The French government is showing no signs of letting go of what they have described as being stabbed in the back by the Biden administration and the Australian government over a deal involving which country would provide Australia’s Navy with new submarines.
Speaking to France 2 television, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian gave no indication Paris was prepared to let the crisis die down, using distinctly undiplomatic language towards Australia, the United States and Britain which is also part of the three-way security pact.
“There has been lying, duplicity, a major breach of trust and contempt,” Le Drian said. “This will not do.”
Le Drian said that France’s decision to withdraw their ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia was a “very symbolic” act that they hope shows they are “unhappy” about what has happened and that there is a “serious crisis between us.”
The issue that sparked this entire ordeal was Australia’s decision to cancel a multi-billion-dollar contract with the French to acquire conventional submarines built by France. However, the Biden administration, seeking to counter China’s growing influence and military prowess in the region, formed a new technology-sharing alliance with Australia and the U.K.
As part of this new pact, Australia will now acquire far superior nuclear-powered submarines from the U.S. and will also obtain U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles. The move is a solid first step by the Biden administration to counter China in the region, but much more is still needed.
A statement on Friday from Le Drian said in-part, “The abandonment of the ocean-class submarine project that Australia and France had been working on since 2016 and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States aimed at studying the possibility of future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines constitute unacceptable behavior among allies and partners; their consequences affect the very concept we have of our alliances, our partnerships, and the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe.”
The New York Times reported that this is “the first time in the history of the long alliance between France and the United States, dating back to 1778, that a French ambassador has been recalled to Paris in this way for consultations.”
Immediately following the announcement of the new pact, Le Drian complained, “This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do.”
“I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies,” he continued. “It’s a stab in the back. We created a relationship of trust with Australia and that trust has been broken.”
Benjamin Haddad, the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center director, said that the move had set U.S.-French relations back nearly two decades.
“A stunning stab in the back of a key European ally involved in the Indo-Pacific. Everyone in Paris is shell shocked,” Haddad said. “The lowest point in US-France relations since 2003 (with probably deeper consequences), and a major setback to a transatlantic strategy on China.”