In the space of a single news cycle last week, the substance behind the news that the United States and Britain had joined forces to sell nuclear submarine technology to Australia came to be overshadowed by the emotions aroused by this development—namely, France’s theatrically indignant response to having its preexisting deal to sell submarines to Canberra canceled without notice.
Paris has invoked “treason” and spoken of being stabbed in the back, comparing U.S. President Joe Biden unfavorably to his predecessor, Donald Trump, all while taking the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors from the United States and Australia, something seldom done even with hostile powers. Remarkably, not even Beijing, the putative target of this new security partnership, has been remotely as vocal.
Some degree of French anger in this matter is surely understandable. But the lingering smoke from Paris’ ongoing fit of temper has obscured the most meaningful implications of what will likely stand as one of the most consequential geopolitical realignments of the post-Cold War era. Upon the scaffolding of the new submarine deal, a new security relationship is being established between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States under the ungainly name AUKUS, one that gives the first real heft to the idea of an American “pivot” to the Pacific, first proposed early in the Obama administration but until now never meaningfully advanced.