By opting for a frontal crisis with the United States after the loss of a mega-submarine contract, France, having few options at its disposal and European allies in no hurry to support it, is making a bet risk.
To express its anger, Paris recalled its ambassador to the United States, an unprecedented act vis-à-vis this historic ally, as well as that in Australia, the country at the origin of the crisis.
Because far from his promises at the start of his mandate, US President Joe Biden is shaking up his European partners, from the unilateral announcement of the withdrawal from Afghanistan to the prolonged closure of American borders to Europeans because of COVID-19 – on which the House -Blanche came back on Monday morning.
“When you enter a crisis of this type, you have to know through which door you can get out,” warns Bertrand Badie, professor of international relations at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris.
“They will have to return to their posts, especially the ambassador in Washington,” he explains. However, we do not see today what type of event could allow this return without France giving the impression of giving in or losing face. “
Paris is not angry with the United States and Australia which, by announcing on Wednesday a strategic alliance with the United Kingdom to counter the influence of China, at the same time torpedoed a contract for the sale of French submarines to the Australian Navy for an amount of 56 billion euros.
If President Emmanuel Macron has since remained silent, his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, fired red balls on the three offenders in very little diplomatic terms. “Lie”, “duplicity”, “contempt”, “crisis of confidence”: the rupture is over.
Faced with this transatlantic escalation, European leaders remain very absent for the time being. In Berlin, the government “took note” of the situation. In Brussels, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, “is monitoring the situation very closely”.
” A blow “
France, which finds itself alone on the front of the stage, hopes to reverse the trend at a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday evening in New York, on the eve of the opening of the General Assembly of the UN. With the German legislative elections of September 26, she also knows that she will hardly be able to count on Berlin in the immediate future.
“It’s a big blow for France. There is no exit from the top, ”considers Célia Belin, specialist in transatlantic relations at the Brookings Institution. In this mess, “we must demand that things end in a legal and correct manner with the Australians,” she said.
The escalation with the United States is likely to have an impact on several issues, except to try to quickly pick up the pieces. “It can be formal, symbolic gestures, a meeting, very kind words, something that comes to flatter French diplomacy,” Judge Bertrand Badie.
It is a hard blow for France. There is no exit at the top.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already attempted appeasement by recalling his country’s unwavering “love” for France.
Less scrupulously, Australia felt it did not have to “prove its attachment to France” after the sacrifice of its soldiers at its side during the two world wars. However, he will not have the opportunity to say it face-to-face with Emmanuel Macron, who has stalled on the UN General Assembly, where he will be replaced by his foreign minister.
Anger, a bad advisor?
Joe Biden must however be explained with him by phone in the “next few days”, according to Paris. At this stage, no bilateral meeting is also planned in New York between the French foreign minister and his American counterparts Antony Blinken and British Liz Truss.
A meeting of French and British defense ministers, scheduled for this week, has also been canceled at the request of Paris. “We have the right to be angry […]. But the risk for France is that it is anger that guides it, ”notes François Heisbourg, of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris.
“After a snub like that, it is very important that the French focus on Europe and ensure European solidarity,” says Célia Belin. “But Europe has never been so divided on its foreign policy options” and on its relationship with Washington, observes Bertrand Badie for his part.
For Eastern Europeans, salvation from Russia can only come through the United States. Germany also remains anxious to spare the American ally. These positions go against the strategic autonomy of Europe demanded by President Macron, whose country will take over the presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2022.