French President Emmanuel Macron will finally speak on the phone today with Joe Biden, and is expected to demand the US president explain why he went behind France’s back to seal a security pact with Australia and the UK that voids the formers’ 56bn euro submarine contract with France.
The central part of the new Aukus pact is the requirement for Australia to cancel it’s contract to buy 12 French barracuda submarines with diesel-electric propulsion. America will instead partner with Australia and the UK to build nuclear-powered submarines.
The French Presidency spokesperson said Wednesday’s call would be a chance to clarify the way in which this announcement was made and how the US can re-engage in its relationship with an ally.
Macron is expecting “clarifications about the American decision to keep a European ally outside fundamental talks about cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” Gabriel Attal added, making clear that French anger remains unabated.
“We expect our allies to acknowledge that the exchanges and consultations that should have taken place did not, and that this poses a question about confidence, which all of us need to draw conclusions about now.”
France has already said it has been stabbed in the back by the US and described Biden’s high handed treatment of his European partners as reminiscent of Donald Trump.
Biden, who promised relentless diplomacy in his speech to the UN general assembly on Tuesday, has been seeking to speak to Macron ever since at the weekend. On Friday the Elysee withdrew its ambassadors to Washington and Canberra for consultation, in a signal of deep anger over the month’s long secrecy surrounding the security pact.
France feels the move not only deprives it of a valuable defence contract, but undercuts the main pillar of its carefully established Indo-Pacific strategy. The secrecy with which the US negotiated the alternative deal for nuclear-propelled submarines has left France shocked, but also strengthened the hand of those that insist the EU must rely on itself more for its own defence and security.
There has been no let up in the French anger that has extended to threatening to delay an EU-US trade deal.
Washington seems to have been taken aback by the French fury, but knows it needs to find a way to contain a row that risks damaging Biden’s reputation in Europe.
The French foreign affairs minister, Jean-Yves le Drian, also cancelled a meeting planned for Wednesday between the foreign ministers of Britain, France, the US and Germany. Scheduling difficulties were cited but the German foreign minister Heiko Maas said the meeting was abandoned due “disgruntlement on the French side, which I can understand, and that some things there first need to be straightened out before we can sit together in this format”.
Catching the tone of anger in France, Bernard Guetta, a Macronist MEP described Biden’s sidelining of France as “a blunder, amounting to a strategic blindness that will only benefit the Chinese”.
A meeting between foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN security council, organised by the UK, is due to go ahead.
The meeting, likely to focus on Afghanistan and humanitarian aid, will be the first chance for Liz Truss, the UK foreign secretary, to meet Le Drian since her appointment and the security row broke out.
The French government also issued a statement denying a front-page report in the Daily Telegraph suggesting Macron was discussing giving up France’s seat on the UN security council to the EU.
In denying the report, the French government described the Telegraph, a paper that UK prime minister Boris Johnson used to write for, as an “English tabloid”.Internet Explorer Channel Network