France has expressed fury at Australia’s surprise decision to quash a massive submarine deal in favor of the United States’ nuclear-powered submarines, describing it as “a stab in the eye.” backs “of Canberra and a strain on its friendly relations with Washington.
“It’s really a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, this trust has been betrayed, “French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info on Thursday.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell also expressed disappointment, revealing that he only learned of the new alliance from the media.
“This alliance, we have just been made aware and we have not even been consulted,” he said. “As a senior security representative, I was not aware of this and guess that a deal of this nature did not happen overnight. I think it would have worked for quite a while.
“We regret that we were not informed – that we did not participate in these talks,” Borrell said. “We weren’t included, we weren’t part of it.
The announcement of a defense pact between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia brutally and unexpectedly ended the French submarine contract of 90 billion Australian dollars (48 billion pounds sterling ) with Australia, signed in 2016.
This is a setback for French President Emmanuel Macron, not only financially but also for French diplomacy, who had been working for years to secure the partnership with Australia and strengthen its strategic presence in the Indo-Pacific region. .
A French official said discussions on the issue took place today between France and Australia, and France and the United States at ministerial level.
Le Drian said: “I am very angry and bitter today… it’s not something the allies do to each other.”
He added: “This sudden, unpredictable one-sided move is very reminiscent of what Mr. Trump would do,” referring to the former US president who infuriated Europe with unpredictable decision-making.
Asked by journalists if Paris had been “duped” by Washington on what Le Drian called a “contract of the century” for French shipyards, the minister replied: “Your analysis of the situation is more or less correct.
The move by the US, UK and Australia highlights growing concerns about China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region, where France is also seeking to protect its interests, which include the territories of China. overseas of New Caledonia and French Polynesia. France is the only European country present in the region, with nearly 2 million French citizens and more than 7,000 soldiers.
Le Drian said France and its allies were working on a “coherent and structured Indo-Pacific policy” in the face of Beijing’s growing regional power.
“We were discussing this with the United States just recently, and here is the break,” Le Drian said, calling it “a huge breach of trust.”
“We will need clarification. We have contracts – the Australians have to tell us how they plan to do it, ”he added.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly called Australia’s about-face “very bad news in terms of keeping his word”, adding that France has “clear eyes on how United States treat their allies “.
“In terms of geopolitics and international relations, it’s serious,” she told RFI radio on Thursday.
The two ministers appeared on television and radio in France Thursday morning after issuing an angry statement overnight. In their joint declaration, the French Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense condemned this decision as contrary to “the letter and the spirit of cooperation” between France and Australia.
They had harsh words for Washington: “The American decision, which leads to the exclusion of a European ally and partner like France from a crucial partnership with Australia at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the region. Indo-Pacific, must be based on our values or respect for multilateralism based on the rule of law, signals a lack of coherence that France can only observe and regret.
Parly and Le Drian denounced Canberra’s “regrettable” approach, stressing the need to strengthen “European strategic autonomy”.
“There is no other credible way to defend our interests and values in the world, including the Indo-Pacific,” they said.
Biden, in an attempt to appease Paris, said France was a “key partner and ally” in the Asia-Pacific region.
Macron is due to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel later Thursday, where talks were already scheduled to include European defense. Macron has repeatedly said that Europe needs to develop its own strategic and defense capabilities to be less dependent on the United States.
The UK has said it has not sought to antagonize France, which has key defense cooperation with the UK. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace acknowledged French “frustration” with the deal, but insisted Britain had not sought to disrupt Paris’ relations with Australia.
“We didn’t look for those opportunities, basically the Australians decided they wanted a different ability,” he told Sky News. “We have no intention of doing anything to upset the French – the French are among our closest military allies in Europe.”
Borrell, whose announcement of an EU strategy for the Indo-Pacific region has been overshadowed by development, said Brussels wanted closer cooperation with the UK but they were reluctantly welcomed to London.
“It takes two to tango – but on our side, we’re ready to dance,” he said.
He added that the alliance underlined the need for the EU to strengthen its autonomy of action in the world and that the deal would be discussed by leaders in the weeks and months to come.
France is seven months away from a presidential election where Macron is expected to stand for re-election and political opposition groups seized with the abrupt end of the submarine contract to attack the government.
Far-right Marine Le Pen called it a “political disaster” and “public humiliation” for France, as well as “very serious damage to its image as an industrial power”.
Benoît Arrivé, the socialist mayor of Cherbourg, told Agence France-Presse that it was an “industrial and human disappointment” and “a real slap in the face for French foreign policy”.