White House says it won’t drop Australia nuclear deal but Biden will call Macron after furious reaction

The US is not planning to cover France’s economic loss over the cancelled submarine deal with Australia, says press secretary Jen Psaki

Justin Vallejo
New York
Monday 20 September 2021 20:07
France's Macron to talk to Biden amid crisis over submarines
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Joe Biden will call Emmanuel Macron in the coming days to “reaffirm” the United States’ commitment to France following the country’s dramatic reaction to a new nuclear alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the leaders of the two countries would speak in the coming days, but that the US had no plans to abandon the “AUKUS” alliance that sunk France’s $66bn submarine contract with Australia

“What I expect the president will do on that call is reaffirm our commitment to working with one of our oldest and closest partners on a range of challenges that the global community is facing,” she said.

Asked if the US is responsible for “reparations” to make up for France’s economic loss over the cancelled contract, Ms Psaki said the administration understands that hundreds of jobs would be lost but that it would not be the focus of Mr Biden’s call with Mr Macron.

The call was requested by the US, and Ms Psaki said the two countries were working on scheduling before a time is confirmed.

It will be Mr Biden’s first discussion with Mr Macron since the AUKUS alliance was announced in conjunction with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and UK prime minister Boris Johnson.

In response, France recalled its ambassadors from Australia and the US, and cancelled an event to mark the 240-year US-French relationship dating to the “Battle of the Capes” during the American Revolutionary War against Britain.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Franceinfo radio that it was a “unilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision”.

“A knife in the back,” he said, noting that it killed its own submarine deal with Australia that involved “a lot of technological transfers and a contract for a 50-year period”.

French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said there was “shock” and “anger” over the “grave crisis”, but that it was now time to move forward.

“What’s at play in this affair, this crisis … are strategic issues before being commercial issues,” Mr Attal said, according to the Associated Press. “The question is ... the forces present, the balance, in the Indo-Pacific where part of our future is at play, and our relations with China.”

He said that Mr Macron would seek explanations from Biden about what lead to the “major rupture” in confidence.

In response to the fraying of diplomatic relations with America’s allies, Ms Psaki said relationships with global leaders always need to be worked on.

“Every step [Biden] has taken, from the moment he took office was with the intention of rebuilding alliances and rebuilding those partnerships that were frayed over the last four years,” Ms Psaki said.

“That doesn’t mean that the bar is we always agree with everything our partners and allies do, nor will they agree with everything we do, but that our relationships are stronger, have a stronger basis, that we have the ability to work together on the global issues the world is facing,” she added.

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