France Recalls Ambassadors to US, Australia

Anger builds over new alliance, lost submarine contract
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2021 5:20 PM CDT
France Recalls Ambassador Over Security Agreement
From left, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, President Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen walk together in June during the G7 Summit in Cornwall, England.   (Leon Neal/Pool Photo via AP, File)

(Newser) – France escalated its protest of the new security alliance that excludes it on Friday by recalling its ambassadors to the US and Australia. "This extraordinary decision reflects the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made on September 15 by Australia and the United States," Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's foreign affairs minister, said in a statement, USA Today reports. President Emmanuel Macron has made no public comment on the dispute, but he made the decision to recall the diplomats, Le Drian said. The deals among the US, the UK, and Australia "constitute unacceptable behavior among allies and partners," the statement said.

A French official said leaders believe it to be the first time the government has made such a move in modern times. France has said it was blindsided by the agreement, which was cut in secret and included scrapping Australia's contract for a dozen submarines from a France company. That deal was said to be worth $50 billion and $90 billion. The US says Australia gave France notice about the contract, per CNN. Biden administration officials made no comment of significance, saying only that the US will keep working to settle the differences with "our oldest ally and one of our strongest partners," per the Washington Post.

French officials had suggested Thursday, a day after the alliance was announced by President Biden and the prime ministers of the UK and Australia, that their anger will not quickly pass, per the New York Times. And the recall of an ambassador—in this case, Philippe Étienne—is the sort of action usually taken by countries that are not close allies, to punish the other. For example, Russia pulled its ambassador from Washington earlier this year after an intelligence finding that it interfered in the 2020 US presidential election. (France also canceled a gala planned for its embassy in Washington.)

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