As it turns out, one American ally was sulking in defeat as President Biden was celebrating yesterday’s “historic” security accord between the US, UK, and Australia to establish a “partnership” that will enable Canberra to obtain US nuclear submarine technology.
Australia inked a $40 billion contract with France’s Naval Group in 2016 to build a new submarine fleet to replace its ageing Collins submarine fleet. However, the new arrangement with the United States and the United Kingdom prevents this deal (because Australia would now acquire its submarines from the United States, not France), thereby taking a massive $40 billion transaction from the French defence sector.
France, understandably, was not happy. And, in his first comments on the agreement, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told franceinfo radio that President Biden had just pulled a “Trump-like” double-cross against a major American ally, all while claiming to be “rebuilding” America’s ties with its European allies, which had been hopelessly damaged (according to Biden and the Democrats) by President Trump’s demand that Europe simply abide by his demands.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Franceinfo radio that “This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do,” “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”
“It’s a stab in the back. We created a relationship of trust with Australia, and that trust has been broken, “According to Le Drian.
Just two weeks ago, Australia’s defence and foreign ministers reaffirmed the subcontract with France. French President Emmanuel Macron went so far as to publicly celebrate decades of future cooperation with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison when he visited Australia in June. He now has egg on his face, particularly in the eyes of his own military industry.
President Trump and French President Emmanuel Maron had a famously tumultuous relationship. However, diplomats who asked to remain unnamed told Reuters that the latest agreement could further sour the US-French relationship, potentially putting it at its coldest point since the “freedom fries” outcry at the start of the Iraq war.
The French are already attempting to contain the damage. French Defense Minister Florence Parly held a press conference on Thursday to stress that “we will make sure to limit the consequences” of Australia’s contract breach. He went on to say, “We will defend our interests.”
Sadly for France, the humiliation does not end with the submarines. France has been playing a pivotal role in forging a security accord with Australia as it prepares to take over the rotating leadership of the EU. It’s unclear whether that will be necessary now.
In the meantime, President Biden has clumsily sworn to continue working “closely” with France as a “key partner” in the Indo-Pacific, despite France’s displeasure.