The French certainly know how to throw a tantrum when they feel maligned. What better revenge than cancel a gala in Washington celebrating an American Revolutionary War battle.
As Marie Antoinette is to have famously opined during the French Revolution in 1789, “Let them eat cake.” What she actually said was, “Let them eat brioche.” Most people know what happened to her. Found guilty of treason and beheaded on October 14, 1793
Excerpted from The New York Times 9.16.2021
PARIS — President Biden’s announcement of a deal to help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines has strained the Western alliance, infuriating France and foreshadowing how the conflicting American and European responses to confrontation with China may redraw the global strategic map.
Underscoring its fury, France canceled a gala scheduled for Friday at its embassy in Washington to mark the 240th anniversary of a Revolutionary War battle.
In announcing the deal on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said it was meant to reinforce alliances and update them as strategic priorities shift. But in drawing a Pacific ally closer to meet the China challenge, he appears to have alienated an important European one and aggravated already tense relations with Beijing.
France on Thursday reacted with outrage to the announcements that the United States and Britain would help Australia develop submarines, and that Australia was withdrawing from a $66 billion deal to buy French-built submarines. At its heart, the diplomatic storm is also a business matter — a loss of revenue for France’s military industry, and a gain for American companies.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, told Franceinfo radio that the submarine deal was a “unilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision” by the United States, and he compared the American move to the rash and sudden policy shifts common during the Trump administration.
“A knife in the back,” Mr. Le Drian said of the Australian decision, noting that Australia was rejecting a deal for a strategic partnership that involved “a lot of technological transfers and a contract for a 50-year period.”
“This is not done between allies,” Mr. Le Drian said. His comparison of Mr. Biden to Mr. Trump appeared certain to be taken in the White House as a serious insult.
A statement from Mr. Le Drian and Florence Parly, France’s Armed Forces minister, called “the American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France” a regrettable decision that “shows a lack of coherence.”
“This looks like a new geopolitical order without binding alliances,” said Nicole Bacharan, a researcher at Sciences Po in Paris. “To confront China, the United States appears to have chosen a different alliance, with the Anglo-Saxon world separate from France.” She predicted a “very hard” period in the old friendship between Paris and Washington.