The champagne was already chilled, but the French ambassador in Washington canceled the gala evening for the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Chesapeake at short notice because of annoyance at the government of Joe Biden. It should have been celebrated as the French navy defeated the British in Chesapeake Bay and paved the way for American independence. But solemn vows of friendship are the last thing Ambassador Philippe Etienne would like to present to high-ranking American guests. Macron's former chief diplomatic advisor and ambassador in Berlin only found out about it a few hours before the official announcement of the AUKUS-baptized security alliance.Alerted by American press reports, he had asked for an emergency appointment with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. In the White House he learned that the new alliance had been secretly forged for months.

Michaela Wiegel

Political correspondent based in Paris.

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The “oldest ally”, as France likes to call itself in good hours, has since plunged into a crisis of confidence. The entire political elite in Paris is deeply outraged at how America has ousted France in secret negotiations with Australia and Britain. The head of the Fondation pour la recherche stratégique, Bruno Tertrais, has already spoken of the worst crisis in American-French relations since France threatened to veto the UN Security Council during the 2003 Iraq campaign. Foreign Secretary Jean-Yves Le Drian is so upset that he has certified President Biden Trump's qualities. Domestically, too, the waves are high. Marine Le Pen accused President Macron of a diplomatic failure and called for a committee of inquiry.Left-wing presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon speaks of a “humiliation” for France for which Macron is responsible. "Treason in deep water," headlined the newspaper Le Parisien. The topic dominated the headlines on Friday.

Macron didn't say a word about it

During his press appearance at the side of the Chancellor on Thursday evening in the courtyard of the Elysée Palace, President Emmanuel Macron did not say a word about the American "stab in the back", as his foreign minister had put it.

He seemed to have adopted the old French motto: "Always think about it, never talk about it." At the confidential dinner, however, they talked to Angela Merkel about what the Chancellor had announced to the press.

What applies here is what she recommended to Macron after Macron's speeches on his brain death.

At the time, she said that a sweeping attack was not necessary, "even if we have problems, even if we have to pull ourselves together." She reminded him that the transatlantic partnership was essential. At the same time, Merkel has not forgotten that Macron stood by her side against domestic political resistance when she pushed through the EU investment agreement with China at the end of 2020. Together they wanted to wait for the instructions of the new American president, as it had been suggested to them.

At the time, that was a clear indication that the EU was emancipating itself and was not aiming for the role of the American junior partner in the geopolitical competition between China and the United States. The EU-China investment agreement was in line with the French Indo-Pacific strategy, which was conceived as an alternative to the American-Chinese trial of strength. Australia was receptive to this offer in 2016 because it did not want to be crushed in a fight led by the unpredictable American President Trump, is the interpretation in Paris. But this has changed since Biden was in office.

MEP Arnaud Danjean (LR), one of the best defense experts in his party, reminds that Paris could hardly believe its luck when the government in Canberra actually voted in 2016 for the offer from the French state shipyard Naval Group and against competitors from Germany and Japan decided. At the request of Australia, a nuclear drive for the twelve submarines was never negotiated, says Danjean. The Australian side absolutely wanted a conventional diesel engine. That is the reason for the high development costs, because the French Barracuda-class submarines have nuclear propulsion.