Submarine crisis and debacle in Afghanistan looms over UN General Assembly

The mistrust is such that the resumption of contact promises to be complicated between France and the United States. To overcome an unprecedented and brutal crisis, after the cancellation by Australia of the purchase of twelve French submarines to prefer American nuclear-powered ships, it is certainly a question of a conversation between Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron : the American president made the proposal to his French counterpart. Contact could take place “In the coming days”, without any date being specified at this stage. The time is not yet for reconciliation. “The crisis is deep and will last, even though we have the feeling that Washington has understood that we are angry”said a diplomat.

During the weekend, after the recall to Paris of the ambassadors stationed in Washington and Canberra, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, again had words that leave no room for ambiguity. Furious at the attitude of the Democratic administration towards his allies, he compared Joe Biden’s way of doing things “To that of Donald Trump, without the tweets”. “There was a lie, there was duplicity, there was a major breach of trust, there was contempt, so things are not going well between us”, said the head of French diplomacy on France 2.

Like the debacle of the West in Afghanistan, litigation risks dominating the visit this week of Mr. Le Drian to New York, where he is participating in the UN General Assembly. Because the submarine crisis poses multiple questions, not only on the way to act between allied countries, but also on the strategy to adopt vis-à-vis China, in particular in the Indo-Pacific region.

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Against the backdrop of the resurgence of the pandemic across the Atlantic, this highlight of multilateral diplomacy, canceled last year, is being held this time in “hybrid” mode, a mixture of face-to-face speeches and videoconferences. Long before the submarine affair, Macron had decided not to participate, even remotely, like many of his counterparts, including Xi Jinping, the Chinese president. He will therefore not have to meet Mr. Biden in the corridors of the institution, when he will deliver his speech in the UN compound on Tuesday. Nor Boris Johnson, also present in New York.

Assess the impact of the current crisis

In principle, Mr. Le Drian will not speak before Saturday, September 25, for reasons of protocol. Without waiting, he had to make appointments by then to assess the impact of the current crisis. Sunday, before his departure for New York, he met with the two ambassadors recalled in consultation, Philippe Etienne (United States) and Jean-Pierre Thébault (Australia). The first, former diplomatic adviser to Mr. Macron at the Elysee Palace, remained discreet when leaving Washington. The second said all the harm he thought, before returning to France, of the behavior of the Australian government: “The feeling of betrayal is very strong. “

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