The diplomatic crisis which confronts France in the United States and Australia because of the renunciation of this country to a commitment to acquire French submarines rose by several degrees this Friday evening. President Emmanuel Macron has called for consultations with French ambassadors in Washington and the Australian capital, Canberra.
“At the request of the President of the Republic, I have decided to immediately summon our two ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations in Paris,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement. . “This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made on September 15 by the two countries.”
On September 15, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom announced the creation of the so-called Aukus, a military partnership to counter China’s strength in the India and Pacific region. The deal involves the Australian government renouncing the acquisition of diesel-powered submarines made by French conglomerate Naval Group, and replacing them with US nuclear-powered submarines.
The decisions cited, according to Le Drian, “constitute unacceptable behaviors between allies and partners, the consequences of which affect the very idea that we have of our alliances, our associations and the importance of the Indo-Pacific for the ‘Europe”.
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Before the call for ambassadorial consultations, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tried to calm things down. “France,” he said, “is an essential partner on this subject and on many others for generations, and we want to seize every opportunity to deepen transatlantic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and around the world”.
According to Agence France Presse, this is the first time in history that France has taken such a decision before the two countries. The relationship with Washington has had its ups and downs over the centuries. The most recent, in 2003 for France’s refusal to support the American invasion of Iraq. But since the independence of the United States, and with occasional parentheses like collaborating France during World War II, they have been constant allies.
The Australian government regretted this Saturday that France had summoned its ambassador for consultations. A spokesperson for Australia’s Foreign Office stressed that the decision to sign the deal with the US and UK was made in line with its “national security interests” in the region.
The call for ambassadorial consultations is a diplomatic measure by which one country expresses its displeasure with another. In February 2019, France recalled its ambassador to Italy, a partner of the European Union, after several statements and gestures hostile to Macron from members of the then government, made up of the League and the 5-Star Movement. In October 2020, he withdrew the ambassador to Turkey, a NATO partner, after criticism and insults from the authorities of this country towards Emmanuel Macron for his measures against radical Islamism.
Paris took the Aukus deal as a hoax and an insult. Firstly, because of the economic consequences of the loss of a billion euro contract. Then because, whether due to the bad faith of Washington and Canberra or to the misinformation and lack of foresight of the French government and its diplomacy, the decision of the United States and Australia took France by surprise. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied this extreme and said Macron had been warned. And thirdly, because all this presupposes a hurtful geopolitical dismissal, by an alliance of English-speaking countries, of a country endowed with atomic weapons and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. France still considers itself a power with global aspirations and considers that the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, where it has territories such as New Caledonia and Polynesia, also belong to its zone of influence.
Le Drian said Thursday: “It is, to put it bluntly, a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, today that trust has been betrayed. He added: “What worries me in all this is also American behavior. This unilateral, brutal and unpredictable decision is very similar to what Mr. [Donald] Asset.” President Macron has not yet spoken directly on the crisis.
Proof of errors: in a previous edition of this article, reference was made to the “withdrawal” of French ambassadors to the United States and Australia, whereas the exact term according to diplomatic usage is “call for consultations”.
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