linked even more closely, which reflects the level of trust between us and the depth of our friendship,” said Boris Johnson, who is enjoying diplomatic success here. in its strategy to avoid international isolation after Brexit.

“Based on our shared history of maritime democracies, we are committed to a common ambition to support Australia in the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines,” the three partners said in a joint statement, which states that it is a question of propulsion, and not of armament.

“The only country with which the United States has ever shared this type of nuclear propulsion technology is Great Britain” from 1958, a senior official from the White House. “This is a fundamental, fundamental decision. It will bind Australia, the United States and Great Britain for generations.”

According to this senior official, the “AUKUS” pact also provides for collaboration between the three countries in the field of cyber defense, artificial intelligence and quantum technologies.

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