Has AUKUS caused an irreparable dent in Australia-France relationship?

Highlights

  • French and other NATO countries are at loggerheads with each other.
  • The French are upset about Aussies unilaterally scrapping the NATO deal
  • This has caused clear fissures in NATO

In 2014, they were fighting shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan against the Taliban. Seven years later there are clear cracks in the relationship of key North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) constituents.

France has raised the banner of revolt against the UK, the US and Australia. At the heart of the issue is AUKUS – a trilateral partnership between Australia, the UK, and the US. Partnership in itself wouldn’t have been much of an issue for the French, but they are fuming over the fact that the partnership resulted in the withdrawal of the US$66 billion contract which Paris had signed with Canberra to supply submarines.

The deal, which aimed to contain China’s growing tentacles in the Indo Pacific, was scrapped in favor of AUKUS.

Interestingly, it is now being reported that details of deal AUKUS were agreed upon during the G7 summit in Cornwall the past June. Also, there have been reports that talks with the US went on for months in utmost secrecy. As details emerge of the making of the AUKUS pact, it is being further reported that French President Emmanuel Macron was being kept in the dark during the G7 summit by Australians, is being viewed as immoral and unethical.

Many have argued that Australia did it for the sake of national security. Fair enough, a nation never compromises on its national security – that is a given. In statecraft it is also said that ‘morality takes a backseat’ – that is also a verity. But what on the earth happened to the basic courtesy of diplomacy? The French could have been kept in loop about the cancellation of their deal. Even the countries mired in the worst of disputes, have communication lines open for discussing bilateral issues.

This should not be a hyperbole, if I say that AUKUS has cost the coherence within the 70-year-old NATO alliance – a grouping that has fought some of the fiercest wars shoulder to shoulder.

This brings us to the second key observation on the issue. It seems the US has no longer any great interest in the outdated behemoth that is NATO. Also, it reveals a key trait of the US, which should dissuade nations from building close partnerships with Washington DC – it doesn’t harbour any particular loyalty to those who have stood by its side. However sad it may be, this is the hard truth of the US. 

Look at the pattern. They got France, the UK, Australia – and many others – to fight their wars in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last 20 years. And both the countries are in a mess.

In the hindsight, Australians could have acted far more maturely and kept communication channels crystal clear with France.

(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions or views of Kalkine Media or its related entities.)

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