The uproar over America’s nuclear submarine deal with Britain and Australia is starting to look like a vindication of Brexit. We understand that some Germans are calling it a “declaration of war” on the European Union. And the petulant French are calling it a “stab in the back.” By our lights, though, things are moving in the direction we’d predicted — and hoped for — in endorsing Brexit from the beginning.
How the Europeans jeered at Britain’s decision to quit the European Union. The Europeans suggested Britain would end up alone, in national isolation. We argued that an independent Britain could look not only to its vast commonwealth — which includes Australia, of which Elizabeth is queen — but also America. And beyond that with such freedom countries as India, Free China, and Israel.
The submarine deal — known as AUKUS, after Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States — was announced a week ago. It commits America to helping Australia get nuclear submarines. It is widely perceived as aimed at Communist China (which would be one of its virtues). The French erupted, though, over mercantilist matters — the resulting cancellation of Australia’s $90 billion non-nuclear submarine deal with France.
We happen to maintain a certain affection for France, and it deserves better from President Biden. Its petulance here, though, is something to behold. President Macron has already recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra — but pointedly not London. On Saturday night, the Telegraph reports, the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, forewent yanking its ambassador from London because France was already familiar with Britain’s “permanent opportunism.”
Monsieur Drian also rasped that Prime Minister Johnson is the “fifth wheel on the carriage.” Meantime, France’s secretary of state for Europe, Clément Beaune, made, the Telegraph notes, an explicit link to Brexit, saying on French television: “Our British friends explained to us they were leaving the EU to create Global Britain. We can see that this is a return into the American lap and a form of accepted vassalisation.”
One might have to be of a certain age to remember that there was a time — under Charles of Gaulle — when France was loath to welcome Britain into what became the European Union. And, for that matter, was unwilling to integrate French forces into the command of the North Atlantic Treaty. Now they’re up on their high cheval over the audacity of a newly independent Britain cutting a deal with us Yanks and Australia.
One of the Telegraph’s commentators, Daniel Hannan, notes that France, while recalling its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra, is leaving its envoys in Moscow and Beijing. “This wasn’t primarily about submarines,” he writes. “It was about a series of more abstract concepts that matter very much to our neighbours: le rang, la gloire, l’amour-propre.”
The feature of this affair that strikes us as most ironic is that it makes Mr. Biden look almost Trumpian. He promised to restore a sense of normalcy in respect of Europe. Yet nothing President Trump did caused half so much diplomatic havoc. In any event, the Economist notes that Communist China responded to the AUKUS pact by criticizing its “cold war mentality.” We wouldn’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but we don’t mind saying that the Cold is the last major war we won.
Image: The Pre-Commissioning Unit Virginia underway in 2004 at Groton, Connecticut. U.S. Navy Photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat, via Wikipedia.