On 15 September 2021, Australia terminated a contract with France to supply conventional submarines, in favor of a nuclear military-technology collaboration with the United States and the United Kingdom. This breach of contract highlighted the nascent AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom and United States) military alliance, which was created in response to China’s growing power in the Indo-Pacific. This tripartite alliance has only served to add insult to injury in the current tense international context, as well as to exacerbate diplomatic relations between France and the United States.
In light of the visit to Paris on October 5, 2021, of the Secretary of State of the United States, Anthony Blinken, to try and appease the situation, The Bridge Tank published an analytical note, written by retired French General Eric de La Maisonneuve.
This issue brief is based on the idea that the contract denounced by Australia, a long-term contract and considerable in financial terms, had become a limited contract in technological terms and modest in relation to the strategic stakes in the Indo-Pacific zone. This Australian reversal reveals several key points:
- The worsening situation in the region, particularly in the South China Sea, the growing antagonism between China and the United States on trade issues, the impressive rise of the Chinese navy and its associated armaments, the multiple Sino-Australian tensions, all lead both the United States and Australia to review their arrangements.
- If, as is to be expected, events in the area precipitate, urgency will prevail and the USA will be forced to install their bases and nuclear submarines directly in Australia, even if it means renting or loaning some of them to the latter. Here again, it is likely that this future contract under the AUKUS umbrella will have difficulty seeing the light of day.
- France for its part should draw the consequences of this diplomatic-strategic fiasco in three directions:
- Revise its “foreign policy/defense policy” complex,
- Re-evaluate the European security pillar and its concretization through a Franco-German alliance under the French Presidency of the EU,
- Rethink in this context its systems of analysis of China to better anticipate its strategy and its actions.
Read the issue brief here (in French): 2021-10-04-IB La Maisonneuve