Australia’s sudden decision to terminate the contract with the French company Naval Group on submarine construction

France has decided to cancel a joint celebration with the US on the anniversary of the Battle of the Chesapeake, relations between the two great powers are now much worse than they were 240 years ago. A senior French Navy official, who had traveled to Washington to attend the celebrations, will return to Paris ahead of time. The reason was described by The New York Times as “a reflection of the anger of French politicians and diplomats about the submarine deal”.

Australia’s sudden decision to terminate the contract with the French company Naval Group on submarine construction. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the news a “stab in the back”. As we all know, in a joint statement, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison and US President Joe Biden officially announced the formation of the AUKUS defense and security partnership. The direct consequence of this agreement was the withdrawal of the Australians from the multi-billion dollar contract with the French.

Barracuda-class Submarine
Barracuda-class Submarine

Breaking the agreement to build French submarines for Australia is not only a blow to the French shipbuilding industry, but also a blow to Paris’ ambitions in this part of the world, as the French see Canberra as an important ally. France’s resentment of the United States is not only political, but also commercial. President Emmanuel Macron criticized NATO and said the alliance should protect Europe, not solve US foreign policy problems.

Analysts agree that France’s weak position is a direct consequence of its foreign policy toward Washington and London. Previously, under pressure from the US, France canceled the contract to supply Mistral-class helicopter landing docks to Russia. In 2016, France and Australia reached an agreement to supply 12 new generation Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A submarines, to replace Australia’s more than 20-year-old Collins-class submarines. But it was not until 2019 that the contract was officially signed and the French Naval Group, was selected to implement this huge $66 billion deal.

This event is reminiscent of India’s purchase of Rafale fighter jets from France in 2016, the contract from the original 126 aircraft, reduced to only 36. The breakdown of the $66 billion submarine deal is a huge loss for France, not just money but reputation. There’s nothing that can be done about this break. At the time the contract was canceled, perhaps France and Australia were only agreeing on weapon configuration and design drawings, but had not yet ordered materials as well as field work such as building factories to new construction of these submarines.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said he understood France’s frustration with Australia over the “broken contract”, but he believes that the agreement between the UK, US and Australia is not a “betrayal” to France, but simply helps Australia improve Australia’s ability to deal with the threat from China. But it is clear that Paris is not happy with Australia, they are even more angry with the US. French Foreign Minister, Le Drian said: “There has been duplicity, contempt and lies – you can’t play that way in an alliance.”


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