France scorned: Allies respond to submarine contract fallout

Published : September 20, 2021 17:50 IST

Australia abandoned a contract for conventional submarines with France in favor of a nuclear submarine program wih the U.S., buttressed by the U.K. Photo: picture-alliance/AP/US Navy/R. Rebarich

France is riding out feelings of betrayal days after defense partner Australia split. Instead of a relationship based on a conventional submarine contract, Australia is pursuing nuclear propulsion with the U.S., U.K.

Two days after France recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia — but not the U.K. — over their formation of a three-way defense pact that scrapped a French submarine deal, the three nations made overtures on September 19 to Paris in response to diplomatic fits of rage that were not always so diplomatic.

Gabriel Attal, the French government spokesman, said there would be a telephone conversation between U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron "in the coming days" at the request of the U.S. President. "We want explanations," Attal said, adding the U.S. had to account for "what looks a lot like a major breach of trust."

Anglo-French aftermath

A meeting between British and French defense ministers Ben Wallace and Florence Parly scheduled for this coming week was put off on September 19, with the decision to drop the bilateral meeting allegedly on the urging of Parly herself, according to Reuters. Meanwhile British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appealed to France to try and repair fractures in the relationship. "Our love of France is ineradicable," he said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian explained to France 2 television on September 18 why France had not also recalled its ambassador to the U.K. in biting remarks. "With Britain, there is no need. We know their constant opportunism. So there is no need to bring our ambassador back to explain," Le Drian said, before casting further shade.

"Britain in this whole thing is a bit like the third wheel," he added. Both France and the U.K., however, must continue to work together on defense matters for the sake of joint military operations in Mali and the Baltic states.

ar/rs (AFP, Reuters)

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