22 September 2021
The announcement of the new AUKUS alliance between Australia, the UK and the U.S. came as a shock for France. Paris has never been consulted, nor notified in advance, despite the historic importance of the deal and the huge implications that it bears for France’s interests, not least the brutal termination of the contract to provide 12 submarines to Canberra. The strong reaction and hot anger of the French Foreign minister Le Drian, denouncing it as a “stab in the back”, is thus quite understandable. The new alliance is indeed a game changer for the Indo-Pacific geopolitics, and beyond. France will have to adapt to this new reality, AUKUS may complicate Paris’ efforts, but its Indo-Pacific strategy and commitment will endure. A game changer in the Indo-Pacific The Australian decision to acquire nuclear-propelled submarines and to enter a trilateral alliance proposed by the U.S. and the UK opens a new era in the Indo-Pacific. It reflects a dramatic change in Canberra’s posture vis à vis Beijing in recent years. Australia’s new threat assessment motivated a very politically sensitive decision: to step up its game and move from a middle power to a nearly great power status, by entering the exclusive club of the nuclear-powered submarines holders (China, France, India, Russia, the UK and the U.S.).