PARIS, FRANCE – JUNE 15: French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison (L) prior to a working dinner at the Elysee Presidential Palace on June 15, 2021.
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LONDON — France is not holding back showing its disappointment with Australia after it abruptly ended a submarine contract in order to sign a new deal with the U.S. and U.K.
“It was a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia. This trust has been betrayed,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s minister for foreign affairs, told radio station FranceInfo Thursday morning.
Australia had signed a contract with French shipbuilder Naval Group in 2016 to build a new fleet, at a cost of $40 billion, according to Reuters. Both sides had confirmed the deal a couple of weeks ago. However, Canberra has now decided to scrap that agreement and join forces with the U.S. and Britain.
Late on Wednesday, the three nations announced a new security partnership where Australia will receive new nuclear-powered submarines. The deal with France would have provided conventional submarines.
“We intend to build these submarines in Adelaide in close cooperation with the U.K. and the U.S. But let me be clear, Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons,” Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Twitter.
He added that France is a “good partner” and the new deal was motivated by “a changed strategic environment,” according to France 24.
U.S. President Joe Biden made sure to reference France when presenting the new deal on Wednesday, saying the European nation will remain a key partner in the Indo-Pacific region.
However, these words are unlikely to appease the ill feelings in France.
“The American choice which leads to the removal of an ally and a European partner like France from structuring a partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region … marks an absence of coherence that France can only observe and regret,” France’s ministers of foreign affairs and the armed forces said in a joint statement on Thursday.
The statement also said that the latest developments intensify the need for European strategic autonomy — the idea that the EU should become more independent with its defense and security policies.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, is due to present its strategy for the Indo-Pacific region on Thursday afternoon.