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Why France Is So Angry at the U.S. Right Now

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Last Wednesday, President Joe Biden and his U.K. and Australian counterparts announced the formation of a new defense alliance among the three countries. In this alliance, known as AUKUS, Australia will receive access to American nuclear submarine-propulsion technology that had only previously been shared with the British.

In discussing the AUKUS deal, Biden and other officials have studiously avoided uttering the word “China,” but the point of the alliance is unmistakably to counter China’s growing naval power in the Pacific region, bolstered by its own growing fleet of nuclear submarines. “I do want to just underscore very clearly this partnership is not aimed or about any one country,” one senior official told the Washington Post. “It’s about advancing our strategic interests, upholding the international rules-based order and promoting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.” And who could possibly guess which country might be threatening U.S. strategic interests, the international order, or peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific?

The reaction from Beijing was predictably hostile: Chinese officials called the agreement irresponsible and accused the three countries of stoking an arms race. (This would be a fairer criticism were China not also escalating that arms race with its own naval buildup.) In a comment to Reuters, Chinese embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu said that countries “should not build exclusionary blocs targeting or harming the interests of third parties. In particular, they should shake off their Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice.”

But China was not the only outraged party. The deal also results in Australia canceling a $66 billion contract with France to purchase 12 diesel-powered submarines in favor of its new agreement with the U.S. And France reacted furiously, with its Washington ambassador tweeting that the U.S. and U.K. had “stabbed her in the back in Australia.” The French framed the move as a highly undiplomatic bolt from the blue. Pulling no punches, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said it was the sort of thing Donald Trump would have done. On........

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