France is fuming over being kept in the dark on a new military pact between the US, UK, and Australia that lost Paris a $65 billion contract to build submarines for the Australians. Now, France is looking to the EU for support as it questions Washington’s commitment to its European allies.
The military pact, known as AUKUS, is part of the Biden administration’s strategy to counter China in the Indo-Pacific region, and the French feel left out. “There is a crisis of trust beyond the fact that the contract is being broken as if Europe itself didn’t have any interest to defend in that region,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday.
Le Drian said that the US is “refocusing its fundamental interests, step by step, with de facto confrontation with China” and said the “Europeans too have their own fundamental interests.”
Until now, France seemed eager to follow the US in its campaign against China in the region. France has sailed warships into the South China Sea and stepped up military cooperation with regional countries, including Japan and India. The EU has also joined the US in provocations against China, including sanctions over allegations in Xinjiang that led to the suspension of a trade deal between Beijing and the EU.
The EU is showing support for its member France amidst Paris’ uproar. Ursula von der Leyen, the EU’s Europe Commission President, told CNN on Monday that “one of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable. … We want to know what happened and why.”
France has recalled its ambassadors from the US and Australia and has postponed planned talks with the UK. Paris is also threatening to block talks with Australia over a potential trade agreement.
Rallying allies against China is a key part of the Biden administration’s strategy to counter Beijing. Australia might have proven to be a more valuable ally to the US than France due to its location in the Pacific. Under AUKUS, Canberra will get nuclear-powered submarines, and the US will deploy more troops, aircraft, and missiles to Australia.