September 20, 2021

France Recalls Ambassador

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“America’s oldest ally, France, recalled its ambassador to the United States on Friday… Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement that the French decision, on request from President Emmanuel Macron, ‘is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements’ made by Australia and the United States. He said Australia’s decision to scrap a big French conventional submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology is ‘unacceptable behavior between allies and partners.’” AP News

Here’s our recent coverage of the deal with Australia. The Flip Side

Both sides are critical of the way France was informed of the deal:

“This was an entirely preventable foreign policy debacle that has surfaced because of the ham-handed way all of this was handled. France has traditionally been one of our closest and longest-standing allies. (Dating back to the Revolutionary war.)…

“If a secret deal with Australia that was going to crush an anticipated windfall for France was in the works, how on Earth did not a single person in the Biden administration not insist on bringing the French into the negotiations? A skilled diplomatic team could have worked out some alternative opportunity to offer the French as a replacement for the lost revenue and then they would have been ready to endorse the deal and stress the need for all of us to work together against a common adversary… Whether it’s military strategy or foreign policy handling, we obviously have a team installed at the White House that simply doesn’t know what it’s doing.”
Jazz Shaw, Hot Air

“America’s sudden withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving several French citizens behind, as well as the dragged out efforts to get the United States to return to the Iran nuclear deal, from which France and the other signatories never withdrew, have only intensified this feeling of playing second fiddle, foreign ministry officials have told me…

“This [latest] action is designed to form a bulwark against China in the Pacific but by excluding France, which has its own deep stakes in the region, cuts to the very heart of the NATO alliance and whether the U.S. and Europe itself have a future together — at least one in which America can be relied upon as a constant partner. Above all, it confirms many French (and European) fears that Biden is not a real break from Trump but merely a continuation of many of the American-centric policies that have been gradually isolating the U.S. from many of its longest-standing and most loyal allies.”
David A. Andelman, NBC News Think

The Biden administration’s unforced errors in foreign affairs keep on mounting. First was the deadly, botched exit from Afghanistan and ensuing humanitarian disaster. Then came the Pentagon’s belated disclosure that its Aug. 29 drone strike in Kabul killing 10 civilians, seven of them children, which the Defense Department mischaracterized for weeks, was, in fact, a mistake, or as a Pentagon spokesman put it, a ‘horrible tragedy of war.’ Now, there’s the double crossing of France, America’s oldest ally…

“[The] French furor was as much over the sale itself as the secrecy in which Washington conducted its negotiations. Having been approached by Australia months ago about the purchase, team Biden went to extraordinary steps to hide its negotiations from Paris. The French contract with Australia was among the largest defense contracts in its history, and French President Emmanuel Macron faces elections in seven months… When Trump was president, said Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister, ‘Europe was unhappy with its consultations. Now it’s worse. There are no consultations.’”
Judith Miller, Fox News

“Sir Simon Fraser, a former permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, captured the mood among many diplomats, tweeting: ‘The Biden foreign policy team, which was seen as reassuringly professional and experienced, now look surprisingly clumsy and tin-eared in its miscommunication with its allies.’ Peter Ricketts, a former British ambassador to Paris, also warned that the rupture felt worse than at the time of the Iraq war…

“Embarrassed US state department officials initially claimed the French had been informed of the contract’s imminent cancellation; unable to produce any supporting evidence, however, they weakly suggested that they thought it was for the Australians to inform the French. ‘They [the Australians] told us they would take care of dealing with the French,’ one US official told the New York Times. This casts America in the role of a bystander that fortunately happened to benefit from the French naval group’s inability to deliver a contract on time and to specification. From the French perspective, this is simply not credible…

“If his China policy is critically about building a network of alliances against Beijing, the US president has a strange way of constructing those alliances.”
Patrick Wintour, The Guardian

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The entire focus of Biden's foreign policy is on the rising challenge from China. And senior administration officials say they are alarmed by the increasingly aggressive and nationalist approach from Beijing, toward Taiwan, in the South China Sea and toward American allies like Australia. Washington's answer is to draw its allies into a broad anti-China coalition…

“There will need to be some hard thinking among European leaders. While Britain and Australia have now fully signed up to Biden's efforts to contain China, France, Germany and European Union leaders have been more cautious -- apparently seeking a middle path between two great powers. The last few days prove that making such a choice brings consequences.”
Stephen Collinson, CNN

“The project to build a fleet of diesel-powered submarines for Australia, awarded to France in 2016, was deeply troubled. For years, Australian politicians complained about cost overruns and delays. During that time, commercial and diplomatic ties between Australia and China worsened dramatically. Disappointment with the French deal grew so great that Australia said a few months ago it would give older boats a refit to prolong their life while waiting for the new ones. Not exactly a vote of confidence. Was anyone in Paris listening?

“If there were any doubts the gig was in jeopardy, the appointment of Peter Dutton as Australian defense minister in March should have put them to rest. A former police officer, Dutton made a name for himself as a hard-line immigration minister. He arrived at the new job with a reputation as a culture warrior, an unabashedly pro-American stance on most issues and a fierce critic of China. In Dutton, the French should have seen a walking five-alarm fire.”
Daniel Moss, Bloomberg

From the Right

“Despite the angry French response, the United States, Australia, and all of its allies with an interest in deterring Chinese aggression stand to benefit if AUKUS is able to construct these nuclear submarines. Canberra traded up from a program plagued by delays and significant budget problems to a deal to construct subs far superior — ‘the gold standard,’ Naval War College professor Andrew Erickson called them — and more capable of meeting its defense needs…

“Since 2016, Australia’s security situation has changed significantly, as China’s attempts to pressure the country to adopt a pro-Beijing line have grown more coercive. Whatever the long-term consequences of this dispute and the merits of France’s rage, the 2016 contract was already a zombie deal. And AUKUS replaced it with something of greater value to Western democracies operating in the Indo-Pacific.”
Jimmy Quinn, National Review

“The US should offer to buy France's submarines for Vietnam… Recognizing China's challenge, the U.S. and Vietnam are moving closer together. Though her trip was overshadowed by the chaos in Afghanistan, Vice President Kamala Harris recently visited Hanoi. Top line: the U.S. knows that Vietnamese sentiments, Vietnam's proximity to China, and its possession of a deepwater port at Da Nang (capable of forward basing for the U.S. Navy) make the former enemy an ideal security partner for the future. China's threat is growing : The U.S. needs partners…

“Biden should use the two leaders' upcoming phone call to offer to buy some of [the French] Naval Group's Shortfin Barracudas — but only on the condition that most of the submarines are transferred to Vietnam (others can be used for U.S. Navy training and special operations purposes).”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

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