The geopolitical fallout of the American presence in Afghanistan continues in tandem with the "pivot to the Pacific", this time managing to anger one of the USA's most powerful allies, and a thermonuclear power, France, with the sudden cancellation by Australia of a deal for French conventionally powered submarines in favor of American nuclear-powered submarines. This in itself is not surprising, because I've been predicting for some time that there is a possibility that Australia would, under emergent geopolitical pressures, consider developing its own nuclear deterrent. We'll get back to that idea in a moment. Here's the New York Times version of the story shared by J.B.:
There's a disturbing point that the article makes, and it's best to view it in context:
The Biden administration, bent on containing the growing power of China, sees the nuclear submarine deal as a way to cement ties with a Pacific ally that is increasingly at odds with Beijing, while also making that ally more powerful.
Emily Horne, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said: “We have been in close touch with our French partners on their decision to recall Ambassador Etienne to Paris for consultations. We understand their position and will continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our differences, as we have done at other points over the course of our long alliance.”
She was referring to Philippe Etienne, the veteran diplomat who is the French ambassador in Washington.
The United States appears determined to play down the rift with France, portraying the conflict as just another disagreement among friends. France, however, appears to view the American decision as not only offensive in its secretive preparation but also indicative of a fundamental strategic shift that calls into question the very nature of the Atlantic alliance.
Mr. Le Drian’s statement said “the very conception we have of our alliances, our partnerships and the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe” would be affected. Where before France believed it could work hand-in-hand with the United States in confronting China, despite French reservations over perceived American aggressiveness, it now appears to be reconsidering that view.
A senior French diplomatic official described the fallout as a crisis in French-American relations. He said the French foreign and defense ministers had tried in vain, starting a week ago, to reach their American counterparts and speak to them on Monday or Tuesday.
He also said that until Mr. Macron received a letter Wednesday morning from the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, telling him the French submarine deal was scrapped, Australia had given no indication that it would pull out of the deal. (Boldface emphasis added)
Now, for the record, I'm inclined to take France's position here for the simple reason that this is not the first instance in recent weeks where little to no notice was given to a NATO ally that the USA would be dramatically shifting its position. The first instance, of course, was the botched debacle of the Afghanistan pull-out, which left not only American citizens stranded in that country and at the mercy of the Taliban, but the citizens of NATO allies, including the U.K. and other countries, which then had to send in their own special forces, and who likewise had similarly not been prepared adequately by the USA. The United Kingdom was so justifiably angry that members of the House of Commons, including some in Prime Minister Johnson's own Tory party, were quite vocal in condemnation of the Bidenenko regime. Add to this the botched drone strike after several assurances from Pentagon sources like General "Mandarin" Milley that it was based on "good intelligence" and "correct procedure" being followed, it's no wonder that France might be a angry.
But that anger, it should be noted, is expressing itself with a major American ally, France, "reconsidering" its long-term policy vis-a-vis America, and "a fundamental strategic shift that calls into question the very nature of the Atlantic alliance." Take that as code for "what good is that alliance and how is it really serving French, and European, interests?" If they're asking that question in Paris - especially in the wake of raw treatment from an "ally," - rest assured they're also asking it in Berlin, London, and, yes, Tokyo.
In my opinion, their assessment can only be that the USA is no longer an ally in any meaningful way, and that the European powers' national interests have begun to diverge irrevocably from the USA's. The only thing holding the whole thing together is fear of China.
And I imagine for that reason that the average Frenchman right now is exceedingly grateful that President DeGaulle, decades ago had the foresight to create France's independent nuclear and thermonuclear deterrent. With allies like America, who needs enemies like China?
And as for the possibility of an Australian nuclear deterrent, there has been talk of that for years, and one way to head it off is to offer to supply that country with nuclear technologies from somewhere else. If I were Prime Minister Morrison, I might want to rethink things a bit...
See you on the flip side...