Biden's apparent indifference to AUKUS deal's impact on France fueling fury, experts say

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  4 weeks ago  •  12 comments

By:   Chantal Da Silva and Abigail Williams

Biden's apparent indifference to AUKUS deal's impact on France fueling fury, experts say
President Joe Biden's new deal to help Australia launch nuclear-powered submarines may have strengthened one alliance in the effort to counter China, but for France, it may have destroyed what little trust had been rebuilt.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



President Joe Biden's new deal to help Australia launch nuclear-powered submarines may have strengthened one alliance in an effort to counter China.

But for France — which on Friday recalled its ambassadors to the United States — the move might have torpedoed what little trust had been rebuilt after four years under former President Donald Trump, experts said.

As Biden celebrated the new AUKUS pact with Australia and Britain on Thursday, French officials expressed outrage over the deal, which brought that nation's 2016 agreement to build submarines for Australia to an abrupt end.

"France's position for a very long time ... has been to say that the U.S. is an ally, but the U.S. is pivoting away from Europe and cannot fully be trusted," said Georgina Wright, head of the Europe Program at Institut Montaigne, a nonprofit transpartisan think tank based in Paris.

Now, France can feel vindicated in that stance, she said, with Biden proving that "when (the United States) makes a decision, they will go ahead with it and they won't think twice about their allies."

In France, the immediate reaction to the decision was swift and angry.

Describing the deal as a "stab in the back," a visibly incensed French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday: "We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed. This is not done between allies."

Of Biden, he said the president's "brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision" was a reminder of something his predecessor "used to do."

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks during joint press conference in Weimar, Germany, on Sept. 10, 2021.Jens Schlueter / Pool via AP

The Trump comparison is considered a "major insult" in France, Frederic Charillon, a political science professor at France's Clermont Auvergne University, said Thursday.

And within hours, Le Drian's harsh rebuke was translated into action, with the French calling off a gala in Washington that had been planned to mark the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes, in which the French stood by America's side in its fight for independence.

Pulling the plug on that party, of course, paled in comparison to Friday afternoon's escalation of this diplomatic brouhaha between Washington and Paris.

Wright said that while the submarine deal itself would have angered French officials, it is the way the news was delivered that likely struck the biggest blow.

"The decision itself was a big blow for industry in France," she said, with the country losing out on a $40 billion deal. "You cannot really overstate the ... industrial side," she said in a phone interview Friday.

However, Wright said, what has really strained France's relationship with the U.S. "is how the decision came about."

"It would appear the French found out pretty much on the day and there hadn't been prior warning of this decision and I think that was perhaps the thing that angered the French the most," she said.

Charillon shared a similar view, saying by phone Thursday that he believed the realization had come as a rude awakening for French officials, who had believed in Biden's promise to fortify ties weakened under Trump.

One French official told NBC News they first learned of the nuclear submarine sale through an article leaked in the Australian press Wednesday morning, prompting them to immediately ask the U.S. for an explanation. In the end, the U.S. did not provide details to France of the deal until hours before the announcement.

Standing alongside his Australian counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared to play down that reality Thursday as he said he hoped European countries could continue to play "an important role in the Indo-Pacific," calling France a "vital partner."

The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Illinois (SSN 786) returns home to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam from a deployment in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility on Sept. 13, 2021.Michael B Zingaro / U.S. Navy via AP

"There is no regional divide separating the interests of our Atlantic and our Pacific partners," he said, noting the U.S. had been in touch with the French in the last 24-48 hours to discuss the arrangement, including before the announcement.

Blinken said he would leave it to Australia to explain why it went to the U.S. for its purchase of submarines, with Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton's explanation appearing to fall flat among French officials.

France's submarines, Dutton said, were simply "not superior" to that of the U.S., "and in the end, the decision that we have made is based on what is in the best interests of our national security."

Responding to Dutton's comments, a French official simply said: "When you want to kill your dog, you say he has rabies."

Wright said America's perceived indifference to how the AUKUS pact would affect France demonstrated a very "America First approach," with the country already facing accusations of maintaining that approach with its hasty withdrawal out of Afghanistan.

Vice Admiral Patrick Chevallereau, who served as the French defense attache to Britain from 2015 to 2018, said he understood France's disappointment, particularly with the nation being "the European country which is the most committed in the Indo-Pacific region" and which has a significant presence with its overseas territories and vast area of exclusive economic zone.

"I cannot see zero consequences," he said. "I don't what it will be, but there is first the lack of trust ... with the most involved European country in the Indo-Pacific."

Chevallereau said that of course, France and the U.S. have deep historic ties, with the European country serving as America's oldest ally and with the two nations united in key commitments, including to NATO, which Biden reaffirmed after Trump repeatedly branded the pact a bad deal.

"These things will not collapse tomorrow morning," he said.


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Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1  Buzz of the Orient    4 weeks ago

Strike 2.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
PhD Expert
1.1  Greg Jones  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    4 weeks ago

Biden's pitch choice was the right one, but he threw behind the batter.

 
 
 
Kevin Reilly
Freshman Silent
1.2  Kevin Reilly  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    4 weeks ago

Hi Buzz. It's me kpr37 I'm locked out. I'll be back later to try to prove I'm me. I'm still at the fishcamp. But I've got my own trailer now.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1.2.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Kevin Reilly @1.2    4 weeks ago

Replied by PN.  Hopefully the problem can be fixed.

 
 
 
Split Personality
PhD Principal
2  Split Personality    4 weeks ago

Like China complaining, this too shall pass as soon as we sell or give the same technology to France.

Let's be honest.

It all comes down to language. jrSmiley_99_smiley_image.jpg

 
 
 
Greg Jones
PhD Expert
2.1  Greg Jones  replied to  Split Personality @2    4 weeks ago

I think their outrage is mostly about their lost sales of the old technology 

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Senior Principal
3  Nerm_L    4 weeks ago

Yes, the AUKUS agreement is more about Brexit politics than China.  The odds of the United Kingdom being forced to rejoin the EU is rapidly diminishing.  Especially now that the United States has obviously made commitments to support a post-Brexit United Kingdom.  The UK is out and the US is helping the UK stay out.

The UK counterbalanced German dominance in the EU.  France was in the position of straddling the fence.  Now that the UK has left, France can't play the UK and Germany against each other.  And more of the financial burden of supporting the PIGS will fall on France with the UK gone.  France has been forced to take a larger role in maintaining the European Union which was appealing in theory but is proving to be less appealing in practice.  France's heightened importance in EU affairs will naturally result in EU politics becoming divisive issues in French politics.  Will Germany condemn AUKUS to support France?

It's doubtful the EU or NATO will threaten their relationship with the United States because France lost a $40 billion contract to sell submarines.  That, too, will become a divisive issue in French politics.  

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
4  Kavika     4 weeks ago

France has nuclear-powered subs so why didn't they sell this technology to Australia and build nuclear powered subs to them?

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Senior Principal
4.1  Nerm_L  replied to  Kavika @4    4 weeks ago
France has nuclear-powered subs so why didn't they sell this technology to Australia and build nuclear powered subs to them?

Sell, sell, sell.  The more important question is why Australia didn't buy.

Australia chose to strengthen ties with the United Kingdom rather than maintain ties with France.  Australia chose to support the post-Brexit UK.  This isn't really about submarines.  Australia threw France under the bus because it values ties with the UK more than it values ties with France.

 
 
 
XXJefferson51
Senior Guide
4.1.1  XXJefferson51  replied to  Nerm_L @4.1    4 weeks ago

For obvious economic, political, and cultural reasons. I’d expect to see U.K. naval basing agreements with Australia as well.  The U.K. also has an alliance with Japan now.  

 
 
 
Hallux
Sophomore Principal
5  Hallux    4 weeks ago

Taking a different perspective ... France will hold presidential elections in 2022 with as many as 50-60 wannabes vying for something or other ranging from 15 seconds of fame to actually winning.  Macron will be bashed by one and all from far right to far left hoping to send voters into a tailspin of drummed up hyper-nationalism. If America desires to deal with someone sane from France in 2022 they should take some advice from Jacques Brel:

“Je vous ai apporté des bonbons
Parce que les fleurs c'est périssable”

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
5.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Hallux @5    4 weeks ago

Yeah, but how can you trust anyone who wants to take their 'bonbons'  back?

 
 
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