Saturday, June 25

France responds to the Aukus military alliance with a diplomatic crisis with the US


Updated

President Macron calls his ambassadors in Washington and Canberra for “exceptional gravity”

President franc
French President Emmanuel Macron.Michel EulerREUTERS
  • Defending Aukus, the new anti-China alliance
  • France Merkel says goodbye to Macron and promises that she will do “what is in her power” so that the German elections do not block the EU

First it was the anger, then the questions, and finally the action. The strategic agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, that Aukus that involves the sale of American nuclear-powered submarines to Australia and, in turn, the breaking of a mega naval contract with France, unleashed the wrath of diplomacy on Thursday. French. More than 24 hours later, Paris wondered about the future of other weapons projects. What had Emmanuel Macron said? Any. And that was unusual. Until this Friday night, when made a decision and called his ambassadors in Washington and Canberra for consultations on the “exceptional gravity“.

The facts. “Deep Sea Betrayal”, “Indo-Pacific Trafalgar”, “Slap”. They had been the headlines of ‘Le Parisien’, ‘Le Figaro’ and ‘Libration’. They were all on the same line. France, humiliated by the US. A slap in the face from Macron. Paris had sold 12 conventionally-powered submarines measuring 97 meters in length and weighing 4,500 tons to Australia. An agreement of 2016 during the presidency of the socialist Franois Hollande, being Manuel Valls, Prime Minister and Jean Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defense (with Macron leads Foreign Affairs), but it was signed in 2019 with the current Head of State.

The agreement added 35,000 million euros of which 8,000 were for France. 60% of the total amount corresponds to what was done on site in Australia. Canberra had contracted the weapons system to Lockheed Martin, the American industry that equips new Australian nuclear submarines with its Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Although in Australia there was resentment about the progress of the contract, and rumors in the press that were echoed by a French deputy who informed his executive when he returned from an official trip, nothing foreshadowed the breakup. On June 15, Macron hosted Australian Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison at El Elseo. The Gallic president glossed “the relationship of trust between the two countries.”

No cloud in sight. Neither then nor on August 30, when Australian Foreign and Defense incumbents met with their French counterparts.

It was on Wednesday morning, a few hours before the Aukus videoconference announcement, that Macron received a tip that the Australian premier wanted to speak with him as soon as possible. The foreign and defense ministers were informed by their collaborators that their Canberra peers urgently needed to contact them. These details are recounted by ‘Le Monde’ in its Friday edition. It specifies that they were reunited. Wednesday is the day of the council of ministers, preceded by a restricted meeting with the president. Ergo, Paris was forewarned of what was about to happen … a few hours earlier.

Le Drian voiced a voice to the anger of the French executive, who in addition to “stabbing him in the back” declared: “This unilateral, unpredictable and brutal decision it looks a lot like what Donald Trump did. That is not done between friends. “

And from this we already deduce two obvious assertions. For Biden, when Washington’s strategic interests are at stake, it is “America first,” as with Trump. Whether it is a hasty decision like the withdrawal from Afghanistan or a long-matured strategic agreement. Because no one doubts that the three-way pact and the sale of submarines had taken months of negotiations. The second consequence leaves Paris in a very bad place: neither his diplomacy nor his intelligence services got the hang of it. Big laugh.

In addition to the political and industrial fiasco, the issue leaves France without a role to play in the Indo-Pacific region where it has 9 million square kilometers of exclusive economic zones around New Caledonia and Tahit. Two million French citizens live in the region where Paris deploys 7,000 soldiers.

Paris has always tried to defend a third goes against rivalry growing between Beijing and Washington. “A political, economic and strategic independence, especially through its nuclear deterrence that costs very expensive and that is financed, in part, with arms exports” write Philippe Ricard and lise Vincent in ‘Le Monde’.

It is clear that France has lost much more than 8 billion.

In addition to returning the United Kingdom to the Champions of world politics after a Brexit that reduced it to the second division, the move has other consequences for France. And for Europe.

Is the sale of Rafale fighter jets to India in danger now? Chill in Paris before the meeting in the White House of the three partners of the Quad, that is, the prime ministers of Australia, Japan and India. It is clear that Biden, after leaving Kabul, wants to show that Asia is his priority and, unlike Trump, wants to align one or more systems of allies against Beijing.

“Some come to fear an Australian scenario in the European project of the air combat system of the future, known as the sixth generation fighter. Germany and France have been partners since 2017, Spain since 2019, along with industrial groups such as Airbus and Dassault. A project that Paris considers central to the European sovereign and that is moving step by step.

“The Australian case creates a precedent that contributes to generating uncertainty” says ‘Le Monde’. It must be remembered that Germany holds elections in 10 days and that a long negotiation can be expected to unite a governing coalition.

Europe this week defined a common strategy for the Indo-Pacific zone, the “importance” of which Macron highlighted in the only remote allusion to the crisis. It was Thursday night in his joint appearance with Angela Merkel. Then I lowered the periscope and radio silenced.

“You can no longer count on our American allies. The head of state will have to take advantage of the EU presidency, which starts in January 2022, to launch a major initiative on Defense Europe “. Confidence of a counselor of the Elseo in ‘Le Parisien’.

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