It caused quite a stir when President Emmanuel Macron declared NATO brain-dead in November 2019. The reason more allies were not enthusiastic about Macron’s statement was because, after his win in last year’s American election, Joe Biden warned the European Union that it must work on self-sufficiency as well as defense policy. Now, the diplomatic crisis that has unfolded between Paris and Washington has made it clear that the relationship with the EU is not a priority for the current American administration that followed Donald Trump. Biden thinks it is more important to strengthen his country’s position against China, and that is why American-Australian relations take priority.
Although Australia signed an agreement with France in 2016 to buy nuclear submarines, it now suddenly chose the United States as a partner, crushing that old deal. According to Paris, its ally stabbed them in the back, so France called its ambassadors in Canberra and Washington home for consultation. This is the first time in history that French leadership has made a decision like this.
Even though U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tried to calm the mood by saying what an important partner he considers France, he hardly calmed down his European ally, considering it lost a deal worth tens of billions of euros. Anti-U.S. sentiment continues to grow in France. Back in 2003, Paris really did not like America’s invasion of Iraq; nor did it appreciate when, in September 2013, French fighters were preparing for takeoff to bomb Syria (after the Damascus administration instituted the use of chemical weapons), but Barack Obama called off the maneuver at the last second.
A domestic political scandal is circulating in France that is unlikely to subside until the presidential election in April. The lesson of this case, as well as of the rapid Afghan withdrawal, is that Europe must stand on its own two feet in every respect. Less and less can it rely on Washington’s protective umbrella.