Efforts exerted to heal rift between allies on both sides of the Atlantic

Wednesday, 2021-10-06 08:47:45
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (not seen) in Paris, France, on October 5, 2021. (Photo: Pool via Reuters)
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NDO – The AUKUS defence agreement between the US, UK and Australia has caused a stir in public opinion and provoked a backlash from an important partner of all three countries, France. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on a visit to France, with the mission to appease and ease tensions with the ally.

The US Secretary of State’s visit to France this week was considered Washington’s next step to restoring trust between the two close allies, which has been severely fractured following the AUKUS agreement.

Earlier, the foreign ministers of the two countries had a meeting in New York to discuss steps to ease tensions. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged that the repair of US-France relations will take a lot of time and effort.

The feelings of excitement and optimism of the US, UK and Australia after signing the trilateral security agreement were almost immediately erased, as many countries, including France, expressed fierce opposition to the move.

Australia's announcement to cancel the contract to buy 12 submarines from France and switch to buying nuclear-powered submarines from the US under the terms of AUKUS has angered France. Paris hastily recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia for consultations.

France's strong reaction is understandable. In economic terms, the contract that Australia has just announced to cancel is worth up to US$66 billion, which is very important to Naval Group, a pillar of the French defence industry. Diplomatically, France feels like it has been turned away by its traditional allies. French diplomats referred to the handshake between the US, UK and Australia as “a stab in the back” for France.

For Paris, AUKUS will also negatively affect the Indo-Pacific strategy that the recent presidents of the “hexagonal country” have been striving to pursue. In particular, Australia is an important link in the French Indo-Pacific strategy.

The agreement between the three French partners was announced as France is approaching the presidential election in April 2022, putting the country’s officials under a lot of pressure.

According to some experts, in the long term, France and the US need to quickly close the dispute to cooperate and deal with major security challenges. In fact, Washington still needs France’s position and capacity in many strategic areas.

However, healing the rift in trust between allies on both sides of the Atlantic is no easy task, and will require more substantive conciliatory actions rather than rhetorical words of appeasement and reassurance.

DO QUYEN/Translated by NDO