- Australia angered France by cutting it out of a $US50 ($AU68) billion contract to build its submarines.
- The decision was the result of a new security partnership Australia set up with the US and UK.
- France’s foreign minister said the “brutal” decision “reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do.”
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France accused President Joe Biden of “a stab in the back” and compared him to former President Donald Trump after it was cut out of a lucrative defense contract without notice.
Australia cut France out of a $US50 ($AU68) billion deal to build its submarines following the launch of a new security partnership between the UK, US, and Australia amid concerns about China’s growing threat.
As part of the new pact, Australia’s new nuclear-powered submarines would now be built domestically, bringing an abrupt and surprise end to France’s submarine contract with Sydney.
In response, the French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info radio on Thursday, per Reuters: “This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do.”
“It’s a stab in the back. We created a relationship of trust with Australia and that trust has been broken,” he said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the news of the contract change on Wednesday, saying his country would now draw on US and UK expertise to build US-powered nuclear vessels rather than purchase French-built versions.
Australia had announced the French contract in 2016, but it was beset by repeated delays and wrangling over budgets. It was worth at least $US50 ($AU68) billion, making it one of the most lucrative defense contracts in the world.
The decision by Australia to cut out France from its submarine-building plans represents a significant blow to the authority of French President Emmanuel Macron, who has invested considerable political energy into making France a key player in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia’s defense and foreign ministers had reportedly confirmed that the deal was still on course as recently as two weeks ago, Sky News reported.
The French embassy on Wednesday condemned said the decision to exclude France from the contract showed “a lack of coherence that France can only regret.”
Philippe Etienne, France’s ambassador to the US, suggested that the US had betrayed France’s historic loyalty to Washington, recalling the French Navy’s defeat of the British Navy at Chesapeake Bay in 1781 – the decisive battle of the American Revolutionary War.
“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,” he tweeted.
In a Thursday joint statement, Morrison and Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said the decision to cut France out of the submarine contact “was not taken lightly.”
“Our partnership with the Government of France and Naval Group on the Attack class conventional submarine program would have resulted in the most capable and lethal conventional submarine ever built,” it said.
“We look forward to continuing to work closely and positively with our French counterparts. France is a key friend and partner to Australia and the Indo-Pacific.”