France Recalls Ambassadors To The U.S. And Australia Over Snubbed Sub Deal

17September 2021

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks in Weimar, Germany on Sept. 10, 2021. France said Sept. 17 it was immediately recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after Australia scrapped a big French conventional submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology.

Jens Schlueter/AP

Jens Schlueter/AP

In response to a newly penned nuclear submarine deal between the United States and Australia, France announced on Friday it would recall its ambassadors to both countries, citing “unacceptable behavior” on the part of the allied nations.

“This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on 15th September by Australia and the United States,” France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian wrote in a Friday statement.

Le Drian was referring to a joint announcement made this week by the U.S., UK and Australian heads of state, unveiling a new trilateral security program — called AUKUS — that effectively cancels a previous $40 billion submarine deal made between France and Australia.

“The cancellation of the Attack class submarine program binding Australia and France since 2016, and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States meant to launch studies on a possible future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines, constitute unacceptable behavior between allies and partners, whose consequences directly affect the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe,” Le Drian said.

The new trilateral program was announced on Wednesday in response to China’s military escalations in the South China Sea. The region represents a major global shipping lane with oil and natural gas resources .

Responding to France’s Friday announcement, the White House said it had been in contact with French officials regarding the recall, but reaffirmed the two countries’ allegiances to one another in spite of the mounting submarine feud.

“While we regret that they have taken this step, we will continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our differences, as we have done at other points over the course of our long alliance,” a White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the sensitive diplomatic issue.

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