The United States, which seeks to strengthen its alliance with China at all levels, announced Wednesday (Wednesday) that it would work with Australia and the United Kingdom. a broad security partnership that mainly involves the delivery of nuclear submarines to Canberra.
Immediate consequence of this spectacular announcement: Australia cancels a giant contract with France for the delivery of conventional submarines, provoking the anger of Paris.
“The first major initiative of AUKUS (s.s .: the name of this new pact) will be to deliver a fleet of submarine nuclear propulsion to Australia,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, appearing via video, as well as the British Boris Johnson’s counterpart during an event chaired by Joe Biden at the White House.
France, which sees an Australian $ 90 billion (€ 56 billion) contract being lost to its shipbuilding industry, has immediately come out against a “sad decision” which is “contrary to the letter and spirit of co-operation that prevailed between in France and Australia “, according to a joint announcement of the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs.
It is also uncertain whether Paris will be comforted by the conciliatory statements of Joe Biden, who assured yesterday, Wednesday, that the US wants to “work closely with France” in this strategically important area. Paris is “a key partner” of the United States, he added.
“The United Kingdom, Australia and the United States will be even more closely linked, which reflects the degree of trust between us and the depth of our friendship,” said Boris Johnson, who noted a diplomatic success in his strategy to avoid international isolation after Brexit.
“On the basis of our shared history of naval democracies, we are committed to a common ambition to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-propelled submarines,” the three partners said in a joint statement. .
“The only country with which the United States has ever shared this type of nuclear propulsion technology is Great Britain,” since 1958, a senior White House official had said earlier. “It is a fundamental decision. It will connect Australia, the United States and Britain for generations. “
According to this high-ranking official, the “AUKUS” pact also envisages cooperation between the three countries in cyber defense, artificial intelligence and quantum technologies.
New Zealand, which has banned any nuclear-powered vessels from entering its waters since 1985, has said that future submarines of neighboring and allied Australia will not be welcome in its territory.
China does not refer to the joint statement of the leaders of Australia, the United States and Britain, which speaks of “peace and stability in the Indian and Pacific region.” But there is no doubt that the new alliance is primarily aimed at addressing Beijing’s regional ambitions.
Joe Biden has been repeating since he was elected that he intends to confront China, like his predecessor Donald Trump, but in a very different way, without closing in on a frontal conflict.
Yesterday, Wednesday, he said he wanted to “invest in our greatest source of power, in our alliances” and wanted to “update them to better address today’s and tomorrow’s threats”.
The “contract of the century” for France was torpedoed
The US president will also meet on September 24 in Washington with the prime ministers of Australia, India and Japan to revive a diplomatic corps, the “Quad”, which has been flourishing for years.
As for Morrison, he said today, after the announcement of the AUKUS agreement, that he addresses an “open invitation” for dialogue to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
But yesterday’s announcement, although Joe Biden seemed very cautious in his statements, risks cooling off another alliance, that of France, after torpedoing what was sometimes called the “contract of the century” for the French defense industry.
The French Naval Group was selected in 2016 by Canberra to supply 12 conventional propulsion submarines. At $ 50 billion (€ 31 billion) when it was signed, the value of this contract is currently estimated at A $ 90 billion due to cost overruns and exchange rates.
“The decision we made not to continue with the Attack class submarines and to take another route is not a change of mind, it is a change of necessity,” the Australian Prime Minister explained today.