France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian declared on Monday that there is a “crisis of trust” with the US after it signed a submarine deal with Australia that cost Paris its pre-existing defense contract with Canberra.
Le Drian described Washington’s move as a “brutal, unexpected and unexplained breach” of a contract and a relationship, the latest statement in the escalating rhetoric since the announcement of the new security alliance last week.
“There is a crisis of trust beyond the fact that the contract is being broken, as if Europe itself didn’t have any interest to defend in that region [Indo-Pacific],” he said.
The US and Britain announced on September 15 a new Indo-Pacific security alliance that will equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, which is widely seen as a move to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
Australia then scrapped a 2016 multi-billion-dollar contract with France to build 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.
The announcement enraged Paris that accused the Washington of “duplicity”, and Canberra of “betrayal” and declared that a crisis struck at the heart of Western alliances.
Le Drian said that while the US is focusing its foreign policy on confronting China, Europe should unite in prioritizing their own strategies and interests.
“The Europeans’ fundamental interests need to be taken into account by the US which is our ally. And the Europeans shall not be left behind in the strategy chosen by the US,” he said.
Earlier in the day, President of the European Council Charles Michel accused the US of a “lack of loyalty” over its new submarine deal with Australia, and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen described Washington’s treatment of Paris as “unacceptable.”
The White House on Monday said it was not backing out of the deal with Australia and that President Joe Biden was going to call his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron during the next few days to reaffirm US commitment to its “oldest and closest partner” and discuss recent developments.