France lashes out at Australia, US after ‘slashing the backs’ of submarines

Published on September 17, 2021 08:56

France accused Australia of stabbing back and Washington on Thursday of behavior during the Donald Trump era.

PARIS (AFP) – France on Thursday accused Australia of stabbing back in the back and Washington of behavior during Donald Trump’s time after Canberra canceled a huge submarine contract with Paris for submarines American-made nuclear weapons.

“It’s really a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, this trust has been betrayed,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info.

“I’m very angry today and bitter… it’s not something the allies are doing to each other,” he said, noting that Australia would now have to explain how they would exit the contract.

Le Drian also said that the conduct of President Joe Biden’s administration was reminiscent of his predecessor Trump, who infuriated Europe with unpredictable decision-making.

“This sudden and unpredictable one-sided move is a very reminder of what Mr. Trump would do,” Le Drian added, describing what happened “unacceptable” and “incomprehensible.”

The White House said US officials had high-level talks with Paris before announcing the new contract with Australia, but a spokesperson for the French embassy in Washington said he didn’t there had been no consultation on the agreement.

“We were not informed until the first news of this agreement was published in the American and Australian press, hours before Joe Biden’s official announcement,” he said.

The French naval group, partly state-owned, had been chosen to build 12 conventionally powered submarines for Australia, based on the French Barracuda nuclear submarines under development.

The contract was worth around A $ 50 billion (€ 31 billion, $ 36.5 billion) when it was announced in 2016.

But Biden and the Australian and British prime ministers on Wednesday announced a new defense pact that would see Canberra acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, a privilege reserved for a few American allies.

The move highlights growing concerns about China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific, where France is also seeking to protect its interests, including the overseas territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

When asked if Paris had been “duped” by Washington on what Le Drian called a “contract of the century” for French shipyards, the minister replied: “Your analysis of the situation is more or less correct. “.

He said France and its allies were working on a “coherent and structured Indo-Pacific policy” in the face of Beijing’s growing regional power.

“We were discussing this with the United States just recently, and here comes this break,” Le Drian said, calling it “a huge breach of trust.”

“We will need clarification. We have contracts, the Australians must tell us how they plan to get out,” he added.

– Clear eyes –

Defense Minister Florence Parly called Australia’s about-face “very bad news for keeping their word,” while adding that France is “clear-headed about how the United States is treat their allies “.

“In terms of geopolitics and international relations, it’s serious,” she told RFI radio on Thursday.

Parly and Le Drian had already denounced a “regrettable” decision by Canberra in an overnight statement, stressing the need to strengthen “European strategic autonomy”.

“There is no other credible way to defend our interests and values ​​in the world, including the Indo-Pacific,” they said.

President Emmanuel Macron – who is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks already scheduled for later Thursday – has repeatedly said Europe needs to develop its own defense capabilities to be less dependent on the United States.

Parly and Le Drian said France retains its ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region as the “only European nation” present there, due to its overseas territories with nearly two million French citizens and more than 7,000 soldiers.