Australian legal action ‘stabbed in the back’ of allies

French officials criticized Australia for “betrayal” for canceling a contract to buy 12 submarines worth nearly 40 billion USD to pursue an agreement with the US and UK.

“This is a stab in the back. We have established a relationship of trust with Australia and this trust has been betrayed,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on radio today, after Australia’s announcement. technology will be transferred by the US and UK to own nuclear-powered submarines.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly said the country was studying measures to limit financial damage after Australia canceled a contract to buy submarines signed with Naval Group, and left open the possibility that Paris would claim Canberra compensation.

The Naval Group expressed disappointment at the decision and said “a process of analyzing the consequences of Australia’s decision” will be carried out in the coming days.

The French Barracuda-class submarine Suffren was tested in October 2020.  Photo: French Navy.

The French Barracuda-class submarine Suffren was tested in October 2020. Photo: French Navy.

The French official also criticized the US, saying that Washington’s actions show a lack of unity at a time when the two allies are facing common challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. “This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me of the actions of Donald Trump. It was a breach of trust and I am extremely angry,” Le Drian added.

The Australian government in 2016 signed a $40 billion deal with Naval Group to build 12 Barracuda-class nuclear attack submarines, to replace a fleet of six diesel-electric Collins-class submarines nearing their end of life. It was one of the largest military contracts in the world at the time, but was constantly behind schedule as Canberra required most of the components and the shipbuilding took place in Australia.

The Australian government said in June that it was preparing a contingency plan for its fleet of Collins-class submarines. Australia’s Foreign Minister and Defense Minister in August reaffirmed their commitment to pursue contracts with their French counterparts.

However, during an online meeting on September 15, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison suddenly announced that the US and UK would provide technology and technical training to Australia create 8 nuclear powered submarines.

Prime Minister Morrison said Australia plans to build these nuclear submarines in the southern city of Adelaide, stressing that Canberra will comply with all commitments on nuclear non-proliferation.

This is the first time the US has shared nuclear engine technology with a country since it was transferred to the UK in 1958. “It’s extremely sensitive technology, it can be considered an exception to many politicians. This is not going to happen in the future. We consider this a one-time event,” the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Australia is a maritime country and possesses a strong navy, but currently only 6 Collins class diesel-electric submarines have been commissioned since 1996. This is an expanded version of the Type 471 submarine class developed by Sweden. development, each with a displacement of 3,400 tons when submerged.

Vu Anh (Follow Reuters)

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