The EU — and its military powerhouse France — had the worst conceivable day. This happened when they learned they weren’t in the strategic and economic major league when it came to opposing China’s growth in the Asia-Pacific area.
America, Britain, and Australia outsmarted EU foreign affairs leader Josep Borrell in a tough move; this occurred only moments before he was set to reveal Europe’s own vague Indo-Pacific agenda on Thursday.
The three countries signed a historic agreement that allows them to collaborate on cutting-edge military technologies and enables Canberra to develop nuclear-powered vessels.
The European Union is Not Happy
The fact that Brexit Britain was the sole European ally asked to the top table enraged the EU camp even more. This change in Asia-Pacific dominance is especially painful for France, which now appears to be on the verge of losing a multibillion-dollar submarine delivery arrangement with Australia.
It’s the greatest transatlantic spat since the 2003 Iraq war, according to Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian: To paraphrase him: it’s an assassination attempt. We built a trusting connection with Australia, which was violated.
Today, Australia begins an enhanced trilateral security partnership with the UK and the US to enable deeper cooperation on security and defence capabilities. This is an historic opportunity for our countries to strengthen our nations’ security in uncertain times. #AUKUS
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) September 15, 2021
France, predictably, redoubled its calls for Europe to pursue a path of “strategic autonomy,” with less dependence on US technologies and armed might. The prospect of mutually beneficial cooperation between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia on anti-China technologies (such as artificial intelligence) will hurt in Brussels.
The EU and the US will meet in Pittsburgh later in the month to discuss just that topic – harmonizing technical standards. The main issue is that Washington is becoming increasingly frustrated with the EU’s softer stance toward China.
Despite the reservations of new US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron, rushed to sign a significant investment treaty with China at the end of last year.
While U.S. officials want the Pittsburgh discussions to concentrate on developing tech ecosystems that keep China out, European officials are careful to downplay any anti-Beijing aspects of collaboration.
The UK, Australia and US are natural allies, and our new partnership will become increasingly vital for defending our interests around the world and protecting our people back at home.
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) September 15, 2021
A Crisis Has Developed
France, on the other hand, will almost definitely be the first diplomatic crisis. In regard to the legal agreements of its own diesel-electric submarine pact, Paris is challenging the new three-way coalition (AUKUS).
This isn’t over, Le Drian stated emphatically. They’ll need some clarifications and they have agreements in place. Le Drian expressed his displeasure with Washington in a joint declaration with his defense minister, Florence Parly.
To paraphrase Le Drian: the American choice excludes a European ally and companion like France from a critical collaboration with Australia.
This is happening at a moment when France is going to face new challenges inside the Indo-Pacific geographical area, be this over their principles or regard for a global cooperation following the rule of law. It also signifies an ambiguity that France can only start noticing and mourn.