We Pissed Off France, but for a Good Reason

Wow, France is so pissed off at us that its ambassador to the U.S. has been recalled. Quelle surprise!

The issue has to do with the sale of submarines to Austrialia, which is feeling a need to beef up its defenses against China. David Sanger at the New York Times explains:

According to interviews with American and British officials, the Australians approached the new administration soon after President Biden’s inauguration and said they had concluded that they had to get out of a $60 billion agreement with France to supply them with a dozen attack submarines.

The conventionally powered French subs, the Australians feared, would be obsolete by the time they were delivered. They expressed interest in seeking a fleet of quieter nuclear-powered submarines based on American and British designs that could patrol areas of the South China Sea with less risk of detection.

But it was unclear how they would terminate the agreement with France, which was already over budget and running behind schedule.

“They told us they would take care of dealing with the French,” one senior U.S. official said.

Neither Australia nor the U.S. provided any hints to France about the deal until a few hours before it was made public, and the secrecy appears to have particularly infuriated French President Emmanuel Macron.

Even more interesting — according to the Canberra Times, this deal was being planned in Australia for about eighteen months before it was announced this week.

Australia has nuclear experts, but not a civil nuclear industry and not enough military nuclear knowledge to undertake that work from scratch. Not safely. The global history of nuclear development is littered with the kind of risks that the political masters of Australia’s boutique military is infamous for avoiding. Submarine nuclear reactors would needed to be acquired, but the United States had refused to share the technology before.

Dealing with the French was inflicting its own wounds on the government. It has offered an amicable separation from Naval Group. The Prime Minister will say nice things about what was submitted in the final review, no matter the private views of the parties, and has offered to pay “all reasonable costs” associated with them packing up and moving out as well as the contracted exit fees.

There was a bigger problem. A problem to Trump them all.

Linda Reynolds, then the defence minister, and Morrison were the only two Australian ministers with knowledge of the early secret work through 2020. Later Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne was read in as informal negotiations developed, but Australia couldn’t turn a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ as the go-ahead to approach then US president Donald Trump never came.

But once Joe Biden was POTUS, Australia felt more comfortable proposing the deal.

The new deal is part of a new trilateral partnership among the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, called “AUKUS,” which includes extensive cooperation on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing among the three countries. A guy writing at Foreign Policy says this is all about China:

… the actions announced on Sept. 15 will complicate Chinese efforts to project power at sea and control critical lines of communication. As such, they will impede future Chinese efforts to overawe nearby countries and gradually persuade them to adopt more compliant postures. In short, it is a move designed to discourage or thwart any future Chinese bid for regional hegemony.

I took a quick survey of some right-wing sites and get the impression that, while they did make an effort to frame the deal as a big Biden fail, their hearts aren’t really in it. If Trump had made this deal, they would have called it the most brilliant in history. I also get the impression that foreign policy experts think this is a good move.

We will have to patch things up with France, though. Josh Marshall writes that neither Australia nor the U.S. anticipated that France would react so badly.

There are obvious and understandable reasons for the French to be upset about it. A big part of that is that it’s a weapons deal worth tens of billions of dollars. But that alone doesn’t explain the intensity of the response which seems in part to lay bare France’s dated pretensions to be a global military power …

… But reading the latest reporting the US and Australia seemed to believe that if they didn’t act in secret the French and China would find out and work to sabotage the deal. So the US made the decision – quite simply – to act behind France’s back. Where we erred, if we did, is not realizing just how angry the French would get.

How did we miss that? Again, if we did? It seems clear the French-Australian deal was on the rocks. The French seem to have been in some denial about that. We seem to have expected they’d be upset but not terribly surprised. But the US and Australia seem to have been equally in denial on that front in the way people often are when they are needing to and avoiding breaking bad news. The US told the Australians it was on them. The Australians seem to have told the US that the French saw the writing on the wall.

We’ll have to do some big, splashy thing to make it up to France, I guess. See also Rana Mitter at The Guardian, The Aukus pact is a sign of a new global order.

In other news:

The rightie rally in Washington DC today appears to have fizzled.

Another debt ceiling crisis is looming. It’s all about Mitch McConnell wanting to destroy America and blame Joe Biden.

Yesterday Trump sent a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking him to start “decertifying” the 2020 election. I say again, he did that yesterday.

Worth reading — For one Capitol reporter, Jan. 6 was the final straw — but he had watched a crisis brew for years.

Paris Gargoyles

23 thoughts on “We Pissed Off France, but for a Good Reason

  1. Regarding the Justice for J6 rally, I was there. Check photo #8 and the last paragraph. 


    Also: https://wtop.com/dc/2021/09/fences-up-security-heightened-as-dc-prepares-for-justice-for-j6-rally/

    Counter-protesters were in the minority. Cops outnumbered the protesters. I think if they had counted heads, there were as many media people as protesters. Probably 200, maybe 250 protesters. Reports of 4 to 5 hundred people included the media.

    Mostly the protesters were polite. Had some good discussions. The folks I talked to aren't in favor of voter suppression, or would not admit to it. They think Trump won and one guy was pretty rude when I emphasize that Sidney Powell's lawyers are saying she didn't intend anyone to accept her claims (in written submissions to the court) to be taken literally. 

    This may be a key 2022 issue. GOP candidates will be required by Trump to buy into the big lie. The 'authorities' behind the big lie are flaming out. (Lindell and Powell)  The faithful won't budge but the rest of the electorate might be convinced the bat-shit crazy are too much.

    • Well, even if it was a flop the guy who organized it was able to milk the rubes for some big money. And he managed to put the tax payers on the hook for some big money also.

      So in Trump world he has increased his standing exponentially. Who knows, if Trump ever manages to get reelected the guy who organized the J6 for Justice protest has proved himself worthy to be the Secretary of State or the Attorney General.

      • I'm not convinced the event will advance the group or the leaders of the group. Trump dissed the event in advance. The organizer wanted to put a lid on inflammatory rhetoric and violence. (It looked like that was for real.) 

        The event on J6 was a one-off for DC. The "over-reaction" by cops IMO was intentional. They said to Trumpsters, "Never again in DC." They refused to allow violence against counter-protesters. I suspect that's policy (for DC.) Not because the cops cared about my sign, but they've had it with the Proud Boys coming to DC acting like a permit for a demonstration is a hunting license for counter-protesters. (As was the case in months after the election, prior to J6.) 

        The "Justice For J6" rally was intended to be a recruiting tool for Trumpsters who are "moving on" emotionally. Trump isn't going to be "reinstated." Lindell held his "symposium" promising proof and delivering zip. A lot of people who were holding their breath for that now know. Trump has no evidence they can take to court. Trump has great instincts – he's losing the crowd because he can't serve red meat.

        IMO. Trump would have backed the rally if organizers promised they'd be kicking ass someplace. (Protesters didn't outnumber the cops.)

        Proud Boys and Three-percenters didn't show for two reasons. Trump threw the J6 crowd under the bus after they went all-out for him on J6. Second, they need a climate where violence will bring their side to power. (Fascism has taken control, even as a minority, by violence and the threat of violence.) On Saturday, every thug would have been detained as soon as they stepped out of line and charged if there was an injury.

        Contrast this with the KKK when they wrote the book on domestic terrorism. Cops would willingly hand over a prisoner to the mob with a wink-nod. Demonstraters in DC explained that the violence against the cops would not have happened if the police had stepped aside. This wasn't said from the stage, but some in the media challenged the idea there was no violence by showing clips of it, which brought that honesty.

        The bad news is that the door is open to local violence, especially when local cops are sympathetic to Proud Boys doing what the thugs in blue are inhibited from doing.

  2. France is pissed?


    Too bad about France's hurt fee-fee's about our sub deal with Australia, and how it affects France's pockets, and more importantly, its self-esteem – largely because this deal ends their hallucinations about still being a world power.

    Note to the French:  When you finally were driven out of your last imperial territories, you guys basically stopped being considered a "world power"  

    It was in the late 50's and very early 60's when you losers finally bugged out of Algeria (long overdue), and also begged us Americans to take over the war you were having in the last imperial state you controlled: Vietnam.

    You guys owed us for Vietnam.  

    And $60 billion we'll get from Australia for the subs ain't gonna pay off the costs in blood and treasure we spent over the 15 years after you handed us your failing war.  And let's not talk about the costs in blood and treasure to the poor Vietnamese people.

    So France, sit down and STFU.

    We Americans saved your asses in WW I, WW II, and Vietnam.And you still owe us, France.

    • I am not sure your forte is accounting, as one can cite so much we owe to France.  If we had to depend on the British for our cuisine we wouldn't be much of a country.  The Aussies are right, though, the French are not known for their engineering.  

      After Trump, though, we need all the friends we can get.  What kind of debt do we owe for that?  Did you figure that in?

    • Slow down, pilgrim.

      France owes us for Vietnam? How do you get that?

      And when NATO, unasked, voted to back us up in Afghanistan (the initial strike, not the monstrosity we later spawned), the French took the most casualties in the first two weeks of combat. For us.

      That's what friends do.





  3. I have to wonder if this is another nail in the coffin of the EU. Brexit was a disaster, bt it seems to have hurt the EU as much as the UK, at least in terms of its institutional strength. And as much as I generally approve of the EU, how can anyone belong to a club that includes the likes of Hungary?

    As for the substance, this is a very good idea. China has been throwing their weight around in the region with very little pushback. And it has to stop. Much as we resent it, Asia is an enormous part of the future, a part that will only get bigger. China wants unfettered sway, and this can't be allowed. Not that anyone else, including us, should have that position, either. It has to be multilateral.

    Australia and the US have had a close security and intelligence relationship for decades. We need them, and they need to know we are there for them. And this makes perfect sense.

    It seems more likely that Washington and Canberra knew full well that Macron would be livid, and judged it an acceptable consequence. We will have to mend this relationship, but then Macron also knows just why it happened this way and, if he's honest, why it had to happen this way.

    We're all grownups. They have reason to be pissed, but grownups know they have to respond like grownups. 

    • "We're all grownups. They have reason to be pissed, but grownups know they have to respond like grownups. "

      This, right here.  For four years we didn't have a grownup in charge of the US; we had a spoiled brat who was also surrounded by truly awful people.  Now we truly have grownups in charge.  I'm sorry if France is pissed off at this, but the Biden Administration most likely considered this and is also moving to make amends.

      China's antics are a cause for concern, and let's face it, Australia is only getting nuclear-powered submarines , not nuclear weapons.  The subs will be armed with conventional weapons, so it's not as if Australia is going to lob a couple of SLBMs at Beijing.

    • Moon of Alabama is a great source for alternative perspective on International Relations/Foreign Policy, but you have to account for his bias, which is somewhere between Old Euro-Socialist (yay) and KGB propagandist (boo).  Important counterpoint to NY Times & WaPo, which tend to uncritically publish US/Globalist (some call "the Borg") perspective.

      • Oh I do take his views with a grain of salt but the Australian decision strikes me as strange and potentially very damaging.  This is definitely going to further infuriate their largest trading partner.

        And, I had forgotten but Australia is—well was— negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU.  I believe France is now saying it will be signed just after Hell freezes over.

        I can see wanting to go nuclear but Australia could have just bought the French Barracuda from the same company.

        The current Australian Gov't and PM Scotty from Marketing appear amazingly incompetent.

        To throw in a bit of humour

        <i><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTCqXlDjx18"&gt; Australia's Defence Policy Explained





  4. Yeah, our new Sub deal with Australia is an "interesting" surprise. 

    Some more background which might help explain French frustration: the French subs Australia was going to buy were based on an existing nuclear-power design; much of the cost overruns were caused by changing to non-nuclear engines, as required by original Aussie specs.  Worse, the US subs use Highly-Enriched Uranium (HEU) fuel, which is a much bigger step toward nuclear proliferation than the Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) that the French nuclear powered subs use.  France – which has invested heavily in nuclear tech (something like 90% of their electricity comes from nuke plants) – got blindsided by a major change in Aussie & US stance on nuclear proliferation.

    Bonus butt-hurt: France may feel like they're being punished (by US) for the Nordstream 2 pipeline, which benefits Germany & other EU countries that don't use nuke power.

    In any case – as Stephen Walt ("a guy"?) notes in the FP link (thx, maha!), the bigger implications are a US shift away from the EU (/NATO) and towards a narrower "Anglo" alliance ("AUKUS").  This is the part that scares me most; I think it's REALLY important for US to support the EU as a strong, independent – but sympathetic – power center in the multi-polar world that is supplanting the fading US hegemony.

    But maybe it's time to kick the EU out of the nest and let (/make?) them get their merde/scheisse together & figure out a way to protect themselves (from Russia?).  The danger in doing this now is the possibility that economic interests will draw them into the SCO orbit (Chinese Economic power + Russian resources).  China IS going to build new transportation networks connecting all of Eurasia (& maybe Africa?), and it WILL benefit all countries involved (economically at least). 

    US rightly fears this, but our reactions have mostly been very stupid.  We have fallen deep into the trap of Empire, focusing on military equipment & alliances while our infrastructure & industrial power continue to decline.


    Bonus problem with the NYT article at the top: the concern that "the French subs would be obsolete by the time they were delivered" goes double for the US subs, which won't be available until 2030 or so (which will require Australia to spend a bunch of extra money on their existing fleet of aging subs to get by in the meantime).


    Bonus bitchy observation about AUKUS: this new alliance has the dubious distinction of containing the 3 countries on Earth which have been most influenced/damaged by FOX/Murdoch propaganda.

  5. I wonder how much of Macron's outrage is due to the fact he is facing a serious threat from his right in the upcoming election

    • That could be it.  And of course, Macron is far better than anyone the Right in France could put up.  

      And if anyone tosses in the Yellow Vests…don't.  They have connections to the Right in France and to Putin.

  6. I apologize to France.

    I'm half-Russian, and half-Ukrainian, so I may have added my antipathy to another of the invaders of the part of the world my family's from.

  7. Read  this I am confident that we are capable of a chance of being a

     world leader.  We do have some work to do.




  8. The US does not understand the French.  The French are like coconuts, hard outside, not smiling, not too pleasant but if they let you inside, they are soft and you have friends for life.  I was reading the Normandie press from France and in Cherbourg where the subs were being manufactured they had built large buildings for Australians workers and their families working there, and all were crying.  The French workers were complaining maybe 25% about loss of business and money and 75% about loss of trust and sense of betrayal (this here would not be understood here as in the US everything is about $$.).  Frankly I don’t see how the Aussies will pay for those white elephants subs.  They don’t have a design, a cost and maybe delivery in 2040?  I believe it was more the US wishing to get military bases in Australia (Morrison already said they will be built in N. Australia) and the UK planting their attack war machines in that area.  New Zealand, Indonesia and all are quite upset.   They all have an agreement against nuclear anything.   

    Plus the US always thinks that bigger arms are better – well the Taliban in Afghanistan did not have top of the line tanks and weapons, and they won the war.

  9. I got another thought.  Just imagine if the US had a $40 billion defense contract with France and then after 4 years, and US workers with families in France, the French told the US through the news media the contract is off, that France decided to use the EU countries instead because they have a better package.  It would be in all the US papers!  Those horrible French, don’t they remember the wars?  Those cheese eating monkeys – like I was called during the Iraq war.  Here they love to bash the French for anything, so just think if they had a $40 billion reason!  Oh la la, I would not be able to walk outside!!

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