Europe is no longer a priority for the United States

Europe is no longer a priority for the United States

President Macron (second from left) during a visit to Australia in 2018, with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (fourth from left). Australia was supposed to buy 12 French submarines, but has now opted for nuclear-powered submarines with American technology.Build Getty Images

France uses big words (“deception, deceit, contempt”) to express how disappointed it is with the new defense agreement between the United States, Britain and Australia. The country severely withdrew its ambassadors from the United States and Australia – something France had not done before – and sharply canceled a meeting between the two defense ministers that had been scheduled for later this week.

The so-called Aukus security agreement implies, among other things, that the three member states will share information and technology with each other. But the key word is: subs. The United States is ready to share its nuclear technology to operate submarines with Australia, something it has previously only done with the United Kingdom. This will provide Australia with eight highly advanced submarines.


An earlier deal with France, from which Australia will buy less advanced submarines, has been disrupted, which means France is losing billions of euros. In addition, Paris is angry because she says she was informed only an hour before Australia announced the agreement.

It is undeniably a bruise for France, but there is some understanding from the Australian point of view: they made the choice that best served their national security. Nuclear powered submarines are faster, can stay underwater longer and are harder to detect. Moreover, it is a clear signal from Australia to China, which is flexing its muscles in the Indo-Pacific, while the relationship between Beijing and Canberra has deteriorated considerably.


But the agreement is above all a sign of a changing world. The United States has made China an absolute priority in its foreign and defense policy, and is strengthening its alliances in the Pacific. But this is at the expense of another ally: Europe, in this case France in particular.

Moreover, it is not the first, but after Afghanistan, it is the second time that the United States has shown that its transatlantic partners are not a priority. It is difficult for Europe, with its very different strategic interests, to formulate an answer in the short term, but this is something you should be fully aware of.

The newspaper’s position is expressed in the Volkskrant Commentaar. It was created after a discussion between commentators and the editor-in-chief.

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