President Biden calls Emmanuel Macron after AUKUS controversy
France made its opposition to the trilateral security alliance clear after focusing its ire on Australia. The two countries had an existing agreement to build 12 French-designed submarines, with Canberra having pulled out of the major contract in the process of allying with the UK and US. It was believed to be worth £48billion, but is now obsolete.
Boris Johnson has since attempted to cool tensions by saying France had nothing to worry about from the deal.
He later said the country should “get a grip” and “give him a break”.
The US also reached out to Mr Macron this week.
President Joe Biden spoke with the French leader during a 30-minute phone call on Wednesday.
Emmanuel Macron: The French President could be motivated to push for an EU army because of AUKUS
AUKUS: The trilateral defence agreement has been described as an historic moment
However, before this, France moved to make its rage heard and felt, cancelling defence talks with the UK that were set to take place this week and withdrawing its ambassador to the US.
The country’s willingness to react so quickly and furiously has left some convinced that Paris could take further action in the future.
Dr Alim Baluch, a professor who specialises in German politics at the University of Bath, suggested the AUKUS debacle could provide Mr Macron with the motivation to push for the creation of an EU army — something he has previously expressed interest in.
He said that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen already wanted to get more use out of the EU’s battle groups and by extension create a bloc army, with Mr Macron potentially not far behind.
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He told Express.co.uk: “France and Germany seem interested in pursuing [an EU army].
“And now, we see how France is really angry at the US, and Australia and the UK — maybe that will create more motivation to create these things.
“The defence policy question was always about whether to duplicate structures, finding out what the point was of EU structures if we have NATO.
“Most of the EU member states are NATO member countries and the ones that are not are NATO friendly — now we see a big push towards more pronounced EU structures that can be used in a NATO context but could also be used independently.”
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Submarines: Australia already had a contract with a French company to build submarines
Boris Johnson: The PM moved with the US to cool tensions with France this week
France has since said that Australian military officials sent them a letter confirming they were “extremely satisfied” with French submarines just hours before they announced the AUKUS defence pact.
Mr Macron is yet to take a phone call from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The French company Naval Group, who held the previous contract with Australia, is also to send a detailed invoice to Canberra in the coming weeks for cancelling the deal.
Hervé Grandjean, the French ministry of defence spokesperson, told French television this week: “On the same day that President Biden and Prime Minister Morrison made the announcement, the defence ministry and Naval Group received an official letter, a letter with an official stamp on it, from the Australian navy.”
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He said this came from the defence ministry and a senior official – “the admiral who is overseeing the project” – telling France he had “taken a close look at the state of progress in the contract, in line with the contract, and was extremely satisfied that performance of the French submarine was excellent, which clearly means that we were to move to the next phase of the contract”.
While the Australian government confirmed it had sent the letter to Naval Group on Wednesday last week, it played down its significance.
A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Defence said: “On 15 September 2021, Naval Group was advised that the formal exit of a system review had been achieved as required under the contractual arrangements in place at the time.”
They added: “This correspondence did not refer to or authorise commencement of the next phase of the programme, which remained subject to the announcement of decisions by the Australian government.”
Xi Jinping: The Chinese President reacted furiously to the news of the pact
Mr Macron has since reached out to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
AUKUS will also look to work in the region.
It is believed it intends on influencing China’s growing taste for expansion in the South China Sea, which has been a hotbed of tension for years.
Chinese state media carried editorials denouncing the pact, and one in the Global Times newspaper said Australia had now “turned itself into an adversary of China”.