France is calling an anti-China defense partnership between Australia, the US and Britain "a stab in the back." Reuters said the French are not especially thrilled with Australia as their $40 billion defence deal is no longer happening following Wednesday's announcement.
In 2016, Australia had selected French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.
As of two weeks ago, Australia’s foreign and defense ministers told France their arrangement was still a go.
Upon hearing the news, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was furious.
"This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Trump used to do," he said.
The US, Britain and Australia announced they would establish a security partnership dubbed AUKUS for the Indo-Pacific. It would help Australia acquire US nuclear-powered submarines and scrap the $40 billion French-designed submarine deal.
"I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies."
French Defense Minister Florence Parly told Politico the decision excludes a key European ally and partner in France from a crucial partnership with Australia "at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region."
He added the deal showed "a lack of respect for multilateralism based on the rule of law," and "signals a lack of consistency which France can only notice and regret."
According to The New York Times, the Biden Administration only told France a few hours before the deal was signed. This fueled suspicions Washington intentionally hid this deal from them.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said France was a "vital partner" in the Indo-Pacific region Thursday. He added Washington would continue to cooperate with Paris in an attempt to calm French anger.
Those comments are likely to fall on deaf ears in the immediate term.
French President Emmanuel Macron made it clear that he’ll veer away from "strategic autonomy" with the US. This comes the same week France announced they killed the leader of ISIS-GS in an assassination that benefited both countries.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki scoffed at the comparison to the Trump Administration. She said US President Joe Biden "doesn’t think about" very much about the comment as France is an "essential ally" in other capacities.
According to analysts, the deal strains transatlantic ties further. France’s ties with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson soured over the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU).
The EU was set to unleash its Indo-Pacific strategy on Thursday with Paris is to assume the EU presidency.
Bruno Tertrais, Deputy Director of the Paris-based think tank the Foundation of Strategic Research, said Wednesday's announcement would “complicate the transatlantic cooperation in and about the region. Beijing will benefit.”