The French government has taken the extraordinary step of immediately recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia for consultation after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new national security partnership, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.
Ambassador of France to the United States Philippe Etienne (Photo via Embassy of France in Washington D.C. website)
Philippe Étienne, the French ambassador to the US, confirmed the news when reached for comment.
In a statement, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, said Friday that the move was made at the request of President Emmanuel Macron.
"This extraordinary decision reflects the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made on September 15 by Australia and the United States," Le Drian said. "The abandonment of the ocean-class submarine project that Australia and France had been working on since 2016 and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States aimed at studying the possibility of future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines constitute unacceptable behavior among allies and partners; their consequences affect the very concept we have of our alliances, our partnerships, and the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe."
It's believed to be the first time the French have resorted to recall their ambassador(s) in modern times, and from the capital of such a close ally.
While the United States and the United Kingdom sealed an agreement to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."
What the French are saying:
"Allies don't do this to each other," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday, comparing President Biden's announcement to "what Mr. Trump used to do."
U.S. State Department:
Secretary of State Tony Blinken tried to smooth things up by praising France as a crucial ally in the Indo-Pacific but to no avail.
What the French are doing:
The French Embassy in Washington also canceled a gala on Thursday night that was to celebrate the longstanding U.S.-France alliance.
The French ambassador to the United Kingdom is not being recalled, a source with close knowledge told WeekenderNJ.
President Biden heralded a new trilateral agreement with U.K. and Australia - called AUKUS - to help Australia acquire nuclear submarines as a "historic step" to update U.S. alliances to face new challenges, and compete with China across the military, economic and diplomatic dimensions.
Biden has also invited the leaders of Australia, Japan, and India to the White House next week for the first in-person summit of the so-called "Quad" countries.
The AUKUS agreement not only outraged France, which was blindsided by the new trilateral deal, but it also came just one day before the EU was set to present its own much-anticipated strategy for the Indo-Pacific, demeaning the European allies as they sought to flex their own geopolitical muscle.
In an email exchange between the France Embassy and WeekenderNJ, it was confirmed that today’s decision has nothing to do with the events that took place outside Kabul on August 20th.
The New York Times was first to report the news of the recalls.
This story may be updated.
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