Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed accusations by French President Emmanuel Macron over a canceled $ 37 billion submarine contract. Macron recently said that Morrison lied in dropping the submarine deal before Australia joined a new security pact with the UK and US known by its acronym AUKUS.
The AUKUS alliance and Australia’s cancellation of a lucrative defense contract for US-built nuclear submarines caught Paris off guard. France feels betrayed. In protest, France has temporarily recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra. Tensions remain.
French President Emanuel Macron told reporters at the G-20 industrialized group meeting that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had been deceptive despite the close relations between the two countries.
“When we have respect, you have to behave in accordance and in a manner consistent with that value,” Macron told reporters.
Morrison was quick to deny that he had lied. He insisted he explained to Macron in June that the submarines provided by the French company Naval Group were not going to meet Australia’s military needs.
“I was very clear that what was going to be provided to us was not going to meet our strategic interest,” said Morrison.
News reports in Australia described the dispute between Australia and France as a diplomatic disaster for Canberra and that the “damage seems out of control”.
Australian opposition senator Penny Wong, shadow foreign minister, believes Australia has been embarrassed by the French president’s allegations.
“We have a reputation for being snipers as a nation. This is Australia’s reputation internationally. We do what we say. Mr. Morrison’s failure to be frank, his inability, as President Macron says, to speak the truth is in our interests, ”Wong said.
Mark Kenny is a professor at the Australian Studies Institute at the Australian National University. He says world leaders are rarely so openly criticized by their peers.
“It was really a pretty rare level of frankness that we see and a very blunt denunciation of the integrity of another world leader by Emanuel Macron and I thought it was extraordinary,” Kenny said.
US President Joe Biden also admitted that the United States had been “awkward” in its negotiations for a new alliance with Britain and Australia, which cost France billions of dollars.
The AUKUS Pact will allow Australia to become only the seventh country to have nuclear powered submarines. The new fleet is not expected to be in service for decades, forcing Australia to potentially lease or purchase ships from the United States or Britain in the meantime.