The scandal caused by the failure of the contract for the supply of French submarines to Australia develops into a conflict between the United States and Europe. On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, the foreign ministers of the EU countries expressed support for France, accusing the United States of undermining cooperation with Europe in the Indo-Pacific region. The EU leadership calls the US actions “unacceptable” and declares its determination to strengthen its own defense capabilities. Reconciliation with European partners, which has become one of the priorities of US President Joe Biden, has practically been thwarted. In Brussels they even say that the “unpredictable” current head of the White House is worse for the EU than his predecessor Donald Trump.
A stormy showdown between France and members of the new tripartite partnership AUKUS, created by the United States, Great Britain and Australia to ensure security in the Indo-Pacific region and deprived Paris of the “deal of the century” for the supply of 12 Barracuda class submarines to Canberra, has ceased to be a purely French drama.
Paris fought alone until Monday evening, when the foreign ministers of the EU member states discussed the “submarine scandal” and its consequences for the European Union at a meeting in New York, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
The results of this two-hour meeting were summed up by the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, who chaired it: “The ministers have shown complete solidarity with France. The submarine decision runs counter to calls for closer cooperation with the EU in the Indo-Pacific region. ”
Before meeting with European colleagues, the head of European diplomacy discussed the current scandalous situation with Australian Foreign Minister Maris Payne, expressing regret that there was no place for the European Union in the new partnership between Australia, Great Britain and the United States. According to the European Foreign Service, Josep Borrell directly asked the interlocutor why the creation of AUKUS was carried out without consulting Brussels, despite the significant presence of European partners in the Indo-Pacific region and their own interests in the regional arms market.
By sending a clear message to the AUKUS members that breaking the contract with Paris in Brussels is seen as a challenge to the entire European Union, its leadership makes it clear that this story raises fundamental questions about the rules of the game within the Euro-Atlantic community.
Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes, who arrived at the UN General Assembly in New York, was one of the first to speak on this matter. She called the incident “a lightning strike, first of all for France, but also for Europe and for the whole world – at the geostrategic level.” And the position of the EU leadership was expressed by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. “One of our member states has been treated in an unacceptable manner,” she said in an interview with CNN.
“The elementary principles that allies must adhere to when they walk together are transparency and trust. What do we see? An obvious lack of transparency and trustworthiness, ”- echoed her, answering questions from journalists in New York, the head of the European Council Charles Michel. According to him, this story showed that the United States is not a reliable ally for the Europeans, and in this regard, the EU leadership is trying to understand what incentives have become the main ones for Washington when deciding to intercept the submarine contract. Charles Michel went even further, pointing out that it was even easier for Brussels to work with the previous US President Donald Trump, for all his undisguised dislike of the EU: Donald Trump was more consistent and predictable than Joe Biden, although he did not consider the EU ” a useful partner, a useful ally. ” The main takeaway from this story for the EU is that Europe needs to rely less on the US and strengthen its own defense capabilities, says Charles Michel. “This is not directed against our allies, but if we are stronger and more persistent, it means that our alliances will be stronger,” the head of the European Council summed up.
“The American-French scandal, in which the EU is being drawn, cannot be considered an anomaly. This story reflects a fundamental shift in contemporary transatlantic relations that began under President Trump. The focus of US geopolitical interests is shifting towards the Indo-Pacific region, where China is becoming the main rival, while the significance and role of NATO and the EU are fading into the background, – Vladimir Vasiliev, chief researcher at the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explained to Kommersant. It took eight months for the “sleepy” Joe Biden administration to wake up and grasp the new geopolitical alignment that was the default basis for American foreign policy under the Trump administration. ” According to the expert, this doctrine began to form in January 2018,
In these conditions, the European allies of the United States in NATO are forced to become nothing more than “rear support” of the front lines of the US-China confrontation, in which, in addition to Australia, Japan, South Korea and India begin to play a major role, “Vladimir Vasiliev summed up.
“After the change of the US administration, the European Union hoped to find a predictable reliable partner in Joe Biden. Even then, European analysts warned against excessive enthusiasm, predicting that the United States would continue to be guided by its own interests, not looking too closely at its allies. Nevertheless, the euphoria over Trump’s departure initially muted the voices of skeptics. Joe Biden really seemed to Europe more convenient and open for dialogue on many topics, ”Sergei Utkin, head of the strategic assessments group at IMEMO RAN, continued in a conversation with Kommersant.
Meanwhile, in his opinion, the contradictions between the Western allies and Washington’s unilateral decisions should be viewed through the prism of the US-China confrontation and the shift in the focus of world politics in general to the Indo-Pacific region. “The priorities set in a new way presuppose a readjustment of allied and partnership relations, which does not go without excesses. The ambitions of the leading EU countries to play a noticeable role in the Asia-Pacific scenario are not being understood in Washington. At the same time, the United States is well aware that Europe is not able to choose between the United States and China, ”said Sergei Utkin.
However, the expert believes that things will not come to a serious crisis in relations between the Western allies. “In the context of an aggravated global confrontation, thousands of transatlantic threads in economics and politics, and the basic civilizational community, are only becoming more important. Unilateral actions do not create a real risk of a gap between the United States and Europe, since the latter is not at all ready for such a scenario in the foreseeable future, ”summed up Sergei Utkin, according to which France and the whole of Europe will have to“ moderate ambitions and integrate into the new reality ”.