Diplomatic crisis between Washington and Paris over Australian submarines

“Aukus” is an abstruse acronym, but its implications already seem considerable. Wishing to strengthen their ties with China in the Indo-Pacific zone, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom announced, Wednesday, September 15, an unprecedented strategic partnership. “A historic step”, according to Joe Biden. Its first translation should allow Australia to achieve a huge technological and military leap, with the construction of nuclear-powered submarines. A leap that implies a rare sharing of American technology, but also a very bitter abandonment for France: that of the twelve submarines with conventional propulsion, which it was to deliver within the framework of an intergovernmental agreement and an industrial contract. sealed in 2019 for fifty years.

Read also Submarines: Australia breaks the “contract of the century” with France, in favor of American and British technologies

According to our information, France had not been officially alerted before the first press articles published Wednesday, September 15, then the announcement of the decision, at the end of the afternoon, during a video conference bringing together Joe Biden, the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his British counterpart Boris Johnson. The Australian leader did not even mention France in his speech. Later, in front of the press, he mentioned “Not a change of mind, but a change of need”. The American offer would have been impossible to reject, he said, gratefully, “Obviously, a very difficult and disappointing decision for France”.

During the presentation at the White House, Joe Biden, he was satisfied with a symbolic reference, which says nothing about the diplomatic crisis emerging between Washington and Paris. France “Has a significant presence in the Indo-Pacific, and it is a key partner and ally”, said the American president. This kindness hardly weighs in view of the Australian turnaround, under probable pressure from the United States, according to Paris, and this precisely when was to be finalized, this month, a new important stage of the contract of Naval Group (ex-DCNS) with Canberra regarding the basic design submarines.

Penknife blow

Thursday, on France Info, the head of French diplomacy, Jean-Yves Le Drian, spoke of a “Blow in the back” from Australia. In a statement, in the scathing tone, published in the night, he had denounced, with the Minister of the Armies, Florence Parly, a “Decision contrary to the letter and the spirit of the cooperation which prevailed between France and Australia”. But the passage that commands the most attention directly calls into question Washington’s loyalty. “The American choice, which leads to the removal of an ally and a European partner like France, from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, be it on our values ​​or on respect for multilateralism based on the rule of law, marks an absence of coherence that France can only observe and regret ”, the statement said.

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