Brussels (Brussels Morning) France accused the US of backstabbing and President Joe Biden of behaving much like his predecessor Donald Trump after Australia scrapped its submarine production contract with France, having signed a tripartite security pact with the UK and the US.
Late Wednesday, Biden, UK Prime Minister Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced they will sign a military pact dubbed “AUKUS”, after the initials of the three countries. The agreement will ultimately see Australia build nuclear attack submarines in Adelaide with help from the US and the UK.
In 2016, Australia agreed on a 40 billion dollar contract with France’s Naval Group for the construction of a fleet of conventional, diesel attack submarines. When Morrison’s visited France in June, President Emmanuel Macron praised the coming decades of Franco-Australian cooperation. Just two weeks ago, Canberra confirmed its commitment to the contract.
However, Morrison has now decided to abandon the contract and opt for the construction of nuclear subs as part of the AUKUS pact, an about-face that has prompted angry reactions from current and former French diplomats.
Speaking to franceinfo radio, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was angry and bitter, emphasising that such things do not happen between allies. “This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do”, Le Drian said, describing the Australian decision as a “stab in the back”.
The AUKUS pact ostensibly aims to increase security in the Indo-Pacific region. Even though all three leaders refrained from saying so directly, the pact’s goal is to provide a counterbalance to China and to continue challenging China’s illegal claim to sovereignty over the South China Sea.
On the other hand, the pact’s timing and form are likely to drive a fresh wedge between Washington and Brussels, insofar as the EU wasn’t consulted on the deal, and the pact was announced a day ahead of the EU’s planned reveal of its own Indo-Pacific strategy. Additionally, it directly provoked France ahead of the country’s term at the head of the Union’s rotating presidency, set to begin next year.