The last thing French President Emmanuel Macron needed – with the unofficial start of the election campaign – was the economic and political slap in the face that the country received with the cancelation of its lucrative submarine deal with Australia.
A 32 billion euro contract is not something that the French economy in its current uncertain state can easily give up. Not to mention the heavy blow to France’s pride by two allies – Australia and the US – with Canberra soon to receive eight nuclear submarines from Washington instead of 12 submarines from Paris.
Negotiations between Australia and the US over the alternative supply contract were conducted in such a covert manner that nothing in the meeting between representatives of the French and Australian defense and foreign ministries just two weeks ago could have signaled that Paris would soon receive such a blow.
In an unprecedented response, Macron recalled the French ambassadors to Washington and Canberra for talks in Paris, which is a strong symbolic message, but one that indicates, more than anything else, France’s weakness.
French lawyers are already reviewing the canceled supply contract documents, but no matter how high the compensation, it will not repair the damage caused to France’s international standing.
And not even by rival countries, but by friends. And not by a United States administration that puts “America first,” but one that vowed to do everything in its power to renew the relationship of trust between Washington and its allies.
Despite all their public efforts to “erase” the Trump presidency from American history, Democrats are embracing and redefining the policies of the former president who saw the advancement of American interests as a top priority. And not just purely economic interests, but advancing a policy of deterring China in the Pacific and Southeast Asian arena as well.
The military alliance announced by the United States, Britain and Australia, along with the cancellation of the submarine contract with France, send a very aggressive message to China. Australia has no nuclear weapons. Presumably, the US and Britain will fill this gap, creating a new balance of power in an arena where China felt like the boss.
The French have no choice but to lick their wounds and learn a crucial lesson: arrogance is not a substitute for efficiency. And yet, the cancellation of the deal might bode well for Macron, who might exploit the blow to France’s national pride for his own needs.
Anti-Americanism is a popular commodity in France. Macron may be able to gain voters from the national camp, and thus, tip the scales in his favor. The curse might turn into a blessing. For him.