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Opinion
Lionel Laurent

Submarine Crisis Is Way Deeper Than French Pride

It is dangerous to write off Paris’ fury over Aukus as temporary or theatrical. This dispute will reverberate across Europe.

Macron, second from left, visiting Australia in better times. 

Macron, second from left, visiting Australia in better times. 

Photographer: Pool/Getty Images AsiaPac

The Anglosphere seems happy to write off France’s fury over Australia’s canceled $66 billion submarine contract as a mix of sour grapes and electoral theater. Paris has recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Canberra, canceled events and called on European partners to invest in defense. In response, U.S. President Joe Biden has offered a telephone call, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has professed an “ineradicable” love of France, and Australia’s deputy prime minister is bringing up his country’s death toll from two World Wars.

No doubt the deafening silence from other European countries on this issue this weekend might reassure the ‘Aukus’ trio that France’s anger will be short-lived and symbolic. One could hear the veritable pin drop in Germany, where a pre-election leaders’ debate had nothing to offer on subs or European geopolitics. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, meanwhile, promoted his recent meeting with Johnson in London as proof of “strengthening” ties with a country the French see as Aukus’ third wheel.