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The aftershocks from last week’s bombshell announcement by the U.S., Australia and the U.K. that they would be forming a new security partnership whose pilot project would be to assist Australia in building a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines continued to be felt well into this week. The deal signaled a major shift in the strategic landscape of the Indo-Pacific. Though China wasn’t mentioned in the announcement of the so-called AUKUS deal, it was clearly the main driver of what has been interpreted as an effort to add heft to the U.S. pivot to Asia by bulking up the naval forces of a key regional ally.
But the deal also created a firestorm in France, which saw Australia cancel its preexisting contract with a French naval shipbuilder for the construction of a fleet of diesel-electric subs. The French were furious over losing that contract, dubbed the “deal of the century” when it was signed in 2019. But they also attacked the U.S. and Australians in surprisingly sharp terms for negotiating the replacement deal secretly. Paris recalled its ambassadors to both countries for consultations, although it agreed to return its ambassador to Washington next week, following a conciliatory phone call between French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Joe Biden.