France on Friday recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia in protest of a new partnership between the two countries to deliver Australia nuclear-powered submarines.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement Friday afternoon that the decision was made by French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronBiden speaks with Macron, Harris to meet with French president in Paris French ambassador to Australia blasts sub deal with US: 'Way you treat your allies does resonate' America's subplot and Europe caught in the undertow MORE.
“This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on 15th September by Australia and the United States,” the foreign minister said.
“The cancellation of the Attack class submarine program binding Australia and France since 2016, and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States meant to launch studies on a possible future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines, constitute unacceptable behavior between allies and partners, whose consequences directly affect the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe,” he added.
France has reacted angrily to the new partnership between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, including by canceling a gala planned in Washington, D.C. The foreign minister earlier this week compared President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Methane fee faces negotiations White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege The No Surprises Act: a bill long overdue MORE to former President TrumpDonald TrumpYoungkin ad features mother who pushed to have 'Beloved' banned from son's curriculum White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled MORE over the agreement, recalling the frequent unilateral decisions of the prior administration.
France had been seeking a multibillion-dollar defense agreement with Australia, and the new partnership, called AUKUS, means Paris will miss out on the lucrative opportunity.
Biden administration officials said they gave France advanced notice of the pact before Wednesday's announcement, but French officials appear to have received a heads up just hours beforehand.
The decision to recall an ambassador is a rare occurrence and one that signals considerable increased tensions from France, a close and longtime U.S. ally. Earlier this year, Russia recalled its ambassador to the U.S. after Biden replied in the affirmative when asked if Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinNew hacking efforts show Russia undeterred by US actions Putin blasts cancel culture, calls gender fluidity 'crime against humanity' Russia breaks daily COVID-19 infections, death record MORE was a “killer” during an interview with ABC News. The U.S. also recalled its ambassador to Russia, but both officials have since returned to their respective posts.
The spat with France represents another foreign policy challenge for Biden, who has put a priority on repairing U.S. alliances after a tumultuous and unpredictable four years of Trump.
“We have been in close touch with our French partners on their decision to recall Ambassador Etienne to Paris for consultations,” National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement.
“We understand their position and will continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our differences, as we have done at other points over the course of our long alliance. France is our oldest ally and one of our strongest partners, and we share a long history of shared democratic values and a commitment to working together to address global challenges.”
“The Transatlantic Alliance has fostered security, stability, and prosperity around the world for more than seven decades, and our commitment to those bonds and our work together is unwavering,” State Department spokesman Ned Price added in a statement.
“We hope to continue our discussion on this issue at the senior level in coming days, including at UNGA next week, in line with our close bilateral partnership and commitment to cooperation on a range of issues, including the Indo-Pacific,” Price said, referencing upcoming United Nations General Assembly that both Biden and Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenIsraeli official says plans to reopen US mission for Palestinians maybe shelved Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Nearly 200 Americans want to leave Afghanistan, State Department tells Congress MORE are scheduled to attend.
Asked to react to the French foreign minister's announcement on Friday, Pentagon spokesman John KirbyJohn KirbyTrump Defense chief blocked idea to send 250,000 troops to border: report Pentagon offers to pay families of those killed in Afghan drone strike China, US military officials held talks to discuss relations MORE reiterated during a press briefing that senior administration officials had been in touch with their French counterparts, including before Wednesday’s announcement. Kirby also said that Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinRepublican spin on Biden is off the mark Biden remarks on Taiwan leave administration scrambling Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan MORE spoke with his counterpart Friday morning.
“It was clear from the discussion that there is still much work to do in terms of our defense relationship with France,” Kirby said, clarifying that he meant “more things to work on” like shared challenges and interests.
“There is no regional divide that separates the interests of our Atlantic and our pacific partners,” Kirby added.
Updated at 8:59 p.m.