Diplomatic crisis with France

September 19, 2021

“Diplomatic Crisis”

How a new alliance led to the fraying of another.


  • Last week, the U.S., U.K. and Australia announced a new defense or security pact: AUKUS partnership.
  • This new pact, one of the most consequential in decades, reflects a united front to counter China in the “Indo-Pacific.”
  • As part of the deal, Australia will purchase nuclear submarines from the U.S. – and cancelled a submarine order from France (worth more than $60B). France, a NATO ally of the U.S. and the U.K., says they did not previously know about this announcement.
"It's really a stab in the back."

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian went on to say that the U.S. is “reversing on a certain number of engagements at the global level. And there is a real link between Afghanistan and what is happening with the Australia agreement. Except that in a real alliance, we talk to each other. We don’t hide … we respect each other. We respect each other’s sovereignty. That wasn’t the case and that’s why there is a crisis.”

“We believe in the durability of our alliances, including with France."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki: “We look forward to working with our European partners on the biggest challenges the global community faces—including the continued threat of Covid and the climate crisis.” Pres. Biden has requested a phone call with French Pres. Macron. It will be their first conversation since the AUKUS partnership was announced.

Why It Matters:

  • Historic Pact: Described as one of the the most significant security agreements since WWII. The U.S. rarely shares submarine technology, & this deal with Australia reflects a rise of concern in the region, as the nuclear submarines are more discreet and powerful than others.
  • A crack in NATO? France says America’s lack of diplomatic decorum has put an old friendship at risk. France recalled its ambassadors from the U.S. & Australia – a sign of the seriousness of the split.

While the focus remains on this friendship, U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said China is “embarking on one of the biggest military spends in history” as they increase their naval and air presence throughout the region.

This public disagreement provides a focus (or distraction) right before the United Nations General Assembly, when world leaders gather in New York City. The General Assembly begins their annual meeting tomorrow.

France’s Macron to talk to Biden amid crisis over submarines (Associated Press)

U.S. Spat With France Shows Challenge of Keeping Allies Unified (Wall Street Journal)

Click HERE for a good backgrounder from BBC

United Nations General Assembly: Click HERE to find information on the UN’s annual meeting and a link to watch the meeting live, beginning Tuesday, September 21

by Jenna Lee,