Why Biden turned his back on ‘soft’ EU in favour of Brexit Britain in submarine deal
France ‘furious’ over Australia’s submarine deal says expert
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The new Aukus deal, announced last week, will see the US providing Australia with technology to build nuclear-powered submarines, and will see the US, UK and Australia cooperate on military capabilities including AI and other technologies. The pact is viewed as a major step up in efforts to counter China’s influence in the contested South China Sea, though American officials said the move was not aimed at countering Beijing.
In response to the deal, China accused the nations as “extremely irresponsible” and said it “seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race”.
But tensions over the pact are coming in closer to home too, with France particularly jilted over the move.
In order to sign the Aukus deal, Australia tore up a deal with France to build 12 submarines, with France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian calling it “really a stab in the back”.
With the Biden administration already on thin ice with Western allies over the chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan, why would President Biden be so willing to turn his back on France?
Politico writes: “The chief problem is that America has shown increasing signs of frustration with the EU’s softer approach to China.”
Germany and France finalised an investment agreement with China in 2020, as well as downplaying anti-Beijing sentiment at home and abroad, despite Joe Biden’s wariness in his approach to China.
These factors have led the Biden administration to its willingness to leave the EU in the cold in this historic security pact.
The move has stung France, and was “doubly infuriating for the EU camp that Brexit Britain was the only European ally invited to the top table”, Politico writes.
France isn’t taking the move lying down. Mr Le Drian suggested the contractual obligations of the diesel-electric submarine deal with France – now moot – would need to be clarified.
He said: “This is not over. We’re going to need clarifications. We have contracts.”
In a joint statement with his defence counterpart, Florence Parly, Mr Le Drian directed his comments directly at Washington.
The pair said: “The American decision, which leads to the exclusion of a European ally and partner like France from a crucial partnership with Australia at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, be it over our values or respect for a multilateralism based on the rule of law, signals a lack of consistency which France can only notice and regret.”
The Aukus announcement timing was particularly offensive to the bloc, with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell due to unveil Europe’s woolly Indo-Pacific strategy on Thursday, which was significantly outplayed by the move.
But Mr Borrell sought to downplay the offence, saying: “The EU is already the top investor, the leading development cooperation provider and one of the biggest trading partners in the Indo-Pacific region.”
However, Mr Borrell did admit to his “regret” about the American move.
But Mr Le Drian has been less subtle, calling the situation a “serious crisis” between the allies, demonstrated by the fact France was recalling its ambassadors to the US and Australia.
He told French television: “The fact that for the first time in the history of relations between the United States and France we are recalling our ambassador for consultations is a serious political act, which shows the magnitude of the crisis that exists now between our countries.”
He said the ambassadors were being recalled to “re-evaluate the situation”.
But he said France had seen “no need” to recall its ambassador to the UK, as he accused the country of “constant opportunism”.
“Britain in this whole thing is a bit like the third wheel,” he said.
Newly appointed UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss defended the agreement in an article for The Sunday Telegraph, saying it showed Britain’s readiness to be “hard-headed” in defence of its interests.
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