The French government rants over President Biden’s decision to exclude the NATO ally from a three-country security pact called AUKUS that will provide Australia with nuclear submarines, likening the snub to a coup. knife in the back.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info radio: “It’s really a stab in the back. We have built a relationship of trust with Australia, and that trust has been betrayed and today I am angry, with a lot of bitterness, about this breakup.
The AUKUS initiative includes the UK and aims to strengthen cooperation as China emerges as a strategic threat. He also asserts the United States’ alliance with Australia after Biden snubbed the country’s prime minister during the recent Afghan troop withdrawal.
“The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner like France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, whether in terms of our values or in terms of respect for multilateralism. based on the rule of law, shows a lack of consistency that France can only observe and regret, ”said the French Embassy in Washington in a press release.
Le Drian and the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly signed the censure.
“This decision is contrary to the letter and the spirit of the cooperation which prevailed between France and Australia, based on a relationship of political trust as well as on the development of a high-level industrial and technological defense base. level in Australia, ”the statement said. noted.
French officials noted that their country, which controls the large island territory of New Caledonia east of Australia and other islands in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, is “the only European nation present in the Indo-Pacific with nearly 2 million citizens and more than 7,000 military personnel. . “
France was unhappy not only to be excluded, but also to see Australia put aside a project to build conventional submarines that a French company called Naval Group had hoped to support.
The company said: “This is a major disappointment for Naval Group, which offered Australia a superior regional conventional submarine with outstanding performance.”
France, like the UK, has nuclear weapons and the country is a leader in nuclear power, which generates nearly 80% of the country’s electricity.
The United States announced the AUKUS framework after Biden’s decision not to call in Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan raised concerns about the status of the long-standing alliance.
Biden did not consult Morrison until his April decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan or call him amid the chaotic evacuation of Americans and US allies in August – despite support from the Australia to the United States throughout the 20 Years War.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported this month that Biden’s lack of engagement fueled “concerns about the alliance between the two nations, as well as relations between Mr. Biden and Mr. Morrison, were strained.”
The United States already had a military alliance with Australia through the ANZUS Treaty of 1951 which also includes New Zealand. New Zealand’s exclusion from the AUKUS Pact was apparently due to the island nation’s refusal to allow nuclear-powered ships and submarines in its waters.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had not been insulted.
“No, we haven’t been approached, but I wouldn’t expect us to be either. The centerpiece of this arrangement is the construction of nuclear powered submarines… and indeed all partners know very well and understand our position on nuclear powered ships and also on nuclear weapons ”, she said. declared.
But a New Zealand columnist wrote that the country had apparently learned of the new initiative through newspaper reports and that “New Zealand’s exclusion reflects our status as ‘friend, not ally’ with the United States. United ”amid the rivalry with China.