President Joe Biden promised a resurgent and a more engaged American foreign policy with his slogan “America is back.” To be fair, 2000’s America is really back and with a Cold War flair this time.
Recently, Unbeknownst to the European Union, the US brokered a deal with Australia while cutting out France. America’s answer to the world’s harsh critique on the Afghan debacle was to arm Australia with a nuclear submarine. Together with the UK, America and Australia announced a new defense alliance under the acronym AUKUS.
According to a statement made by the newly formed initiative, the goal is to bring “stability in the Indo-Pacific.” The move drew condemnation from both China and France.
While the AUKUS alliance is in line with a new China-focused US foreign policy, it also killed a two-year in progress French-Australian arms deals worth $40bn according to various sources. Causing tensions between France and the US that resulted in the cancellation of a dinner celebrating their historic ties.
French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, called the move “a stab in the back” as the deal with Australia collapsed. On an interview with ABC Australia, the French Ambassador to Australia said when he was asked how he was informed about the deal “like everybody thanks to the Australian press.” These reactions proved that French authorities and the EU were unaware of the deal and were bewildered by the sudden US shift of focus to the Indo-Pacific away from the Middle East like the rest of the world.
The French-US tension was preceded by some disparaging remarks towards the US from Emmanuel Macron. During a regional summit hosted by Iraq, the French President said: “Regardless of what the Americans choose, we will maintain our presence to fight against terrorism in Iraq for as long as terrorist groups continue to operate and for as long as the Iraqi government is asking for our support. These are the only two conditions that we have.” Macron might be signaling France’s commitment to the region and possibly a more engaged EU in Middle Eastern affairs.
The AUKUS alliance has been described as the “anglophone alliance.” After Brexit, the UK is currently strengthening its relationship with the US and their distant relatives, the Australians. In their trail, they seem to be leaving out the entire European Union. Leading me to wonder if there is some friction between the anglophone and the EU.
The failure of US intelligence to predict that Ashraf Ghani’s Afghanistan won’t last even a month, is eerily similar to the “WMD” intelligence failure that caused the Iraq war. Their similarity is that both involved US troops, and the destruction of an entire country. That coupled with the failure to communicate with the EU on the new AUKUS deal and it seems like America of the 2000s is truly back.
In what is now known as the “American fries” fiasco, France along with Germany and other EU nations opposed and heavily criticized the US war on Iraq. This led to a short-lived boycott of French goods in America, and a hilarious renaming of French fries to American fries in protest to France’s opposition. The current French disapproval of the US might even be more serious than in 2003. After all this time it involves $40bn.
Placing a nuclear-powered submarine at the Indo-Pacific is a powerful and dangerous intimidation tactic. A strong-arm technique that you might see from Putin or even China, not from a left-wing US president. Chinese officials have commented the move calling it a “Cold War-style confrontation” and they might be on point.
A clouded future for the EU is on its way. The UK seems to be doing all right after the AUKUS deal. EU countries might see their common foreign policy as a binding shackle rather than a strong bond. Angela Merkel’s Germany is ending. The French, especially after the events of Sept. 17, will more fervently pursue a militarily autonomous EU. And the US, while following its foreign policy plan, threatens a rift within the EU and conflict with China.
Sultan Alzahrani is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Critical Theory and English Literature at Exeter University. He is employed by the Saudi Almajmaah University as a teaching assistant.