The government of French President Macron announced Friday afternoon it is recalling their ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations in the wake of a defense agreement with the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom that shut out France and cancelled a multi-billion dollar submarine deal between France and Australia. This is the first time France has recalled its U.S. ambassador in the well over 200 years of close relations dating to France’s support for the American Revolution.
Statement by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (17 September 2021)
At the request of the President of the Republic, I am recalling to Paris without delay our ambassadors to the United States and to Australia for consultations.
This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on 15th September by Australia and the United States.
The cancellation of the Attack class submarine program binding Australia and France since 2016, and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States meant to launch studies on a possible future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines, constitute unacceptable behavior between allies and partners, whose consequences directly affect the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe.
Two days ago, France’s Ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne wryly observed the U.S.-Australia betrayal of France took place on a key anniversary in U.S.-French relations, “Interestingly, exactly 240 years ago the French Navy defeated the British Navy in Chesapeake Bay, paving the way for the victory at Yorktown and the independence of the United States.”
Interestingly, exactly 240 years ago the French Navy defeated the British Navy in Chesapeake Bay, paving the way for the victory at Yorktown and the independence of the United States.
— Philippe Etienne (@Ph_Etienne) September 16, 2021
Joint communiqué issued by Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly (16 September 2021)
France notes the decision just announced by the Australian Government of the halting of the ocean-class Future Submarine Programme [FSP] and the launch of cooperation with the United States regarding nuclear-powered submarines.
This decision is contrary to the letter and spirit of the cooperation which prevailed between France and Australia, based not only on a relationship of political trust but also the development of a very high-level defence industrial and technological base in Australia.
The American decision, which leads to the exclusion of a European ally and partner like France from a crucial partnership with Australia at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, be it over our values or respect for a multilateralism based on the rule of law, signals a lack of consistency which France can only notice and regret.
With the Joint Communication on Europe’s strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region being published today, France confirms its desire for very ambitious action in that region aimed at maintaining “freedom of sovereignty” for all. As the only European nation present in the Indo-Pacific, with nearly two million of its nationals and more than 7,000 military personnel, France is a reliable partner which will continue to honour its commitments there, as it has always done.
The regrettable decision just announced on the FSP only heightens the need to raise loud and clear the issue of European strategic autonomy. There is no other credible path for defending our interests and values around the world, including in the Indo-Pacific region.
The French Embassy in Washington abruptly canceled a gala Wednesday night in response to the U.S.-Australia announcement. The gala was to commemorate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes.
Ambassador Etienne had recently been in New York City to commemorate the 9/11 attacks.
J'ai participé ce matin à une cérémonie en l’honneur des victimes françaises des attaques terroristes du 11/9 au Consulat général de France à NY.
C’est avec une grande émotion qu’une gerbe de fleurs y a été déposée devant la plaque commémorative. #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/0TtRoU0SmK
— Philippe Etienne (@Ph_Etienne) September 12, 2021
France’s recall of their U.S. ambassador comes after Joe Biden left the White House early Friday afternoon for a long weekend at his Rehoboth Beach, Delaware vacation home.