France Tells Ambassadors to U.S., Australia to Return Home Amid 'Crisis' with America

France recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia late Friday amid a "crisis" in relations between France and America, the Associated Press reported.

The ambassadors were recalled after Australia scrapped a deal with France for conventional submarines in favor of a nuclear submarine deal using U.S. technology, AP reported. France's foreign minister said in a statement that the behavior was "unacceptable."

Earlier Friday, a top French diplomat spoke with AP, saying there is a "crisis" in relations between the U.S. and France.

The diplomat spoke anonymously in line with government practices, and said for Paris, Australia's decision to make a deal with the U.S. instead "is a strategic question concerning the very nature of the relationship between Europe and the United States about the Indo-Pacific strategy."

He would not speculate on the effects the situation would have on the relationship between France and the U.S., only stressing: "There's a crisis."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

U.S.-Australia Nuclear Sub Deal
France said late Friday that it was immediately recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after Australia scrapped a French conventional submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology. Above, (from left) Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrive for a group photograph at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on September 16, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

It was the first time France has recalled its ambassador to the U.S., according to the French foreign ministry.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement that the French decision, on request from President Emmanuel Macron, "is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements" made by Australia and the United States.

He said Wednesday's announcement of Australia's submarine deal with the U.S. is "unacceptable behavior between allies and partners."

A recall of ambassadors is highly unusual between allied countries. In 2019, Paris recalled its envoy to neighboring Italy after the country's leaders made critical public comments about the French government. Last year, France recalled its ambassador to Turkey after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Macron needed mental health treatment.

Macron has not commented on the issue since President Joe Biden's announcement of a strategic Indo-Pacific alliance with Australia and Britain, leading France to lose a nearly $100 billion deal to build diesel-electric submarines.

France has pushed for several years for a European strategy for boosting economic, political and defense ties in the region stretching from India and China to Japan and New Zealand. The EU unveiled this week its plan for the Indo-Pacific.

The French diplomat said Friday that Macron received a letter from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday morning announcing the decision to cancel the submarine deal.

French officials then decided to reach out to the U.S. administration "to ask what was going on," he said. He added that discussions with Washington took place just two to three hours before Biden's public announcement.

Le Drian on Thursday expressed "total incomprehension" at the move and criticized Australia and the U.S.

"It was really a stab in the back. We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed," he said. "This is not done between allies."

He also compared Biden's move to those of his predecessor, Donald Trump, under Trump's "America First" doctrine.

Paris had raised the issue of the Indo-Pacific strategy during the June 25 visit to Paris of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, expressing the importance of its submarine program with Australia, the diplomat said.

"We said that is was for us a very important and critical component in our Indo-Pacific strategy," he said. Blinken met with Macron during the visit.

The French diplomat said Australia never mentioned to France its shift to nuclear-powered submarines, including during a meeting between Macron and Morrison in Paris on June 15.

French Foreign Minister
France said late Friday that it was immediately recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after Australia scrapped a French conventional submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology. Above, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks in Weimar, Germany, on September 10, 2021. Jens Schlueter/Pool Photo via AP, File