Why is France mad about AUKUS?

Author’s Note: This article is meant to be a unique description of the AUKUS pact by addressing the reaction, and by describing the reasons why the USA is a better partner than France. I’m a US citizen, and this article may be a bit biased for the pact, and against France’s reaction to it. Because of this, I claim “author’s prerogative.”

Someone is throwing a fit over the new AUKUS security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. The name, AUKUS, is an acronym of the spliced abbreviations for each signatory to the treaty. It involves the sale of nuclear submarines to Australia, increased collaboration with cybertechnology, and possibly includes stationing US subs to the country as part of the strategic defense of the area.

Australia warned France about concerns they had with the contract and the quality of the submarines months in advance to AUKUS. Instead of proactively negotiating to ensure they can provide a better deal, France did nothing. They claim the loss was a complete surprise to them and AUKUS is a stab in the back. In a fit of rage, the country recalled their ambassadors to Australia and the United States. They threw such a tantrum, the US President had to have a phone call with his French counterpart. Late last week, we were shocked to hear the breaking news that we “normalized” our relations with France.

How could our relationship have deteriorated so badly over a simple agreement? It’s not like one of our warships attacked France, so why do our relations need normalizing?

I wasn’t aware that France had a “Nouvelle Révolution”, reinstating their monarchy and placing a queen on the throne… a Drama Queen.

Let’s evaluate the merits of the pact.

Sale of Nuclear Submarines

Australia cancelled their 90-billion-dollar contract with France to build 12 French subs[1]. That’s about 7.5 billion dollars per sub. Compare that to the average cost of 3.4 billion dollars to build a Virginia-class nuclear submarine[2].

That’s less than half the price!

It makes perfect sense to buy a state-of-the-art submarine at half the cost. I don’t know what the final price for each unit will be, but it’s still a great deal even if we apply a 50% retail markup! So, who in their right mind willingly buys over-priced products?!

US Deployment to Australia

I don’t know about you, but if I wanted to have a strategic defense alliance with a nation, France would be the last “major” country I’d consider. France has historically performed poorly in most of its wars during the 20th century. Germany conquered a lot of French territory in World War I, but lost it to the coalition. During World War II, France got conquered outright and had to be liberated by the Allies.

After the Second World War, most of the wars France emerged as the victor include: coalition efforts, and/or conflicts against non-national opponents (uprisings, insurgents, terrorists). Since World War II, France has participated in about 30 conflicts, and individually was the victor of 3 conflicts[3]. Of the 2 conflicts the country fought 1-on-1 with another nation (excluding revolts) France barely has a 50% win-rate.

That’s not a good track-record.

Technological

The pact allows for closer collaboration with technological development. France doesn’t have a related agreement in place, and likely won’t have one since they lack the necessary infrastructure necessary to provide meaningful contributions to cyber-related technological developments. The AUKUS agreement is a good decision to enter into with the US, because we have the infrastructure and know-how. Another inherent benefit is the common language the three nations share which will make the relationship run a lot smoother.

Plus, when most people think of France, we tend to think of: wine, tourism, the language of love, beautiful sprawling cities, art, overpaid and underutilized labor, and riots over pretty much anything including: labor, immigration, violence or killings, labor again, news from the middle-east, wealth disparity, labor (yet again)…

Information technology and Cybernetics are the last things I’d associate with that country.

***

Why is France so upset over the AUKUS pact? Is it truly because they lost out on selling overpriced submarines to Australia? Yes. Losing 90 billion USD means they’re missing out on almost a fifth (20%) of their annual trade[4], [5], [6]. I’d be pretty pissed if I was their leader.

I too would have thrown a tantrum if:

  • It means that businesses in my country are going to miss out on that large amount of money.
  • It means my people are going to suffer job cuts.
  • It means my country will be on international news because of the next inevitable labor riot.
  • It means my chances of getting re-elected are going to plummet since I couldn’t prevent this terrible loss.

Yes, they have reason to be upset. However, the pact includes services they cannot reliably provide. Nor did they do their due-diligence to ensure they were competitive enough to keep the submarine contract, especially when warned their customer was dissatisfied with the price and quality of the product.

It’s business, not romance.


[1] Shields, Bevan et al. (2021, September 18). France recalls its ambassadors to Australia and United States amid submarine fury. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/france-recalls-its-ambassadors-to-australia-and-united-states-amid-submarine-fury-20210918-p58srt.html

[2] Wikipedia. (n.d.). Virginia-class submarine. Retrieved from Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia-class_submarine

[3] Wikipedia. (n.d.). List of wars involving France. Retrieved from Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_France

[4] The United States export value is about 3 times that of France, meaning the subs account for about 5% of our outgoing trade.

[5] NationMaster. (n.d.). Economy Stats: Compare Key Data on France & United States. Retrieved from NationMaster: https://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/France/United-States/Economy#

[6] WITS. (2019). France Trade Statistics: Exports, Imports, Products, Tariffs, GDP and related Development Indicator. Retrieved from World Integrated Trade Solution: https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/en/FRA

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