France accused the U.S. of on Thursday of stabbing it in the back after Paris was pushed aside from a lucrative defense deal worth more than €50 billion that it had signed with Australia for submarines.
Instead, Australia announced it will acquire American-made nuclear-powered submarines as part of a new defense association, called AUKUS, with the UK and the US.
French officials were outraged by the Wednesday announcement. “France takes note of the decision just announced by the Australian government to stop the future submarine program and launch co-operation with the United States,” French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
“It is a decision contrary to the letter and the spirit of co-operation which prevailed between France and Australia.
“It’s a stab in the back. We had established a trusting relationship with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” Le Drian said in a Franceinfo interview Thursday morning. He added he was “angry and very bitter about this break up,” adding that he had spoken to his Australian counterpart days ago and received no serious indication of the move.
Furious 🇫🇷 foreign minister Le Drian this morning on the 🇬🇧🇺🇸🇦🇺 deal: a "knife in the back", "betrayal of confidence", "allies don't do this to each other". Rare to hear quite this sort of language. France (which had its own conventional submarine contract with 🇦🇺) is very angry https://t.co/DJgLbZjCbR
— Sophie Pedder (@PedderSophie) September 16, 2021
“The world is a jungle”
French diplomat Gerard Araud lashed out at the surprise arrangement. He charged that the deal had nothing to do with nuclear capabilities, but instead Australia was trying to secure a “juicy contract.
“The world is a jungle,” he declared. “France has just been reminded this bitter truth by the way the US and the UK have stabbed her in the back in Australia.
“(This) has nothing to do with capabilities … France was able to sell nuclear-powered submarines.”
Araud, the former Ambassador to the UN and the US, blamed the Biden administration. “What is striking is that the Biden administration didn’t do anything to cushion the blow it was deliberately delivering to France. No consultation, no association, no compensation.”
What is striking is that the Biden administration didn’t do anything to cushion the blow it was deliberately delivering to France. No consultation, no association, no compensation.
— Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) September 16, 2021
Under a deal announced Wednesday by U.S. President Joe Biden, Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. will form a new alliance to be known as AUKUS, which will see the three countries share advanced technologies with one another. Although the three nations explicitly stated that their partnership is not specifically about China, Biden has made it clear that countering China’s autocracy with democracy is one of the primary goals of his foreign policy.
US to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines
President Joe Biden announced that he will be working with the United Kingdom to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
AUKUS believes that supplying Australia with nuclear submarines will give the country the ability to function at a more advanced military level. Nuclear submarines are capable of moving at faster speeds and withstand greater amounts of stress than standard submarines.
As part of AUKUS, Australia will abandon its submarine deal with France.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, tried to soften the blow after blindsiding France. “I want to stress that France remains an incredibly important partner in the Pacific,” Morrison said.
“I look forward and I hope to see us continue once we move past what is obviously a very difficult and disappointing decision for France.
“I understand that. I respect it. But as a Prime Minister I must make decisions that are in Australia’s national security. I know that France would do the same.”
Australia’s deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group on a new fleet of submarines has been mired by cost blowouts and delays. The French-made submarines were not expected to be delivered until about 2035.