The AUKUS FUKUS Fracas: Submarines, Really?

This is an amazing diplomatic saga, that just could have an impact on the world political balance.

  • Background.
  • The Main Event.
    • Round 1: Recalled Ambassadors.
    • Round 2: Biden to Macron, “I was under the impression you had been told”.
    • Round 3: Macron, “I don’t think, I know [Scott Morrison Lied]” .
    • Round 4: Morrison: Denials and Own Goal Diplomacy with France and the US .
  • Where Next: The new AUKUS alliance with no submarines for at least 12 years?

Background.

Australia could become a key strategic player in the balance of military power between China and the ‘west’, due to its location. Somehow this possibility led to formation of a military alliance titled AUKUS between Australia, United Kingdom and the United States. Australian becomes an alliance partner in the western Pacific for the UK and US. The joke would be that while France having a presence in the western Pacific and is a nuclear power made them a candidate in place of Australia, France was rejected because and ‘F’ in place of an ‘A’ in the name might be seen by adversaries as an invitation. The reality is France is part of the story at this time because France was in a contract to supply Australia with conventional submarines, and for this new alliance, it is somehow essential Australia has nuclear powered submarines.

Aukus members probably wanted France in the pact. Diplomatically and militarily she has much to offer in terms of naval projection, nuclear submarines and weapons, intelligence and physical presence by dint of her overseas territories in the south Pacific.

But how do you add France and avoid a becoming a joke or taunt to others? AFUKUS? FAUKUS?

The deal for the submarines leads to its own questions, but the central point here is the an alliance between US, UK and Australia breaking the submarine contract with France, and the diplomatic consequences of that broken contract.

The Main Event.

Round 1: Recalled Ambassadors.

The French government has immediately recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia for consultation in response to America’s recently announced national security partnership with the United Kingdom and Australia.

CNN, 18 Sept 2021: France recalls its ambassadors to the US and Australia over new national security partnership

The deal had been in place for 5 years, and after all that time invested, France was not happy.

Round 2: Biden and Macron, “I was under the impression you had been told”.

President Biden on Friday apologetically told French President Emmanuel Macron that he was “clumsy” in blindsiding France with a nuclear submarine pact among the US, the UK and Australia.

“What happened was, to use an English phrase — what we did was clumsy. It was not done with a lot of grace,” Biden said as he met with Macron during the G20 summit in Rome.

“I was under the impression that certain things had happened that hadn’t happened,” Biden claimed. “I was under the impression that France had been informed long before.

“I honest to God did not know you had not been,” Biden insisted.

NY Post, 29 Oct 2021: Biden apologizes for being ‘clumsy’ with AUKUS pact at Macron meeting

The implication being that Biden had been led to believe that the French President had been informed in advance that the contract with Australia count not proceed. If Australia was under the belief France would realise the contract was not going well, then of course Australia would tell the US that France should be aware.

Round 3: Macron, “I don’t think, I know [Scott Morrison Lied]” .

French President Emmanuel Macron accused Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, of lying to him about a sunken $66 billion submarine deal that triggered an angry charge of betrayal from Paris.

“I don’t think, I know,” Macron responded to a question about whether he thought Morrison had lied by not disclosing negotiations with the United States and Britain that nixed Australia’s deal with France.

“We will see what he will deliver,” Macron said about the prospect of rebuilding trust. “I have a lot of respect for your country,” the French president told Australian reporters Sunday on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Italy. “I just say when we have respect, you have to be true.”

Washington Post 31 Oct 2021: France’s Macron accuses Australia’s prime minister of lying about submarine deal: ‘I don’t think, I know’

For the head of a country to declare the leader of another country is lying, is not a common occurrence. When the countries have historically been such strong allies, it is remarkable.

Round 4: Morrison: Denials and Own Goal Diplomacy with France and the US.

Morrison returns attacks, and appears to contradict himself.

First Scott Morrison contradicted Joe Biden, and said the US knew Australia had not warned France. If Australia told the US they had not warned France, then clearly Australia intended France to be decieved.

Canberra had kept Washington updated on its dealings with France, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists, despite US President Joe Biden earlier saying that he thought Paris knew about the AUKUS pact beforehand.

rt.com 31 Oct 2021 Australia’s Morrison contradicts Biden, says US knew Canberra didn’t warn France

Then Scott Morrison contradicted Emmanuelle Macron, declaring he had warned France that the contract between Australia and France would likely be replaced. Which contradicts what he said about the US knowing France were not warned.

Mr Morrison told a media conference later the same day that he had not lied, and had previously explained to Mr Macron that conventional submarines would no longer meet Australia’s needs.

Express.co.uk 2 Nov 2021: Australia’s Morrison erupts at Macron after French tirade: ‘Not going to cop sledging’

So it seems Morrison had ‘explained’ to Macron, without ‘warning’ him?

If Morrison had not responded, you could think perhaps one of Macron or Biden is mistaken:

  1. Either, France was told or should have known, and thus the US would be right that France should have known.
    • Macron, Biden
  2. Or, France was deliberately not told, and the US and Biden should have been aware France was not told.
    • Macron, Biden

But, in an ‘own goal’, Morrison said both were wrong, making it impossible for him to be free of blame! What?

Now with Morrison having said both are wrong, either two people are being misleading, or Morrison is misleading on both counts. What a mess.

Now:

  1. Either, France was told or should have known, and thus the US would be right that France should have known.
    • Macron, Biden , Morrison correct about Marcon, but wrong about Biden
  2. Or, France was deliberately not told, and the US and Biden should have been aware France was not told.
    • Macron, Biden , Morrison wrong about Marcon , but correct about Biden
  3. Or, France was deliberately not told, and the US and Biden were told France would not be told.
    • Macron, Biden , Morrison misleading both times

Documents Are Then Leaked, Supposedly To Support Morrison.

Then it seems then Scott Morrison triggered leaked private text messages and documents in an attempt to support his claims.

“Mr Morrison needs to explain how selective text messages between him and the French president, and the contents of a confidential 15-page document negotiated in secret between President Biden’s National Security Council and Australian and British officials ended up in Australian newspapers,” Wong said.

“Mr Morrison needs to rule out that this backgrounding came from him, his office or his government. His furious attempts at damage control will only make world leaders trust him less.”

Pressagency 2nd Nov 2021: Morrison accused of worsening rift with French government after leak of Macron text

Neither the leaked text messages, nor documents prove Morrison is correct, and they only positive is they make the story look more complicated to understand.

The Text Offers No Evidence Macron Was Wrong.

The text does suggest at the very last minute France may have gotten suspicious, but certainly does not prove Morrison had been previously open and honest with Macron.

This text was submitted as evidence that Macron’s outrage – the accusations about lying and Australia stabbing France in the back – were entirely confected, because the president knew all along the French contract was about to be dumped.

Actually, the message confirmed exactly the opposite. It shows Macron didn’t know what was happening two days before three leaders humiliated France with the Aukus announcement – which you’ll recall was livestreamed to the world.

The Guardian: 3 Nov 2021.

Australia and France supposedly had a relationship around this deal, in a sense a form of marriage. This is sort of like one partner suspects something is wrong in the marriage, just two days before the other partner announces they are now engaged to someone new. “They suspected something two days before I announced an engagement to the person I had been dating behind their back for months, that proves it was an honest and open relationship!”.

Opening a possibility that France feared bad news in late October does not prove there was full honesty back in June.

Then The Documents Offer No Evidence Biden Was Wrong.

The documents do suggest that there was a time that discussions needed to remain hidden from France, but nowhere to they say France should not be informed prior to a decision. It is quite reasonable to assume at some point France would have been involved in discussions before a decision was reached.

All the documents to is result in more material to wade through, they do nothing to support what was said, beyond giving people more to read before any final conclusion.

The end result is only going to increase distrust between France, Australia and the US.

Where Next: The new AUKUS alliance with no submarines for at least 12 years?

So now there is an alliance with underlying mistrust for Australia to have support from the US and UK to build nuclear powered submarines to replace current Australian conventional submarines which are already scheduled for decommission in 2025.

The new submarines do not have a final specification yet, and the most ambitions target is for them to be available in ‘late 2030s’, leaving Australia with no submarines for at least 12 years.

This is a project to build submarines for a distant future world that is currently changing at an ever increasing rate, and there are significant hurdles to the project building even a single submarine.

“No living Australian prime minister has commissioned a sub that actually got built,” Greg Sheridan, a columnist for The Australian newspaper, wrote in a recent article critical of Mr. Morrison’s plan.

NYPost.

Australia has ended a partnership with France to build submarines, in favour of a plan to create a partnership with the UK and US, and as a result, have no submarines at all for the foreseeable future, yet increase spending on submarines it does not have.

The mysteries are:

  • Given the displayed competence of the politicians, you have to wonder who is really behind this alliance.
  • Why create an alliance that seems to ensure no submarines for so long?
  • What is in this for Scott Morrison and the Australian government?
    • All current Australian government ministers will most likely be retired before anything in built, and they already damaged the relationship with the US.
  • Why is Australia open to spending so much money yet have no submarines for such a lengthy period?
  • What is the point in nuclear powered submarines requiring weapons grade uranium, for a country that is not one of the five recognised states permitted to have weapons grade uranium?

As more information is revealed, I will update this.

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