Ben Wallace discusses ‘trust’ between Australia, UK and US
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France’s former ambassador to the US Gérard Araud lashed out against Australia, the US and the UK over their forged defence deal announced on Thursday. The US, Britain and Australia announced they would establish a security partnership for the Indo-Pacific that will help Australia acquire US nuclear-powered submarines and scrap the $40 billion French-designed submarine deal.
Mr Araud told The Sydney Morning Herald that the move was “inelegant” as he blasted irrelevant Britain and “hostile” America.
He said: “Even if you concluded that the program was wrecked, it was not necessary to do it in this sort of brutal and inelegant way.
“For us, Australia was the pillar of our Indo-Pacific strategy, we had the impression that we had created a political partnership with Australia, so it’s really quite insulting to see overnight the Australians saying ‘we don’t care’.
“Everything we have done with the Australians has been thrown overboard in a night.”
Asked if the relationship was salvageable for future collaborations, Mr Araud said: “No, no, it’s not possible.
“The way it was done – the submarines we were selling were nuclear-powered – why didn’t Australia take France on board? Why?
“Not only did they scrap the contract, they are kicking the French out.
“There was no reason why we shouldn’t be part of this new game.”
He said the damage was not just confined to the Australia-France relationship.
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Mr Araud said it was a “hostile act” from the United States.
“The US has trampled our national interest. What the US has done to our national interest is a hostile act,” he said.
“What we were doing with the Australians was a strategic choice and this strategic choice has been swept away, not only by the Australians but also by the Americans.”
He added the UK’s involvement was irrelevant because they were “poodles of the Americans, as usual”.
The move is the latest dramatic twist in a contest that has seen naval shipbuilding powers battle for years over what many observers called the world’s largest single arms export deal.
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In 2016, Australia had selected French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new submarine fleet worth $40billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.
Just two weeks ago, the Australian defence and foreign ministers had reconfirmed the deal to France, and French President Emmanuel Macron lauded decades of future cooperation when hosting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in June.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told franceinfo radio: “This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do.
“I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.
“It’s a stab in the back. We created a relationship of trust with Australia and that trust has been broken.”
French relations with Washington soured during the presidency of Trump, who often irritated European allies by demanding they increase their defence spending to help NATO while reaching out to adversaries like Russia and North Korea.
Diplomats say there have been concerns in recent months that Biden is not being forthright with his European allies.
The French Embassy in Washington said it was cancelling a gala event related to French-US ties on Friday following the day’s events.
France’s ties with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have also soured over the UK’s exit from the European Union.
Washington’s actions in Australia are likely to further strain transatlantic ties, political analysts said. The European Union was due to roll out its Indo-Pacific strategy on Thursday and Paris is poised to take on the EU presidency.
“This is a clap of thunder and for many in Paris a Trafalgar moment,” Bruno Tertrais, Deputy Director of the Paris-based think tank the Foundation of Strategic Research said on Twitter, referring to a French naval defeat in 1805 that was followed by a long period of British naval supremacy.
He said it would “complicate the transatlantic cooperation in and about the region. Beijing will benefit”.
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