The French government is throwing a temper tantrum. Why? Because France will not be getting billions of dollars from Australia. Of course, that is not exactly how French officials are explaining the tantrum.
Here is an excerpt from a 18 September 2021 Politico story:
“French Ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thébault publicly chided Australia on Saturday for canceling a multibillion-euro submarine contract with Paris after striking up a strategic partnership with the U.S. and the U.K.
‘We have been blind-sided intentionally for 18 months,’ Thébault told The Sydney Morning Herald in an interview published Saturday, citing media reports indicating the U.S. and Australia held private talks for months about the partnership while keeping France in the dark. ‘The crime was prepared for 18 months.’
He called the months of negotiation ‘treason in the making’ obfuscated through ‘intentional double language.'”
Also from Politico (17 September 2021):
The U.S., Australia and U.K. announced on Wednesday (15 September 2021) a landmark pact that would allow cooperation on military technology but that also saw Australia ditch a deal worth more than €50 billion with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of submarines, a move [French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves] Le Drian called a ‘stab in the back.’
Even though it was Australia that canceled the contract, the bulk of French ire was squarely directed at the U.S.
‘The American choice to push aside a European ally and partner like France … shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret,’ according to a joint statement from Defense Minister Florence Parly and Le Drian that was France’s first official response to the announcement.”
A 17 September 2021 CNN report gives the other side of the story:
“Australia’s Defense Minister Peter Dutton said in a news conference on Thursday [16 September 2021] that the decision to choose the American nuclear-powered submarine over France’s conventional diesel submarine ‘is based on what is in the best interests of our national security.’
Dutton argued that ‘the French have a version which was not superior to that operated by the United States, the United Kingdom. And in the end, the decision that we have made is based on what is in the best interest of our national security.'”
If Australia has a legally-binding agreement to purchase diesel-powered submarines from France, then the French government may have a legal case against the Australian government.
“The French had signed a contract in 2016 for a dozen conventional diesel-electric submarines and the work to make them was already underway. The deal with French majority state-owned Naval Group was worth at least $66 billion.”
… and …
“Earlier, France’s ambassador to Australia also strayed from diplomatic language when describing what has been widely billed in France as the ‘contract of the century.'”
Apparently, that “contract of the century” was souring.
From Vox, 18 September 2021:
The deal with France was only canceled on Wednesday, just hours before Morrison announced the AUKUS agreement in a teleconference with Biden and Johnson, but it had already begun to unravel — falling behind schedule as costs nearly doubled — when Australia approached the US about acquiring its submarine technology shortly after Biden took office earlier this year.
A 18 January 2021 report by The Australian Financial Review states, “[Australian] Taxpayers have already sunk almost $1.7 billion on the French-designed future submarine program amid the Defence Department’s ongoing frustration with Naval Group over missed deadlines and cost blowouts.”
A 15 September 2021 report by the Australian Broadcasting Commission states, “Australia’s next submarine fleet will be nuclear-powered under an audacious plan that will see a controversial $90 billion program to build up to 12 French-designed submarines scrapped.”
Politico Europe reveals another reason why Australia’s deal with France soured:
“But perhaps the main sticking point in the doomed deal was the dispute over local industry involvement. When he announced the deal in 2016, then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stressed the Barracudas would be built in Australia, with 90 percent local input, sustaining 2,800 local jobs — viewed as a bid to shore up support for his government ahead of an election, which was then just weeks away. . . But the promise of thousands of Australian jobs and a boon for local industry soon faded, too. By 2020, Naval Group had revised the 90 percent local input figure down to 60 percent. By 2021, the French firm was pushing back against even that, saying Australian industry wasn’t up to scratch.”
In a report dated 20 January 2021, the French news site Ouest France (West France) confirms Politico Europe‘s reporting:
“The tricolor naval champion [Naval Group] must provide twelve submarines derived from the French Suffren (but not nuclear), all built in Adelaide, in a yard itself under construction. According to the Australian Financial Review, the program would have increased from 40 to 69 billion Australian dollars (25 to 44 billion euros), it would be behind schedule and the share promised to local industrialists would not be respected.”
France wasn’t delivering within the cost and timing promised, and diesel-powered submarines can’t compete with China’s nuclear-powered submarines.
From the Australian perspective, it made sense for Australia to seek another supplier of submarines, especially submarines that can compete with China.
Did the USA violate a treaty by agreeing to supply Australia with submarines?
This blogger is unaware of any treaty violation.
Can the USA provide superior submarines faster than France can provide inferior ones?
Australia certainly expects the USA to do so.
So, who are the real villains in this controversy?
Perhaps we should ask Groundskeeper Willie.
On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t.
Anyway, French officials criticizing the USA for selling better submarines to Australia is l’ absurdité.
The French government’s tantrum is so embarrassing that Pepe Le Pew has decided to start speaking with an American accent.
Meh, enough about this ridiculous spat. How about some music to lighten the mood:
If you are familiar with my other blog posts, then you should have seen that video coming.
The folks over at Fark.com are also talking about this topic. Click here to read their sometimes-comical/sometimes-smart comments.
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