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Reminder of the ambassadors: 5 minutes to understand the impact of France's decision


Just 48 hours after Australia canceled the purchase of twelve French submarines from Naval Group for the benefit of the Americans, France

Between allies, “that cannot be done”.

The United States deprived France and Naval Group of the “contract of the century”, concluded in 2016 with the Australians: the delivery of twelve French submarines, for an amount of 34 billion euros.

To read alsoSale of submarines: why Australia tore up the "contract of the century" won by France

Beyond the disappearance of a gold contract, France has especially lost confidence in two of its oldest allies.

The immediate recall of its ambassadors to the United States and Australia "for consultation" reveals a diplomatic grammar loaded with meaning.

What does the recall of an ambassador symbolize?

Calling back for consultation is an old practice in diplomacy.

"The State recalls the ambassador chief of post in the capital to try to understand with him what occurs within the framework of a crisis", details Christian Lequesne, author of "The power by the image.

States and their public diplomacy ”(ed.

Sciences Po Press).

The embassy is not closing: the services continue to operate, with a number 2 in charge of affairs.

“The message is: we have an open crisis.

We are not ready to stop there, we must explain, ”continues the academic.

The recall of an ambassador for consultation is therefore a strong signal, intended to express a deep disagreement.

It marks a breach of trust following a lack of loyalty.

"The only way to make sure Washington understood the gravity of this crisis was to make this diplomatic gesture," said former diplomat Pierre Morcos, associate researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington DC-based think tank.

Communiqués were not enough.

And the reassuring words from the US administration either.


Why are we talking about a historic decision?

France has already taken similar decisions in the past: with Italy in 2019, following the exits of Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini during the yellow vests crisis, and with Turkey in 2020, after attacks by the government in place against French policy.

But with the United States, very distant allies, this diplomatic stage had never been reached.

“We remember the extraordinary tension before the Iraq war, but that did not in any way lead to the recall of the ambassadors.

In diplomacy, it's very serious, ”says Thierry Balzacq, researcher specializing in international relations.

Towards an escalation of the diplomatic quarrel?

In principle, this phase precedes the breakdown of diplomatic relations, that is to say the closure of the embassy. “I absolutely do not believe it, says Christian Lequesne. This crisis reveals above all that in terms of security, America remains a superpower. There haven't really been any European reactions in support of France, which proves that the EU does not think about its security outside the United States. And that contradicts the French idea of ​​a certain strategic autonomy of France, but also of Europe, with regard to the United States. "

“Now we have to keep a cool head.

Paris does not break its diplomatic relations with Washington, confirms Pierre Morcos on his Twitter account.

France does not expel American diplomats either.

"According to him, the ill-felt decision of the Biden administration will still have" lasting effects "on his relationship with France.

And after ?

The consequences will depend on the response of the United States and Australia to this recall of ambassadors.

"France will need commercial guarantees from Australia, and strategic guarantees from the United States", summarizes Thierry Balzacq.

In addition, the recall can last a few days, a few weeks, even several years… Its longevity “will tell us where France wants to put the cursor in its disapproval.

It is not just an economic affair, but also a political and strategic one.


The episode confirms that the Biden administration is doing everything it can to attract partners who will help it contain China.

During the last NATO summit, the French and Germans were, in a way, opposed to the United States by wishing to have a more measured discourse, explains Jean-Pierre Maulny, deputy director of Iris (Institut de relations international and strategic) on LCI.

The United States then turned to Australia, anguished by the Chinese threat, and the United Kingdom. The latter align themselves more and more in the axis of the Americans. For Jean-Pierre Maulny, this choice is "worrying": it will not be without negative consequences for the future of the Lancaster House Treaty. Concluded in 2010 between Paris and London, it provides for a rapprochement of the two countries… in matters of defense and security.

Source: leparis

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