Saturday, September 18, 2021
Crisis with USA and Australia
Paris: Submarine deal weighs on NATO’s future
In a TV interview, France’s Foreign Minister Le Drian criticized the allies USA and Australia unusually harshly. Because of the broken submarine deal with Canberra, he speaks of “lies” and “duplicity”. The Paris chief diplomat even sees NATO’s future in danger.
According to French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, the dispute over the failed submarine deal between France and Australia is a burden on the future of NATO. The incident had an impact on the definition of the new strategic concept of the defense alliance, said Le Drian the channel “France 2”. He accused France’s allies, the USA and Australia, of “lying” and “duplicity” as well as a serious breach of trust and “disregard”, which would have triggered a “serious crisis”.
On Friday evening, France called its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra back for consultations in an extraordinary diplomatic move between allies. The USA, Great Britain and Australia had previously announced the establishment of a new security alliance for the Indo-Pacific, whereupon Australia broke a multi-billion dollar submarine deal with France. Instead, Australia wants to purchase US nuclear submarines.
Before Le Drian’s statements, the head of the NATO military committee, Rob Bauer, said in Athens that he did not expect the dispute over the failed submarine deal to have any impact on military cooperation within the framework of NATO.
The USA and Australia show understanding
It is the first time in the history of US-French relations that Paris has called its ambassador back from Washington. Such a move is considered extremely unusual among allies. The French reaction sparked regret in Washington. “We regret that you took this step,” said a White House representative. “In the future, we will continue to work to ensure that our differences are overcome, just as we did at other moments in our long partnership.”
Foreign Office spokesman Ned Price expressed understanding for the anger in Paris and the hope to be able to discuss the matter with France at the general debate of the UN General Assembly in New York next week. France is a very important and “our oldest partner”. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said phone calls between Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his French colleague Florence Parly showed “that there is still much to be done in our defense relationship with France.”
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said of the dispute with France that “very difficult issues are now to be dealt with”. Australia will continue to work “constructively and closely” with France.
“Contract of the century” has burst
In view of China’s expansion efforts in the economically important Indo-Pacific region, Washington, London and Canberra announced their new alliance on Wednesday. Among other things, it provides for Australia to benefit from US technology in the construction of nuclear-powered submarines and from know-how in cyber defense. The US also wants to expand its military presence in Australia.
Shortly after the agreement was announced, Canberra canceled the planned multi-billion dollar submarine deal with France. The contract for the delivery of twelve diesel-powered French submarines had a volume of 31 billion euros when it was signed in 2016 – there was talk of a “contract of the century”.
France also sees itself as a great power in the Indo-Pacific because of its overseas territories such as New Caledonia and French Polynesia. Le Drian had already accused the government in Canberra on Thursday of having “stabbed Paris in the back”. US President Joe Biden, who has declared rivalry with China to be the top priority of his foreign policy, made a “brutal” decision based on the motto of his predecessor Donald Trump – “America first”