The French are continuing to make their outrage over last week’s AUKUS submarine deal—and the subsequent cancellation of a pending Franco-Australian submarine supply deal—plain for all to see. IIn addition to withdrawing ambassadors from the United States and Australia (news outlets before the weekend suggested that French were also planning to recall their ambassador from the UK as well), Paris is now threatening to scuttle an EU-Australia free trade agreement. If it seems like the French are lashing out against their closest allies, it’s because they are. And it’s not hard to understand why.
Unlike most other European countries, the French foreign service’s approach to democracy still retains a healthy amount of influence from both its monarchial and pre-World War roots. For La France economic and physical security are intertwined with maintaining prestige and the idea that Paris is a serious global player; if France was a private company, we’d be discussing this in terms of protecting brand reputation. That French concerns were so ignominiously swept aside by the US and UK, with Australia happily going along, was too great an assault on French perceptions of their global standing to let slide.
But for all the current grandstanding, France’s primary interests are still tied to Europe. It’s a simple matter of geography. French and American interests in Europe remain broadly aligned. The relationship will endure. French and Australian national security interests are literally a world apart. I do not expect a significant shift in global relations between any of these players, but France will continue to shame everyone involved for as long as it needs to soothe the loss of several tens of billions of dollars to its defense industry.
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