The President Joe Biden administration entered the White House with some serious lost ground to recover in America’s foreign policy. The Trump administration spent four years ignoring European and Pacific allies while abandoning democracies in favor of closer ties with authoritarian leaders. Biden, in an effort to restore lost faith in America’s international status, has decided to make some bold moves early in his presidency, including the new AUKUS agreement. AUKUS is a security pact between Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. in which the U.K and U.S. provide Australia with the materials necessary to build nuclear submarines. Of course, the unspoken goal of this pact is to catch China off guard with a military build-up in the Pacific, and it is a clear signal that the Biden administration is taking Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific seriously.
At first glance this is a beneficial deal for all members: the U.S. contains China and is seen as a trustworthy ally once again, the U.K. advances its own Pacific agenda, and Australia becomes better able to stand up to China, if the time ever comes where they truly need to do so. France, however, is not pleased with the deal. As one of the most prominent European powers in the Pacific, with their control of land in the area, like French Polynesia, France clearly also stands to gain from a strong stance towards Chinese aggression, but was excluded from the deal. AUKUS also voids a previous French deal to provide Australia with twelve new submarines which would have been a win for French influence in the Pacific and a sizable payday for the French companies.
In response to their exclusion from the deal, France took the unprecedented action of pulling their U.S. ambassador. While it is too soon to tell if the U.S. has blundered by isolating France in this way, the benefits of the AUKUS deal likely outweigh the costs to the U.S.-France relationship. China has responded to this new deal by claiming the U.S. is stuck in a Cold War mentality, a fairly predictable response, but has not changed course in the region as a response, signalling this new deal probably won’t fundamentally change the state of China-U.S. relationship. France, after making their bold public protest, has already indicated they are bringing their ambassador back to D.C. after a phone call between Biden and French President Macron. If the U.S. really wants to fully mend their relationship with France, Dr. John R. Deni of the Atlantic Council suggested last week that the U.S. invite French forces to training exercises alongside Australia in the Pacific as a way of integrating the French into the growing security partnership.
The U.S. continues to engage in productive dialogue on French counter-terrorism missions in the Sahel and the capabilities the U.S. could lend to France. While the Biden administration certainly could have handled this move better, the AUKUS agreement still represents progress towards a more reliable and vocal U.S. on the world stage.
Alli Hering is from
Saint Paul, Minn.
Her major is history.