London and Washington tried to impress their French ally this weekend, angry at the announcement of a strategic partnership between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said, on Sunday, that “President Biden has requested to speak to the President of the Republic (Emmanuel Macron) and there will be a phone call in the next few days.”
“We want explanations” for what is “closer to a major breach of trust,” he said on BFMTV television, and we also know “how they intend to leave this contract,” with a “compensation” for the key.
Australia’s decision to cancel a contract to buy French submarines in favor of nuclear-powered US ships has sparked outrage in Paris. Emmanuel Macron summoned France’s ambassadors to Canberra and Washington in an unprecedented gesture. Atal added that he was scheduled to meet with them on Sunday evening.
The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom on Wednesday announced a strategic partnership to counter China, AUKUS, including supplying Canberra with US nuclear-powered submarines, which effectively knocked the French out of the game.
Nothing is easy between the allies. AFP learned on Sunday evening from a source in the French Ministry that a meeting scheduled this week between the French Armed Forces Minister, Florence Parly, and her British counterpart, Ben Wallace, was canceled at the request of Paris.
A few hours later, the British Prime Minister tried to comfort his French ally on the plane that took him to New York, where he will attend the United Nations General Assembly and meet Joe Biden in the House of Representatives.
Boris Johnson told reporters, according to the British Press Association, that the UK and France have a “very friendly relationship” of “great importance”, before adding: “Our love for France is indelible.”
“This partnership is by no means meant to be zero-sum, nor is it intended to be exclusionary,” Johnson said. “It’s not something anyone should worry about. Especially not our French friends.”
Canberra “I do not regret”
Earlier today, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison dismissed French accusations of duplicity.
“I do not regret the decision to put Australia’s national interest first. I will never regret it,” he added, adding that it was “negligent” to go ahead against the advice of Australian defense and intelligence services.
Nuclear-powered submarines are significantly more autonomous than conventional (diesel-electric) propulsion submarines, provided for in the contract with France.
For his part, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton insisted Canberra had been “canber, open and honest” with France about its concerns about the deal, which was over budget and years behind schedule.
Mr. Dutton said he had personally expressed these concerns to his French counterpart, Florence Parly. “We were never informed of Australian intentions. His assertions are inaccurate,” the French minister replied, on the sidelines of a trip to Niamey.
For his part, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke, Saturday, on France 2 channel of a “serious crisis” and denounced the “duplicity” of Canberra and Washington.
“There was a lie, there was duplicity, there was a huge breach of trust, there was contempt for that things are not quite right between us,” he said.
The recall of the French ambassador to London, the capital that is also part of the security agreement, was deemed unnecessary: ”We know their enduring opportunism,” he said sarcastically, a few months after Brexit.
The new alliance also caused Pyongyang’s reaction, as “these are considered extremely undesirable and dangerous actions that will upset the strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region and lead to a nuclear arms race,” according to the official North Korean News Agency, quoting an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. North Korean Foreign Affairs.
“This shows that the United States is the main culprit endangering the international nuclear non-proliferation regime,” he added.
In 2016, France signed a A$90 billion (€56 billion) contract to supply Australia with 12 diesel-powered submarines, often referred to as the “Decade of the Century” due to their size and strategic scope.
In this regard, Mr. Le Drian believes that the crisis will significantly affect the definition of the new strategic concept of NATO, without provoking any exit from NATO.
“NATO has begun to think, at the request of the President of the Republic, about its essentials. The upcoming NATO Summit in Madrid will be the culmination of the new strategic concept. It is clear that what just happened has something to do with this definition.”
“But at the same time, Europe must equip itself with a strategic compass and this will be under France’s responsibility in the first half of 2022,” he added, referring to the French presidency of the European Union on January 1, “but at the same time, Europe must equip itself with a strategic compass.”
“Total coffee aficionado. Travel buff. Music ninja. Bacon nerd. Beeraholic.”