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France Calls Off US Gala Amid Rift Over New Security Pact

They describe sub deal as a 'knife in the back'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2021 7:01 AM CDT
Upset Over Sub Deal, France Cancels US Gala
The decisive Battle of the Capes, also known as the Battle of the Chesapeake, happened 240 years ago and helped secure US independence.   (Wikipedia/public domain)

(Newser) – While they haven't asked for the Statue of Liberty back, the French have made it very clear that they're not happy about being excluded from the new US-UK-Australia security pact. A Friday gala at France's Washington embassy to celebrate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes, a Revolutionary War battle in which a French fleet defeated a British one, has been called off, reports NBC. A French official tells CNN that other celebrations, including a reception on a frigate in Baltimore, have been toned down. We "don't want to have people to be obliged to be together," the official says.

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France considers the deal a major betrayal, reports the New York Times. "Interestingly, exactly 240 years ago the French Navy defeated the British Navy in Chesapeake Bay, paving the way for the victory at Yorktown and the independence of the United States," French Ambassador to the US Philippe Etienne tweeted after the deal was announced Wednesday. US officials admitted Thursday that France had been given only a few hours' notice of the deal. Under the "AUKUS" pact, the US will help Australia build nuclear-powered submarines, scuppering a $66 billion submarine deal Australia had made with France.

The deal has led to some of the angriest rhetoric from France since disagreements over the invasion of Iraq in 2003, with French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian calling it a "knife in the back" and a "unilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision" that reminds of him of Donald Trump's approach to foreign policy, the Times reports. "This is not done between allies," he said. White House press secretary Jen Psaki downplayed talk of a rift Thursday. "We have a range of shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific, and that will certainly continue," she said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, meanwhile, has rejected Chinese criticism of the deal. He has also laughed off the fact that Biden apparently forgot his name during the joint announcement of the deal, with the US president referring to him as "that fella down under," the AP reports. "From time to time, you know, I’ve been known to let the odd name slip from my memory—that’s pretty normal in our line of work, I’ve got to be honest," Morrison said Friday, adding that in private conversations, he usually calls Biden "Mr. President" or "mate." (Read more France stories.)

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