Nuclear submarines pose a threat to NATO, according to a former UK ambassador.
A contentious submarine contract between Australia and the United States, as well as accusations of double-dealing against France, might jeopardize NATO, according to Britain’s former ambassador to Paris.
Canberra’s decision to forego a contract with Paris for diesel-powered submarines in favor of nuclear-powered submarines from Washington, according to Peter Ricketts, caused a gulf between allies and undermined the transatlantic alliance.
“I believe this action affects French confidence in NATO and NATO allies, reinforcing their belief that European strategic autonomy should be pursued,” he told AFP.
“I believe that can only harm NATO, because NATO relies on confidence. The restoration work must begin immediately.”
On the fringes of the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, EU foreign ministers will debate the new defence treaty inked by the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
The arrangement, branded AUSUK, was unveiled last week, prompting France to accuse Australia of “stabbing it in the back” and igniting a verbal spat.
Ricketts, who served as Britain’s top diplomat in Paris from 2012 to 2015, compared the row to French opposition to US President George W. Bush’s Iraq war policy.
Jacques Chirac, France’s president at the time, advised against the struggle to depose Saddam Hussein, which was backed by Britain, led by Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“I’m sure it (the submarine trade) will be remembered in France, just as the rupture over Iraq in 2003, and things will not be the same,” Ricketts added.
“I believe it will cement the perception among Europeans that America is no longer a reliable ally,” he continued.
Ricketts, who served as France’s permanent envoy to NATO from 2003 to 2006, said that the row will be viewed as a “turning moment” in relations between the US and the UK.
He continued, “It’s reinforced a feeling I get in Paris that the Americans are increasingly turning their back on European security friends and focusing on their fight with China.”
“And that by taking this step, Britain is moving in the same direction.”
Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, has sought to downplay any impact on the country’s relations with France, maintaining that France remains one of the country’s closest military allies.
However, France’s Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, accused London of “continuous opportunism” in its post-Brexit foreign policy in the Indo-Pacific region.