On the face of it, Australia stabbed France in the back by deciding to ditch the 2016 submarine deal. But look closer and “you might find your sympathy for the French starting to melt away”, says Ian Lloyd Neubauer in Nikkei Asia. To stand up to China, Australia needs nuclear-powered subs that are able to stay submerged almost indefinitely, and the French diesel ones didn’t pass muster. On top of that, the French submarine team in Adelaide insisted on taking all of August as paid holiday, and were put out “by the Australians’ insistence on being on time for meetings”.
Plus ça change. During World War One, 295,000 Australians fought on the Western Front and 46,000 died in France and Belgium. France then charged Australian war widows to build monuments for their dead. To this day, the French national curriculum doesn’t mention Australia’s sacrifice in the Great War. In 1973 Australia and New Zealand told France not to carry out nuclear tests in the Pacific – but Paris ignored them and exploded nukes for the next two decades. In the aftermath of the cancelled submarine deal, France is behaving like a petulant child and trying to torpedo a planned free-trade deal between the EU and Australia. “With friends like these, who needs enemies?”