In a statement, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, said Friday that the move was made at the request of President Emmanuel Macron.
“This extraordinary decision reflects the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made on September 15 by Australia and the United States,” Le Drian said. “The abandonment of the ocean-class submarine project that Australia and France had been working on since 2016 and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States aimed at studying the possibility of future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines constitute unacceptable behavior among allies and partners; their consequences affect the very concept we have of our alliances, our partnerships, and the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe.”
It’s believed to be the first time the French have resorted to such a move in modern times, a French official told CNN.
The French government said earlier this week that it felt betrayed when Australia pulled out of their existing multi-billion dollar defense deal, agreeing instead to attain nuclear-powered submarines through a new deal with the United States and the United Kingdom.
The effort to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines — a major step toward countering China as President Joe Biden works to build international backing for his approach to Beijing — is part of a new trilateral partnership among the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, dubbed “AUKUS.”
France stands to lose the equivalent of $65 billion US dollars from an existing deal to provide Australia with conventional, diesel-powered submarines.
The canceled deal with France, a major global weapons exporter, is expected to make a significant economic impact on the French defense sector. France also stands to lose out strategically in the Indo-Pacific, where the country holds significant interests.
On Thursday, after the nuclear-powered submarine deal with the US and the UK was announced, Australia formally announced it would be withdrawing from its previous contract for conventional submarines with France.
The deal with Paris had been in the works for years.
Australia previously planned to acquire 12 conventional attack-class submarines from the French shipbuilder Naval Group, which successfully beat out competing German and Japanese bids in 2016.
The Americans and the Australians have indicated that the French government wasn’t blindsided by the reneging of the original contract, saying high-ranking French officials were made aware of the decision by the Australian government.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.