AUKUS Deal, Transatlantic Relations Is the Main Victim

The Biden administration has decided to form a strategic Indo-Pacific alliance, AUKUS, with Australia and Britain against China. France and the European Union, who  feel they have been left out, are angry and see this measure as a return to the Trump era. By signing this new trilateral strategic defence alliance on nuclear-propelled submarines and more cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, the US, UK and Australia have breached trust among transatlantic partners.


The unexpected announcement came last week of a new defence pact having been agreed to between the UK, US and Australia on nuclear-powered submarines. This deal was called a landmark moment in the West’s presence in the Indo-Pacific region to curb China’s increasing military assertiveness. China condemned the deal as a geopolitical gaming tool and warned the three countries to respect the aspirations of the people in the region or they would end up hurting their own interests.

The new AUKUS contract did not only anger China, whose relationship with the UK, US and Australia was already at a low level, it also angered a close and old ally of the three countries – France. Back in 2016, officials in France and Australia agreed on a pact to build 12 diesel-electric submarines for Australia. France described the contract as the deal of the century and the start of a 5-year marriage. But the new contract between American, British and Australian officials has unexpectedly left Paris behind. Days after the conclusion of the AUKUS contract was announced, French officials called it a stab in the back, and French ambassadors to Washington and Canberra were recalled.

The US and the UK Betray NATO, EU Partners

Although France knew that its closest allies have been negotiating secretly for months, Paris feels a sense of betrayal now that the AUKUS has been officially announced. Moreover, mutual trust between the US and NATO is being questioned at a time of ongoing talks to repair relations between Europe and the US in the post-Trump era. The former US President Donald Trump’s refusal to engage in transatlantic trade and his lack of interest in commitments to NATO had already hurt the transatlantic alliance.

But continuing Trump’s policies towards NATO and Europe would mean further destruction for the post-war liberal order. After Joe Biden won the presidential election, Europe hoped for a new window which could revive the alliance of democracies. During his presidential campaign, Biden had said that Europe is the cornerstone of US engagement with other countries. He said that both the US and Europe should pursue their common interests and improve their collective strength and strategic priorities. But since taking office, the US president has not behaved in accordance with his previous promises.

Trust Is Breached Between Transatlantic Partners

After Trump left the Withe House, many believed that a new period would start in transatlantic relations between the US and Europe based on shared values and interests. But recently, Europe is feeling that something is broken in the US-Europe transatlantic relations. Since the recent contract has been concluded between the US and Australia, there are strong feelings that trust between the US and Europe is eroded. The partnership is not working while there is no trust and respect, exposing the fragility of common values. Perhaps it is time to reset US-EU relations. After their hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan shocked European leaders who were not consulted, the new contract between the US and Australia, plus the UK, has disappointed EU and NATO member states in the new US administration. Some top EU officials have called for a reset in relations between the EU and the US and questioned the US administration’s commitment to a powerful alliance with the EU.

France Lost a Multi-Billion Contract with Australia

Now the 66-billion-dollar deal between France and Australia is replaced by a new contract between Australia, the US and the UK, with a major economic impact on France. Moreover, France will lose its strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific region, which has been a priority for the country. Around 1.5 million French people reside there and eight thousands French soldiers are located in the region. The Indo-Pacific region is an important economic zone as the global economy’s centre of gravity has been shifting to the Pacific, and a large share of world trade and investments are available there.

The French Naval Group manufacturing site is the main loser in the new contract; it is located in the city of Cherbourg in northern France where hundreds of jobs will be lost. EU officials also complained about the contract and mentioned that they were not consulted on this subject. They have remarked that this unilateral move by the US makes it necessary to follow the European strategic autonomy as an important agenda.

The UK Prioritises Interests Above EU Allies Following Brexit

Contrary to the reactions of French and European officials, British politicians have welcomed AUKUS and hoped this new alliance will help the three countries focus more on the complex Indo-Pacific region. British politicians defended the contract and stated that this shows the UK is ready to be hard-headed in protecting its interests. After the Brexit negotiations, which lasted from 2016 to January 2021 when London withdrew from the EU, the concept of Great Britain being a Global Britain has been increasingly emphasised on.

UK officials hope the country will profit from the defence industry providing technology to Australia. The US has only shared its nuclear propulsion technology with the UK so far, but it is now going to share it with Australia with the UK’s cooperation. Furthermore, London wants more engagement in the Indo-Pacific region. Its new aircraft carrier, the Queen Elizabeth, has already arrived in the South China Sea. There is a claim that the perceived threat from China stretches from India to Japan and Australia, and nuclear-propelled submarines have a longer range and are faster and more difficult to detect.


Over the last week, tensions have escalated between Western allies after Australia scrapped a 66-billion-dollar contract to buy French submarines in favour of American nuclear submarines. The deal between the US and Australia, plus the UK, is the first American nuclear propulsion technology contract with an ally apart from Britain. The UK, who has already left the European Union, joined the agreement and hailed the trilateral alliance in the strategic Indo-Pacific region. This is considered a move against China’s growing military and economic power.

The outcome of the trilateral defence contract between the UK, US and Australia is a crisis of trust among Western allies. The three countries have secretly negotiated and decided on an important defence alliance while keeping both Paris and Brussels, their old and key partners, in the dark. This is a warning for Europe in general, and for the EU and NATO in particular, that the transatlantic relation is no longer a powerful and strong alliance as it was presented previously. Policymakers have to balance US ties with NATO/EU or the Western alliance will fade away with each country following its own interests.

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