The French and Australian governments are collaborating again, more than a year after the submarine crisis. Through this joint multi-million dollar project, Camberra welcomes “the return of a warm bilateral relationship”
The French and Australian defense and foreign ministers tried Monday in Paris to mend broken ties, also announcing the delivery to Ukraine of 155 mm shells manufactured jointly. The 155 mm shells are those fired by several Western artillery pieces supplied to Ukraine in its war against Russia, such as the French Caesars, the American M777s, or the German Panzerhaubitze 2000s.
“Several thousand 155 mm shells will be produced jointly,” declared Sébastien Lecornu, specifying that the first deliveries were expected in the first quarter of 2023. “Our armaments industries must produce faster by controlling costs and managing stocks”, he added, considering that the agreement made it possible “to do it together, by limiting the budgetary effort and not taking from the stock of our armies”.
“The idea is to provide significant help, and an effort that is continuous over time.” Richard Marles, Australian Minister of Defence, for his part welcomed a “multi-million dollar Australian project” and “new cooperation between Australian and French defense industries”. On the French side, the contract will be executed by Nexter, in particular with Australian powder.
Return to a “warm” relationship
Trust between Paris and Canberra was shattered in September 2021 when the former Conservative Australian government canceled a 56 billion euro contract for twelve French submarines, preferring British or American nuclear-powered submarines. Relations then remained tense until the election in May 2022 of a new Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, who has since sought to ease relations with Paris.
The head of French diplomacy Catherine Colonna, who also received her counterpart Penny Wong, dismissed the “episode” of the submarines with one sentence before expressing the desire to “continue this work of rebuilding a partnership that we want to be ambitious” on the basis of “mutual respect, trust and ambition”. “The warm atmosphere between the four of us really characterizes perfectly the return of a warm bilateral relationship,” added Richard Marles.
France, like the United States and many Western countries, is striving to strengthen their positions in the Indo-Pacific region, a vast area stretching from the East African coasts to the West American coasts through which a crucial part of world trade passes. and where China is increasing its influence. Paris has many territories and maritime spaces there which offer it a right of inspection and impose constant vigilance on geostrategic balances but also on environmental and fisheries issues, as well as on the fight against the various traffics linked to the oceans.
France has also increased its military presence, favoring, in addition to its own points of support, growing cooperation with neighboring countries. It has multiplied joint exercises (India, Japan) and patrols in the China Sea, which concentrates tensions and where Beijing multiplies provocations and demands.
” Blank page “
“The Ministers underscored the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and called for the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues through dialogue, without the threat or use of force or coercion.” , according to the joint statement of ministers.
President Emmanuel Macron claims the role of Paris as a “power of balance” in the region. But the remoteness of the metropolis and the weakness of the French arsenal in the area against these two superpowers are hardly compatible with these ambitions. The French strategy lacks “visibility”, estimated in this regard senators in a report published last week.
Sébastien Lecornu nevertheless affirmed that he had obtained the assurance that the AUKUS tripartite alliance (Australia, United Kingdom and United States) did not exclude any bilateral project and allowed the two countries to prepare capacity projects “on a blank page”. . Other areas discussed included environmental topics and issues related to global warming, including Paris’ support for Australia’s bid to host COP31 in 2026 with Pacific island countries.