France is outraged over being left out of a military pact between the US, UK, and Australia that is meant to counter China. The military technology-sharing deal will give Canberra a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, causing Australia to scrap a submarine-building deal with France worth about $65 billion ($90 billion in Australian dollars).
“It’s really a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, this trust has been betrayed,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday.
Le Drian also released a joint statement with Florence Parly, France’s minister of armed forces, condemning the US’s move. “The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region … shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret.”
France is so upset with the US that it canceled a gala that was to take place on Friday at the French embassy in Washington DC. The event was to commemorate the “240th Anniversary of the Battle of the Capes,” when the French navy came to America’s aid in the Revolutionary War in 1781. France’s top navy officer traveled to Washington for the event but is now heading back to Paris.
The New York Times reported that the US only informed France of the pact, known as AUKUS, hours before it was announced on Wednesday. France’s ambassador in the US said he learned about the deal in media reports before receiving a call from National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted on Thursday that despite being left out of the deal, France is still a vital partner in the Indo-Pacific. “We cooperate incredibly closely with France on many shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific but also beyond around the world. We’re going to continue to do so. We place fundamental value on that relationship, on that partnership,” he said.
With the US so focused on countering China, cooperation countries in what the US calls the Indo-Pacific region are vital to Washington’s strategy. Canberra’s defense minister said the pact means more US troops and aircraft will be deployed to Australia.