Biden And Macron To Speak In ‘Coming Days’ As Australian Submarine Deal Threatens U.S.-France Alliance

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Alison Durkee   Forbes U.S. Staff

Biden And Macron To Speak In ‘Coming Days’ As Australian Submarine Deal Threatens U.S.-France Alliance

Photo: Joe Biden Twitter

President Joe Biden has asked to speak with French President Emmanuel Macron in the “coming days,” a French government spokesperson said Sunday, as relations between the two countries face an unprecedented crisis after the U.S.’s new defense partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom canceled a major deal Australia had with France.

KEY FACTS

- Macron spokesperson Gabriel Attal told French news outlet BFM TV Biden and Macron will speak by phone, Reuters reports, as the country seeks more “clarification” about Australia’s cancellation of its 2016 deal with France for conventional submarines.

- The aim of the call will be “to move forward,” Attal said according to the Associated Press, after initial “shock” and “anger” upon learning the contract was canceled.

- Reuters reports France intends to seek answers about “contract clauses” in the wake of the deal’s cancellation, particularly concerning any compensation the French will still receive despite the deal being axed.

- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended the country’s decision to nix its deal with France in a news conference Sunday, saying “Australia’s national interest comes first” and that those interests are “best served by the trilateral partnership” with Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which will equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.

- Morrison said Australia had warned France prior to the deal’s cancellation that it had “deep and grave concerns” that the submarines the French were developing wouldn’t meet the country’s “strategic interests,” and that it had “made very clear that we would be making a decision based on our strategic national interest.”

- Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton also told Sky News Sunday the country was “upfront, open and honest” with France about its concerns over the deal, but French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has previously objected to suggestions the French were consulted before the U.S.-UK-Australian deal was publicly announced.

CRUCIAL QUOTE

Allies “don’t treat each other with such brutality, such unpredictability, a major partner like France ... So there really is a crisis,” Le Drian told France 2 on Saturday, as reported by the AP. “There are reasons for us to question the strength of our alliance.”

BIG NUMBER

$66 billion. That’s the cost of Australia’s initial submarine deal with France, according to the AP, which was first struck in 2016. The deal’s cancellation will also affect 500 employees in Australia and 650 in France, the French submarine company Naval Group said Sunday.

KEY BACKGROUND

Biden, Morrison and Johnson announced the new defense partnership between the U.S., UK and Australia—known as “AUKUS”—on Thursday, which will involve Australia partnering with the U.S. and UK for nuclear-powered submarines as part of an effort to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The announcement immediately set off tensions with France, which recalled the country’s ambassadors from the U.S. and Australia Friday, a move that Le Drian noted Saturday was unprecedented in the history of the relations between the U.S. and France. (The foreign minister said France had not recalled the UK ambassador, believing the country is “a bit of a fifth wheel” in the controversy.) The uproar has threatened the U.S.’s relationship with France, the country’s oldest ally, as Le Drian noted in a statement Friday the “exceptional gravity” of the AUKUS announcement.

 
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Alison Durkee   Forbes U.S. Staff

I am a New York-based journalist covering breaking news at Forbes. I previously covered politics and news for Vanity Fair and Mic, and as a theater critic I serve as a member of the New York Outer Critics Circle.