The U.S.-France relationship is in crisis over a recently canceled submarine deal that Australian officials had questioned for months.
For the first time in the 240-year alliance, France recalled its ambassador from Washington over the announcement of a nuclear submarine deal involving the US, UK and Australia that replaced a different multibillion dollar contract between the Australian government. and a French company for 12 diesel submarines.
Enraged, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the move a “stab in the back” Wednesday when it was unveiled, and in a statement this afternoon announcing his decision to recall Paris envoys to Washington and Canberra they warned that the new trilateral pact – called AUKUS – influences “the very conception we have of our alliances, our partnerships and the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe”. Le Drian also ordered the French ambassador to Australia to return home.
Paris is understandably upset by AUKUS ‘handling of the 2016 contract, but that deal was already on the ropes. EU politician noted the rampant cybersecurity risks, budget problems and delays that plagued the project, leading Australian officials to cool it down:
Canberra reported in June that it was looking for a way out of the contract, signed in 2016 with French company DCNS (now known as Naval Group) to build 12 Barracuda submarines.
When questioned by a Senate committee about problems with the project, Australian Defense Secretary Greg Moriarty said, “It became clear to me that we were having challenges … in the past 15-12 months.” He said his government has considered his options, including what it could do if it “was unable to proceed” with the French deal.
Moriarty’s admission came after his government in April refused to sign a contract for the next phase of the French submarine project, giving Naval Group up to this month to meet his demands. There have been reports dating back to earlier this year that Canberra was trying to leave.
More directly, however, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said today that he told President Emmanuel Macron in June that Australia could withdraw from the deal. “I made it very clear, we had a long dinner there in Paris, about our very significant concerns about the ability of conventional submarines to deal with the new strategic environment we face,” he said in an interview with 5aa Radio.
Despite the furious French response, the United States, Australia and all their allies interested in deterring Chinese aggression will benefit if AUKUS is able to build these nuclear submarines. Canberra has gone from a program plagued by delays and significant budget problems to an agreement to build far superior submarines: “the gold standard,” Naval War College professor Andrew Erickson I called them – and more able to meet its defense needs. Since 2016, the security situation in Australia has changed significantly as China’s attempts to pressure the country into a pro-Beijing line have become more coercive.
Whatever the long-term consequences of this dispute and the merits of France’s anger, the 2016 contract was already a zombie deal. And AUKUS has replaced it with something of greater value to the Western democracies operating in the Indo-Pacific.
[ https://rocetoday.com/france-recalls-ambassadors-over-australian-submarine-deal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=france-recalls-ambassadors-over-australian-submarine-deal https://d26toa8f6ahusa.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/30214746/a-quiet-place-part-2-bigs-16.pdf