The announcement of the AUKUS Pact between Australia, the UK and the US last week has created divisions in the NATO alliance for France, the UK’s former ambassador to the country said.
In an interview with the BBC’s Today Programme on Saturday, Peter Ricketts said the announcement of the security pact and the French recalling of its ambassadors from the US and Australia was more than just a diplomatic dispute and stands to threaten the world’s most powerful military alliance.
“This is far more than just a diplomatic spat, the withdrawal of ambassadors is the tip of the iceberg. There is a deep sense of betrayal in France because this wasn’t just an arms contract, this was France setting up a strategic partnership with Australia and the Australians have now thrown that away and negotiated behind the backs of France with two NATO allies, the US and UK, to replace it with a completely different contract,” Ricketts said.
“For the French this looks like a complete failure of trust between allies and calls into doubt what is NATO for. This puts a big rift down the middle of the NATO alliance … Britain needs a functioning NATO alliance,” the former ambassador and permanent undersecretary to the foreign office said.
According to Ricketts, people underestimated the impact that the new tripartite security pact would have in Paris and how much of a humiliation it is for President Emmanuel Macron who is facing a tight and highly contested election this year, especially from the far-right.
On Friday, Paris recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia after the latter in a surprise move ditched a deal with France in which it would have bought diesel-powered submarines in favor of the AUKUS pact that would see the US share nuclear technology with Canberra in order to build nuclear-powered submarines with the UK.
The announcement of the pact infuriated France as it saw its now dead-in-the-water deal with Australia as a strategic opportunity to extend its influence in the Far East and the Pacific and act as a bulwark to aggressive Chinese expansion in the region and especially in the South China Sea.
“Don’t underestimate reaction in Paris. It’s not just anger but a real sense of betrayal that the UK as well as the US and Aus negotiated behind their backs for 6 months. I lived the rupture in 2003 over Iraq. This feels as bad or worse,” Ricketts said on Twitter.
The AUKUS pact was signed by the leaders of Australia, the UK and the US last week. The new security and defense alliance will see the three countries cooperate extensively in the Pacific region to counteract Chinese influence.
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