The United States has urged Britain to follow its lead and attempt to mend its relations with Paris following the dispute over France’s loss of its submarine contract with Australia.
Australia withdrew from the $ 66 billion (£ 48 billion) contract for 12 diesel-powered submarines, signed in 2016, and opted instead for nuclear-powered submarines to be developed with the America and the United Kingdom. The secret and sudden cancellation of the contract created a crisis of confidence between Paris on the one hand and London, Canberra and Washington on the other.
But senior US diplomats, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, spent two days in France and Brussels trying to restore relations after French leaders made it clear they felt the trio of nations were behind. their backs to form the new covenant.
Blinken met French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris on October 5. US national security adviser Jake Sullivan also met with French foreign policy adviser Emmanuel Bonne. French President Emmanuel Macron is also due to hold a bilateral face-to-face meeting with Biden at the G20 in Rome.
American diplomats have been disappointed that the British prime minister has made no parallel effort to deepen relations with Macron. There was an explanatory phone call as Johnson expressed his frustration at the French complaints about the loss of the contract, saying “give me a break”.
One diplomat said: “We were hoping for a three legged stool from Britain, Europe and the United States, but we need to handle more of a hub and spoke operation in which we separately address the democracies in Europe, the United States. UK and Asia. “The diplomat expressed hope that the British would think more strategically about relations with Europe.
A senior American diplomat admitted in retrospect that the handling of Australia’s cancellation of the French contract was an unforced error, and that at best there should have been a decent three-month gap before the announcement of the new alliance of security between Australia, UK and UK. WE.
There were disagreements within the Biden administration over how to handle the case once it was clear Australia wanted to end the submarine contract and adopt US nuclear powered submarines. . Some have argued that it was foolish to alienate the French since the interregnum created by the German elections meant that France was at the head of European foreign policy. The Australians insisted on secrecy.
The French have now largely decided to capitalize on the American political embarrassment to obtain concessions from Washington on a reinforced European defense pillar within NATO, greater American cooperation in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel, and a recognition of the legitimacy of the role of the European Union in the Indo-Pacific, which will be highlighted by a special conference convened by France during its EU presidency in the first half of next year.
But there is no parallel rapprochement between the French and the Australians or the British. Le Drian, testifying before the French parliament, said the ball remained in Johnson’s court, adding that there had been a promise of proposals from the French, but none had been submitted.
He was even more scathing about Canberra, saying it had taken “a leap into the unknown by choosing to use technology that Australians do not and will not master in the future. They thus place themselves entirely at the mercy of the evolution of American policy. I wish our Australian partner, who made the choice for security reasons – justified by escalating tensions with China – to the detriment of sovereignty, not later find out that he has sacrificed both. “
Le Drian also said it was concerning that the British, who are hosting the Glasgow Cop26 conference, agreed to a trade deal with Australia without taking into account the Paris agreement on climate change.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly faced difficult questions about how the French intelligence services and defense industry could have misinterpreted signals coming from Australia on the future of the contract, or had received no warning from the Americans. She said no one could have imagined Australia would be so willing to lose sovereignty.
The aggrieved tone that still emerges from France contrasts with the words of EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, who on Friday in Washington relegated the issue of submarines to the past by insisting on ending the controversy.