France lashed out Thursday at Australia for abandoning a submarine deal and striking a strategic pact with British and American allies that includes U.S.-made nuclear subs.
“It’s a stab in the back. We had established a trusting relationship with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Franceinfo radio.
President Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the deal late Wednesday as part of an alliance that will be known as AUKUS and will emphasize defense of Australia’s neighborhood in the face of an aggressive China.
Mr. Le Drian said it raised new questions about American commitments to Europe after Mr. Biden planned to turn the page on policies adopted by former President Donald Trump.
“This brutal, unilateral, unpredictable decision looks very much like what Mr. Trump used to do,” he told the radio station.
Mr. Biden tried to highlight France’s contributions in the region during his video conference with Mr. Johnson and Mr. Morrison.
“France, in particular, already has a substantial Indo-Pacific presence and is a key partner and ally in strengthening the security and prosperity of the region,” he said. “The United States looks forward to working closely with France and other key countries as we go forward.”
Reuters said Australia inked the deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group in 2016 to the submarine fleet at a cost of $40 billion.
“We have contracts,” Mr. Le Drian said. “The Australians need to tell us how they’re getting out of it. We’re going to need an explanation.”
Philippe Etienne, the French ambassador to the U.S., threw shade at the Americans.
“Interestingly, exactly 240 years ago the French Navy defeated the British Navy in Chesapeake Bay, paving the way for the victory at Yorktown and the independence of the United States,” Mr. Etienne tweeted.
China is fuming, too. It said strategic partnerships shouldn’t single out third nations and this deal could spark an arms race in the region.