France goes ballistic: Paris diplomats CANCEL D.C. gala dinner celebrating ties with US after losing out on $90bn nuclear sub contract amid US-UK-Australia defense pact
- French Embassy cancels event to mark cooperation between US and France
- It comes amid growing diplomatic row over tech sharing deal between US, UK and Australia
- French officials are furious at the way it scuppered deal for Australia to buy submarines from France
French diplomats in Washington on Thursday canceled a gala at their embassy to celebrate ties between the U.S. and France amid mounting fury at the Biden administration’s role in scuppering a $90 billion submarine deal with Australia.
The event was supposed to commemorate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes, when the French Navy fought the Royal Navy of Britain during the Revolutionary War.
But it will not now go ahead on Friday, an official told the New York Times.
The decision reflects French anger at the announcement that the U.S. and the U.K. would help Australia acquire a nuclear-powered submarine fleet, upending an existing contract with France for 12 diesel vessels.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the deal as a ‘unilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision’ like those of former President Trump.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (l) described President Biden’s deal as a ‘unilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision’ amid French fury that it triggered cancelation of an Australian agreement to buy French diesel powered submarines
The French embassy event was supposed to commemorate the 1781 ‘Battle of the Capes when the French Navy delivered a decisive blow to Britain’s Royal Navy in the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Virgina Capes shows British forces on the right and French on the left
America and the UK are to help Australia build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines as part of an unprecedented alliance known as the AUKUS pact to combat China’s naval dominance and will likely be the similar design as this Astute class submarine HMS Ambush (pictured)
As a result, President Biden finds himself at the center a diplomatic row, accused of failing to consult with crucial allies – much as he was criticized for pushing ahead with the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The new AUKUS pact to share defense technology between the U.S., U.K. and Australia was meant to show that Washington could still be relied on to promote security in places such as the Indo-Pacific region where China is flexing its muscles.
Instead American officials spent much of Thursday trying to patch up the damage.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted officials had been in touch with their French counterparts ahead of the announcement and said the U.S. placed ‘fundamental value’ on its relationship with France and on its role in the Indo-Pacific.
‘We look forward to continue close cooperation with NATO, with the European Union, and others in this endeavour,’ he said.
‘France in particular is a vital partner on this, and so many other issues.’
He was speaking at a news conference after meetings between the U.S. and Australian foreign and defense ministers in Washington.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken (2nd from right) tried to patch up the damage during an appearance with (l-r) Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, Foreign Minister Marise Payne, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin
He said it was up to Australia to explain its decision about how they made the decision over its submarine fleet.
White House Press Secretary echoed that line minutes later.
‘We value our relationship and our partnership with France on a variety of issues facing the global community,’ she said.
‘I would leave it of course to our Australia partners to describe why they sought this new technology and why they purchased this technology from the U.S.’
Australia selected French shipbuilder Naval Group to build its new submarine fleet, replacing its aging Collins class submarines.
The French vessels were due some time in the mid-2030s.
But the new deal means Australia will now use U.S. technology to build a nuclear fleet in Adelaide.
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