France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal


France on Friday recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia in protest of a new partnership between the two countries to deliver Australia nuclear-powered submarines.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement Friday afternoon that the decision was made by French President Emmanuel MacronFrance pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine dealEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronOvernight Defense & National Security: US-Australian sub deal causes rift with France France cancels DC gala in anger over Biden sub deal: report 3,000 health workers suspended in France over vaccine mandate MORE.

“This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on 15th September by Australia and the United States,” the foreign minister said.

“The cancellation of the Attack class submarine program binding Australia and France since 2016, and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States meant to launch studies on a possible future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines, constitute unacceptable behavior between allies and partners, whose consequences directly affect the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe,” he added.

France has reacted angrily to the new partnership between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, including by canceling a gala planned in Washington, D.C. The foreign minister earlier this week compared President BidenFrance pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine dealJoe BidenTrump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race On The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate MORE to former President TrumpFrance pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine dealDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE over the agreement, recalling the frequent unilateral decisions of the prior administration.

France had been seeking a multibillion-dollar defense agreement with Australia, and the new partnership, called AUKUS, means Paris will miss out on the lucrative opportunity.

Biden administration officials said they gave France advanced notice of the pact before Wednesday's announcement, but French officials appear to have received a heads up just hours beforehand.

The decision to recall an ambassador is a rare occurrence and one that signals considerable increased tensions from France, a close and longtime U.S. ally. Earlier this year, Russia recalled its ambassador to the U.S. after Biden replied in the affirmative when asked if Russian President Vladimir PutinFrance pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine dealVladimir Vladimirovich Putin Putin says dozens of staffers infected with COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails Overnight Hillicon Valley — Ex-US intel operatives pay to settle hacking charges MORE was a “killer” during an interview with ABC News. The U.S. also recalled its ambassador to Russia, but both officials have since returned to their respective posts.

The spat with France represents another foreign policy challenge for Biden, who has put a priority on repairing U.S. alliances after a tumultuous and unpredictable four years of Trump.

“We have been in close touch with our French partners on their decision to recall Ambassador Etienne to Paris for consultations,” National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement.

“We understand their position and will continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our differences, as we have done at other points over the course of our long alliance. France is our oldest ally and one of our strongest partners, and we share a long history of shared democratic values and a commitment to working together to address global challenges.”

“The Transatlantic Alliance has fostered security, stability, and prosperity around the world for more than seven decades, and our commitment to those bonds and our work together is unwavering,” State Department spokesman Ned Price added in a statement. 

“We hope to continue our discussion on this issue at the senior level in coming days, including at UNGA next week, in line with our close bilateral partnership and commitment to cooperation on a range of issues, including the Indo-Pacific,” Price said, referencing upcoming United Nations General Assembly that both Biden and Secretary of State Antony BlinkenFrance pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine dealAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security: US-Australian sub deal causes rift with France Oversight Republicans seek testimony from Afghanistan watchdog France cancels DC gala in anger over Biden sub deal: report MORE are scheduled to attend. 

Asked to react to the French foreign minister's announcement on Friday, Pentagon spokesman John KirbyFrance pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine dealJohn KirbyFrance pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE reiterated during a press briefing that senior administration officials had been in touch with their French counterparts, including before Wednesday’s announcement. Kirby also said that Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinFrance pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine dealLloyd AustinOversight Republicans seek testimony from Afghanistan watchdog Carbon reduction tax credit: An investment we can't afford not to make The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? MORE spoke with his counterpart Friday morning.

“It was clear from the discussion that there is still much work to do in terms of our defense relationship with France,” Kirby said, clarifying that he meant “more things to work on” like shared challenges and interests.

“There is no regional divide that separates the interests of our Atlantic and our pacific partners,” Kirby added.

Updated at 8:59 p.m.