French President Emmanuel Macron has said Europe must stop being naive when defending its interests and developing its own military capacity after a new security pact led to a transatlantic diplomatic crisis.
Paris reacted furiously after Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States announced a trilateral agreement for the Indo-Pacific region, dubbed AUKUS, earlier this month.
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The deal led to Australia scrapping a multibillion-dollar deal with France to build conventional submarines. It will instead acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology.
Speaking publicly for the first time on the issue, Macron on Tuesday urged more European autonomy as Washington increasingly focuses on the Indo-Pacific region, where China’s growing influence has worried Western powers.
“The Europeans must stop being naive,” he told a news conference in Paris after sealing a deal with Athens worth about 3 billion euros ($3.51 billion) to supply Greece with French frigates.
“When we are under pressure from powers … we need to react and show that we have the power and capacity to defend ourselves. Not escalating things, but protecting ourselves.”
‘Our own protection’
Macron, who was speaking alongside Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said the US are “great historical friends and allies in terms of values”.
But he also warned that European leaders “must see that for more than 10 years the Americans first focus on themselves and have strategic interests reoriented toward China and the Pacific”.
“We must, as Europeans, take our part in our own protection,” Macron said.
“This isn’t an alternative to the United States alliance, nor a substitute for it, but to take responsibility of the European pillar within NATO,” he added, citing the transatlantic security alliance.
France took the unprecedented step of recalling its ambassador to the US a fortnight ago in response to AUKUS, saying it was blindsided by the deal.
But after Macron and US President Joe Biden held talks by phone last week, Paris announced Ambassador Philippe Etienne would return to his post.
Etienne will go back to Washington on Wednesday with a “clear mandate”, Macron said on Tuesday.
The French and US leaders also committed to further consultations aimed at ensuring confidence between the longtime allies.
They will talk again in mid-October, before a scheduled in-person meeting at the end of next month in Europe.