Climate czar John Kerry told French reporters in an interview published Monday that President Joe Biden “had not been aware” that France would be angry about a recent nuclear submarine deal between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Biden announced in September that his administration had brokered a trilateral deal with the two allies, now known as AUKUS, to help Australia acquire a nuclear submarine. The deal spelled the end of what had been a $50 billion agreement between France and Australia to provide the latter with French-built nuclear submarines.
The move infuriated French leaders. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the AUKUS partnership a “stab in the back” that reminded him “a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do.” France recalled its ambassadors to both the U.S. and Australia in response.
Biden had no idea that his new deal would anger France at all, according to Kerry.
“He asked me, he said ‘What’s the situation?’ And I explained exactly, he had not been aware of that. He literally had not been aware of what had transpired,” Kerry told France’s BFM TV. “I don’t want to go into the details of it, but suffice it to say that the president, my president, is very committed to strengthening the relationship and making sure that this is a small event of the past, and moving on to a much more important future.”
France also cancelled a gala set to be held in Washington, D.C. in September to celebrate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes. The event was to be held at the French Embassy in Washington. (RELATED: France Agrees To Return Ambassador Following Call With Biden)
“We have a relationship with France that is so much bigger than this moment of what happened with respect to the lack of communication that has been defined already, and I found that today talking with President Macron, and understanding that we have so much to work on,” Kerry said. “France is a great leader, France historically has written so much of history… our commitment to values, to freedom, to liberty, to justice, to a strong Europe, to our ability to be able to work together, is much much stronger than any of these differences of the last few days, and I think you’ll see that very quickly.”
Biden administration officials have dismissed the French concerns despite the outcry from leaders in Paris. “I’ll leave it to our Australian partners to describe why they sought this new technology,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “But as the president said and I want to emphasize again, we cooperate incredibly closely with France on many shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific but also around the world.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki added that President Biden “doesn’t think” much about the comparison to Trump or France’s discontent over AUKUS.