The secret talks behind the US deal, which France called “treason”


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According to French officials, Mr Blinken remained silent on June 25 as his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian welcomed him back to Paris – where Mr Blinken spent his high school years – and extolled the importance of the French submarine deal .

And it was not until August 30, when the French and Australian Defense and Foreign Ministers held their annual “consultation”, that they issued a joint communiqué saying that the two countries were determined to deepen cooperation in the defense industry and that “ underlined the importance of the future submarine program. “

At this point, not only did the Australians know the program was dead, they had almost sealed the agreement in principle with Washington and London.

French Ambassador to the United States, Philippe Tienne, said in several interviews that he first heard of the deal in leaked news reports in the Australian media and Politico. Other French officials said they were suspicious that something had happened a week ago, but received no immediate response from Mr Blinken or Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. The first American official to discuss the details with Ambassador Étienne was Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor, hours before the public announcement on Wednesday.

American officials insist that it is not their job to speak to the French about their business deal with Australia. But now, in the face of the explosion, some officials say they regret that they did not insist that the Australians spoke to the French earlier about their intentions.

The Chinese government got no heads-up either, no surprise as the official American position is that the submarine deal is not aimed at any particular nation. But China’s first reaction to the new alliance, awkwardly named AUKUS (for Australia, Great Britain and the United States) was that it was “extremely irresponsible” and that an arms race would begin. In fact, the Pentagon’s latest China report says the Chinese Navy has built a dozen nuclear submarines, some of which can carry nuclear weapons. Australia has vowed never to use nuclear weapons.

Even before Mr Macron called the ambassadors back, Mr Biden’s helpers seemed surprised by the ferocity of the French reaction, especially by Mr Le Drian’s characterization that it was a “knife in the back”. You have hinted that the French have been too dramatic and believe that the two countries will gradually return to normal relations. History suggests they might be right: a huge rift sparked by the British and French invasion of the Suez Canal in 1956 was eventually whitewashed, as was the “Nixon shock” with the Japanese in 1971 when the United States did not announce their decision to leave the gold standard.

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