The United States, which seeks to strengthen its alliances in all directions against China, announced Wednesday a broad security partnership in the Indo-Pacific zone with Australia and the United Kingdom.
“The first big step in [ce nouveau pacte appelé] “AUKUS” will deliver a fleet of nuclear powered submarines to Australia, “Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, appearing on video conference, as well as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at an event. chaired by Joe Biden at the White House.
“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.
Following this spectacular announcement, which sees the United States sharing a particularly sensitive technology, Australia should cancel, according to the Australian press, a gigantic order of conventional submarines placed with France, which weighs tens of billions dollars and that President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to defend.
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.
“On the basis of our common history of maritime democracies, we are committed, in a common ambition, to support Australia in the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines”, according to a statement from the three partners, which specifies 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 White House official said earlier. “It’s a fundamental, fundamental decision. It will bind Australia, the United States and Great Britain for generations. ”
China was not mentioned on Wednesday neither in the oral statements nor in the statement which refers to “peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region”, but there is no doubt that the new alliance aims first to counter regional ambitions from Beijing.
Joe Biden has been repeating since his election that he intends to face China, like his predecessor Donald Trump, but in a very different way, without being locked in a face-to-face.
On Wednesday, he said he wanted to “invest in our greatest source of strength, our alliances” and want to “update them to better face the threats of today and tomorrow”.
The “contract of the century” for France threatened
The American president also brings together on September 24 in Washington the Prime Ministers of Australia, India and Japan to relaunch a diplomatic formula, the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue” (Quad), which had been vegetating for several years.
Wednesday’s announcement, despite Biden’s language precautions, may well throw a cold snap with France, if Australia does denounce what is sometimes called the “contract of the century” for the defense industry. French.
A framework agreement signed in 2016 by Australia, but which is faltering, provides for the construction of 12 conventionally powered attack-class submarines, designed from the French Barracuda nuclear attack submarines.
The overall cost of the program, for which the French Naval Group is responsible, amounts to 50 billion Australian dollars (or just over 63 billion Canadian dollars).
The group specializing in defense shipbuilding expressed its “great disappointment” on Wednesday.
During an interview with Scott Morrison in mid-June, Emmanuel Macron had nevertheless reaffirmed France’s “full commitment” to go through to the end of the contract.