France ‘furious’ over Australia’s submarine deal says expert
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The French President has been left humiliated after Australia pulled out of an agreement to build 12 conventional diesel and electric powered submarines. Australia instead chose to pursue a landmark security pact with the UK and US to counter the growing threats in the Indo-Pacific.
The deal, known as Aukus, will equip the Australian navy with the most up-to-date vessels, including eight nuclear-powered submarines.
Speaking on talkRADIO, Robert Fox, Defence Editor at the London Evening Standard says France has every reason to feel aggrieved but accused French officials of “overpromising and underdelivering”.
When asked if France has good reason to be cross about the situation, Mr Fox said: “In a very French way the answer is absolutely yes, because France always overpromises and under-delivers.
“They have been getting very grand across the Pacific, they have got dependencies, there are roughly two million citizens.
“But, that actually doesn’t make you a top world player in the Pacific – this is the problem.
“At the heart of this is Australia wanting to have a credible counter submarine force against the Chinese.”
The military deal between Australia and France was agreed in 2016 and Mr Fox insists the submarines would not be fit for the modern-day or good enough to rival China in the region.
He added: “Cut to France, the problem is that they had this longstanding deal of about £45bn to build up to 12 conventional submarines, mostly in Australian yards.
“Now the more I say this, there are more holes in this proposition than there is in the average Gruyère cheese.
“The deal was going very badly, the submarines were already out of date and wouldn’t do what the Australians in their particular posture, which is to turn from mild acumination with China over the past two or three years to outright, quiet, very heavy confrontation, for very good reasons and so that is where we are.”
France has reacted furiously to the move by Australia and has recalled its ambassadors from Canberra and Washington.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the deal as a “stab in the back” and constituted “unacceptable behaviour between allies and partners”.
French defence minister Florence Parly has also postponed a meeting with his UK counterpart Ben Wallace scheduled for September 23.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is currently in New York for a UN summit and downplayed the situation.
Mr Johnson insisted the UK and France have a “very friendly relationship”, which he described as being of “huge importance”.
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Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York, he said: “Our love of France is ineradicable.
“Aukus is not in any way meant to be zero-sum, it’s not meant to be exclusionary.
“It’s not something that anybody needs to worry about and particularly not our French friends.”
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