PARIS (AP) – France said late Friday it was immediately recalling its ambassadors to the US and Australia after Australia scrapped a major French conventional submarine purchase in favor of a nuclear sub built with American technology.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement that France’s decision, at the request of President Emmanuel Macron, was “justified by the extraordinary seriousness of the declarations” made by Australia and the United States.
He said the announcement of Australia’s submarine deal with the US on Wednesday is “an unacceptable behavior between allies and partners.”
Earlier on Friday, a top French diplomat spoke of a “crisis” in relations with the US.
The diplomat, who spoke anonymously in line with customary government practice, said that for Paris “it is a strategic question concerning the nature of the relationship between Europe and the United States regarding the Indo-Pacific strategy.”
He did not anticipate how this situation would affect France’s relations with the US “a crisis,” he insisted.
Macron has not commented on the issue since President Joe Biden announced a strategic Indo-Pacific alliance with Australia and Britain, which would have given France around $100 billion to build diesel-electric submarines. The deal had to be lost.
France has pushed for many years for a European strategy to boost economic, political and defense ties in a region spanning from India and China to Japan and New Zealand. The European Union revealed its plan for the Indo-Pacific this week.
Macron received a letter from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday morning announcing the cancellation of the submarine deal, a French diplomat said on Friday.
French officials then decided to contact the US administration “to ask what was going on,” he said. He said discussions with Washington took place just two to three hours before Biden’s public announcement.
Le Drian on Thursday expressed “full understanding” of the move and criticized both Australia and the US
“It was really a stab in the back. We built a relationship of trust with Australia and that trust was betrayed.” “It’s not done between allies.”
He compared Biden’s move with that of his predecessor, Donald Trump, under Trump’s “America First” principle.
The diplomat said Paris had raised the issue of the Indo-Pacific strategy during US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Paris on June 25, in which he expressed the importance of its submarine program with Australia.
“We said this was a very important and important component for us in our Indo-Pacific strategy,” he said. Blinken met Macron during the trip.
The French diplomat said Australia had never mentioned France before in its desire to move to nuclear-powered submarines, including a meeting between Macron and Morrison in Paris on June 15.