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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Macron Recalls France’s Ambassadors to U.S., Australia in Protest of Submarine Deal

French President Emanuel Macron on Friday recalled France’s ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia in protest of Canberra’s announcement this week it would scuttle a 2016 agreement to buy French submarines and will instead receive nuclear submarine technology from the U.S.

The move will send Ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne back to Paris for consultations.

“This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on 15 September by Australia and the United States,” French Foreign Ministry Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.

The French Embassy in Washington, D.C. did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The New York Times first reported the move.

The act of recalling an ambassador is a well-known diplomatic tool to mark a grievance that is generally symbolic and short-lived. France similarly recalled its ambassadors to Turkey last year after “unacceptable” comments by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and to Italy in 2019 as part of a broader diplomatic row. Just in April, President Joe Biden recalled U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan, reciprocating Moscow’s move after Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a killer.” Sullivan returned to his post two months later.

The latest dramatic schism among Western military powers follows the announcement Wednesday by the leaders of Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. that they would form a new security pact as a way “to preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. Though White House officials have stressed the arrangement is not specifically targeting China, these same officials acknowledge that Beijing represents the greatest threat to security and stability in the region.

The alliance represents an apparent consolation after failed efforts to get regional powers such as India and Japan to sign on to similar security sharing commitments. It will be called AUKUS.

China has expressed outrage about the new agreement, saying it undermines security and will spark a new arms race, and it has issued new grave threats to the participating nations.

The deal also called for the U.S. to share the nuclear submarine technology with Australia, only the second time it has ever done so with a foreign country, after the U.K.

Despite France’s outrage, Australia has in recent years suggested it was dissatisfied with the deal and that the submarines it had previously planned to purchase would no longer match its security requirements for the coming decades. Politico on Friday documented the many signs that led up to the doomed arrangement that France appears to have missed.

France is not the only country to express shock and suggest it had been blindsided by the announcement. NATO and EU countries have similarly raised concerns about not receiving forewarning.

“The American choice which leads to the removal of an ally and a European partner like France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region,” Le Drian said in a statement on Thursday, “marks an absence of coherence that France can only observe and regret.”[SOURCE]

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