The United States and France were born out of a revolution that fought for liberty. However, their ties have been long fraternal but marked by deep French discontent over their equality.
Last week, French concerns over being the junior partner in this relationship simmered when Australia, the U.S. and Britain announced a new security initiative for Indo-Pacific. This initiative aims to counter a growing China. A multibillion-dollar submarine agreement France had with Australia was canceled by the AUKUS agreement. However, the French pointedly ignored them, a sign of the insecurity that has plagued Paris since the end World War II.
France has always resisted Anglo-Saxon arrogance and has been vocal in its resistance to British- and German speaking dominance in all matters, from commerce to conflict.
Over the years, American presidents have ignored French warnings regarding military involvements in Indochina to Iraq. France didn't learn from the mistakes made in Vietnam and Algeria. The Americans have pulled back when France supported military intervention, such as in Syria in 2013.
The latest scandal, AUKUS, sparked a furious outcry. The French protested loudly and recall their ambassadors to Australia and the U.S., while shunning the British in a display of centuries of rivalry.
France claims they are a natural partner in an initiative to counter China's assertiveness in Pacific. They have more territory, troops, and influence than Britain in the region, which has seen its empire shrink to one inhabited island. They would have expected to be consulted, especially by an American administration that promotes multilateral diplomacy.
Pierre Vimont, who was a former French ambassador in the United States, said that it left him with the unpleasant feeling of being sidelined and disdained. He is currently at Carnegie Europe, an affiliate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "France was completely excluded by this new alliance, even though we did not want to be part of it."
Biden administration officials were apprehensive about the French response, but many admit that the announcement was poorly handled with little or no consideration for Paris's reaction.
In fact, the joint U.S./French statement after Wednesday's make-up meeting between Presidents Joe Biden & Emmanuel Macron stated that "the two leaders agreed that open consultations among allies would have been beneficial to the situation on matters strategic interest to France or our European partners."
Some American officials view the rollout the submarine deal as inept. "Here's a new ANGLO SAXON bromance partner with our besties the Brits, and Ozzies. "No Gauls allowed," said a veteran diplomat, who was not authorized for public comment on the matter.
This feeling of resentment is evident among French academics, leaders, and especially those who couldn't hide their disgust at President Donald Trump's brusque and brazen "America First" ideology. They also welcomed Biden's "America Is Back," mantra.
Laurence Nardon, French Institute for International Relations, stated that France is disappointed because it didn’t expect this from Biden administration. He said that France thought the Biden administration would be more multilateral, trans-Atlantic and Francophile.
Biden's top diplomat, Antony Blinken (Secretary of State), is fluent in French and a Parisian-born native speaker. Blinken plans to visit Paris in October, despite the fallout of AUKUS.
However, French anger at the snub led to a routine meeting between Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Foreign Minister, and Blinken that became a problem. This made it uncertain whether the meeting would take place.
It finally happened on Thursday. This was just a day after Biden had spoken to Macron. The French foreign ministry stated that the meeting was intended to "restore confidence." But Le Drian stated that "it would take time and actions to end the crisis between our countries".
Although the American account of the meeting did not mention a "crisis", or "restoring confidence", it did refer to Indo-Pacific issues as well as "the need for closer cooperation with France and other European allies, partners and active in the region".