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Submarines: what was the UK’s role in the crisis?

The Australian submarine crisis illustrates the place that London now wants to occupy on the international scene.

Paris does not take off against Washington and Canberra , since the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom announced, on September 15, a strategic partnership to counter China,  to the detriment of a contract to buy sub – French sailors . Emmanuel Macron thus recalled the ambassadors of France in Canberra and Washington in an unprecedented gesture, but not that of London, yet a stakeholder in this crisis. 

But what then was the exact role of the British here? Officially, the United Kingdom and France still have “a very friendly relationship”, of “immense importance”, Boris Johnson assured Sunday in an attempt at appeasement, before adding in: “Our love for France is ineradicable “. 

In a  forum , the new British Minister for Foreign Affairs, Liz Truss, nevertheless defends the approach of London in the defense agreement concluded with Washington and Canberra. This deal shows the United Kingdom’s determination to ” be firm in the defense of (its) interests”, she writes while highlighting the new place that the post-Brexit United Kingdom intends to occupy in the world . 

“Global Britain”, or the post-Brexit strategy

A new doctrine delivered like a campaign slogan: “Global Britain”. For Boris Johnson, who will be received this week at the White House, this alliance therefore appears to be Britain’s first success post-Brexit on the international scene. 

The United States and the United Kingdom are looking to ease tensions with France after a deal with Australia that Paris described as a “stab in the back.”

U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday requested a call with French President Emmanuel Macron. A spokesperson for the French presidency said Monday that the call will happen in the coming days and that Macron wishes to get some “clarifications.”

Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday said he is “very proud” of his country’s relationship with France and that “our love for France is ineradicable.”

It comes after news last week that Australia was canceling a submarine deal with France and instead was buying new technology from the United States, in cooperation with the U.K.

The new arrangement will see Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines rather than conventional ones — in what some experts describe as an attempt by the United States to step up its position against China in the Indo-Pacific region.

Beijing has heavily criticized the deal between the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, known as AUKUS, calling it “extremely irresponsible.”

‘There was a lie … a major breach of trust’

France has not held back following news of the deal and went as far as recalling its ambassadors from the U.S. and Australia.

“There has been a lie, there has been duplicity, there has been a major breach of trust, there has been contempt. So it’s not OK between us, it’s not OK at all. It means there is a crisis,” Jean Yves Le Drian, the French minister for foreign affairs, said Saturday to Info France 2.

“We recalled our ambassadors to try to understand and show these former partner countries our deep discontent. But also, once they are here we will have the occasion to reevaluate our position in order to defend to the best extent our interests both in Australia and United States,” the minister added.

Le Drian also said that, so far, there isn’t a date to send the two ambassadors back. France has also canceled a meeting scheduled for this week between Paris and London.

A spokesperson for the French presidency on Monday said the original contract between Paris and Canberra includes “compensations,” but did not disclose any values. When Australia signed the deal with France in 2016, the cost of the submarines totaled $40 billion, according to Reuters.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, announced Monday that the 27 foreign affairs ministers will discuss what Australia’s change of heart will mean for ongoing trade negotiations between the bloc and Canberra.

Europe’s diplomatic innocence

“By escalating the dispute, Macron hopes to bring a large chunk of French domestic opinion onto his side; Macron also hopes to force other EU countries to grasp that they now need to take sides, not perpetually equivocate on European defence and industrial strategy,” Mujtaba Rahman, director at the consultancy firm Eurasia, said in a note Saturday.

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