China: Expert discusses impact of AUKUS alliance
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The US, Britain and Australia announced they would establish a security partnership for the Indo-Pacific that will help Australia acquire US nuclear-powered submarines and scrap the $40billion French-designed submarine deal. The move infuriated France sparking accusations of betrayal.
In a joint statement issued by French ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly, the country blasted: “France notes the decision just announced by the Australian Government of the halting of the ocean-class Future Submarine Programme.
“This decision is contrary to the letter and spirit of the cooperation which prevailed between France and Australia, based not only on a relationship of political trust but also the development of a very high-level defence industrial and technological base in Australia.”
They added: “The regrettable decision just announced on the FSP only heightens the need to raise loud and clear the issue of European strategic autonomy. There is no other credible path for defending our interests and values around the world, including in the Indo-Pacific region.”
But the furious reaction was quickly torn apart by Generation Frexit leader Charles-Henry Gallois who reminded Emmanuel Macron and his allies that Germany and Sweden were the first to try to “torpedo” the Australian deal, long before Joe Biden managed to sneak in.
He wrote: “They talk about EU autonomy in this press release while Germany and Sweden also sought to torpedo this agreement with Australia.
“It shows all the naivety, the sectarian Europeanist dogmatism and the incompetence of our leaders!”
Mr Gallois was referring to a row already ongoing between Australia and France over the submarine deal earlier this year.
President Macron was failing to meet his deadline on the procurement of the new generation of submarines much needed to Australia to counteract China’s speedy developments in the field.
In June, the Australian defence ministry announced that it would spend around $4.6 billion keeping its old current fleet of Collins submarines viable until they could be replaced by French models.
The Collins class submarines were designed by the Swedish firm Kockums, which was forced to make up for the shortcomings of its French counterparts.
At the same time, it was reported that Australia was also eyeing a German submarine as an interim measure pending full availability of the French Attack class.
The German model would have come at a much lower cost to Australia than its French alternative, although still more expensive than the upgrade of the Swedish model, giving the Swedish leverage against the Germans and the Germans the upper hand against the French.
In 2016, Australia had selected French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new submarine fleet worth $40billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.
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Just two weeks ago, the Australian defence and foreign ministers had reconfirmed the deal to France, and French President Emmanuel Macron lauded decades of future cooperation when hosting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in June.
Mr Le Drian described yesterday’s move as a “stab in the back”.
French relations with the US soured during the presidency of Donald Trump, who often irritated European allies by demanding they increase their defence spending to help NATO while reaching out to adversaries like Russia and North Korea.
Diplomats say there have been concerns in recent months that Mr Biden is not being forthright with his European allies.
The French Embassy in Washington said it was cancelling a gala event related to French-US ties on Friday following the day’s events.
France’s ties with Prime Minister Boris Johnson have also soured over the UK’s exit from the European Union.
Washington’s actions in Australia are likely to further strain transatlantic ties, political analysts said.
The European Union was due to roll out its Indo-Pacific strategy on Thursday and Paris is poised to take on the EU presidency.
“This is a clap of thunder and for many in Paris a Trafalgar moment,” Bruno Tertrais, Deputy Director of the Paris-based think tank the Foundation of Strategic Research said on Twitter, referring to a French naval defeat in 1805 that was followed by a long period of British naval supremacy.
He said it would “complicate the transatlantic cooperation in and about the region. Beijing will benefit”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said France was a “vital partner” in the Indo-Pacific region and that Washington would continue to cooperate with Paris, comments that appeared aimed at calming French anger.
Those comments are likely to fall on deaf ears in the immediate term.
A French official said they had not been informed of the deal until a few hours before it was announced and that Paris would not fooled by platitudes.
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