World

France cancels Washington gala over U.S.-Australia submarine deal

French diplomats on Thursday canceled a gala at their Washington embassy to celebrate its close ties with the U.S., the latest snub over President Biden’s decision to cut a $90 billion nuclear submarine deal with Australia.

The U.S. deal prompted Australia to cancel a $66 billion deal to buy French-built submarines.

The embassy event was supposed to commemorate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes when the French Navy fought the British Navy during the Revolutionary War.

The gala now has been scrapped, The New York Times first reported, as French anger mounts over the trilateral security partnership between the U.S., Australia and the U.K.

The new deal included the U.S. sharing nuclear submarine technology with Australia. France had a $90 billion deal with Australia to replace its submarine fleet, which was scuttled because of the new U.S. pact.

France also recalled its top naval officer, who had traveled to Washington for the event, and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the move “a stab in the back.”

“This brutal, unilateral, and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” Mr. Le Drian told a French radio station. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. has a good relationship with France and they’ve partnered on a variety of issues.

She also said the Biden administration officials spoke with French officials ahead of the announcement.

Mr. Biden would speak with French President Emmanuel Macron “soon” but nothing is scheduled, she said.

Asked about the French foreign minister comparing Mr. Biden to former President Trump, Ms. Psaki said he “doesn’t think about it much.” She added that Mr. Biden is focused on maintaining the U.S. relationship with France, the U.K. and Australia.

The French deal with Australia had previously caused friction between the two nations. Australia was frustrated with cost overruns, design changes, and delays, according to reports.

French officials also said the Biden administration kept the deal with the U.K and Australia shrouded in secrecy despite their efforts to learn more about the agreement.— 

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