France on Australia's Submarines: It's a Stab in the Back

Following the announcement of the new strategic security alliance between the US, Britain, and Australia. The latter retracted a deal it had concluded with France to buy nuclear-powered submarines, Paris was angered by that decision.

  • France loses deal with Australia to buy nuclear-powered submarines
    France loses deal with Australia to buy nuclear-powered submarines

Following the cancellation of a €36.5 billion (AUD $50 billion) deal made between Australia and the "Naval Group," a French defense contractor to sell submarines to Australia, France's Foreign minister expressed his anger over what he identified as a betrayal.

"It's really a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, this trust has been betrayed," Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info radio.

Le Drian conveyed his anger and bitterness over the event, saying "This is not something allies do to each other."

The foreign minister described this move by Australia as a "sudden and unforeseeable decision very much recalls what Mr. Trump would do," referring to the former US President Donald Trump. US President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that a new "strategic defense pact" with Australia and Britain will be formed. This new pact would see Canberra get a nuclear-powered submarine fleet, a privilege reserved for few American allies instead of the conventional French submarines formerly ordered by Australia.

The French ministry of the armed forces had a harsh comment regarding the issue. This is "very bad news with regards to keeping one's word while adding that France is "clear-eyed as to how the United States treats its allies," said minister Florence Parly on Thursday to RFI radio. She added that it is a serious event in terms of geopolitical and international relations.

New Australian submarines will be banned from New Zealand waters

Consistent with its declared policy, New Zealand will ban Australia's new nuclear-powered submarines from entering its territorial water. The country has a similar decades-long ban on any nuclear-powered vessel. 

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said on Thursday that she was informed earlier by her Australian counterpart on "Canberra's plans to develop nuclear-powered submarines with the help of the United States and Britain."

Ardern played down the repercussions of the AUKUS treaty on the "five eyes" security partnership between the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. "This arrangement in no way changes our security and intelligence ties with these three countries, as well as Canada," Ardern said.

She stressed that her country will not exclude the submarines that Australia intends to obtain. Since 1985, a ban exists on the entry of nuclear-powered ships into New Zealand waters; it was imposed following France's nuclear tests in the Pacific.

Because of this embargo, no US warship has docked in a New Zealand port in more than 30 years, with the exception of The USS Sampson Destroyer in late 2016.

That only happened after the then-prime minister John Key announced a special exemption, declaring that he was "100 percent confident" the warship was not nuclear powered or carrying nuclear weapons.