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Australia has been a very close US ally – one could even say protectorate – since the beginning of World War II. A US Marine formation is based there. The US Navy makes routine port and maintenance calls in Australia, which lies right on the dividing line between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

The Aussies now feel increasingly threatened by the rapid expansion of China’s naval and air power, so they have turned to the United States for more protection by just announcing the purchase of a fleet of nuclear-powered, but conventionally armed, attack submarines.

These new, high-tech subs are to be built in Australia to augment the nation’s small fleet of older, but still capable, submarines. Focusing on submarines makes good sense for Australia which is surrounded by two vast oceans and huge distances. Like the United States, its oceans provide ultimate protection from potential foreign invaders.

However, the deal with the US has abruptly torpedoed a $66 billion deal made by Australia to buy 12 French-made submarines, their biggest military program in memory. The French, never calm, are really in a fury. The sub deal is a ‘stab in the back ‘ fumed France’s irate foreign minister.

France makes quite good submarines and was counting on the Australian deal to help keep their naval industry alive. Worse, the British somehow sneaked into the sub deal with the US, abandoning any hopes of post-Brexit military cooperation with France, which is still supposed to be a close British ally in the NATO alliance.

‘Perfidious Albion,’ raged the French. The Brits, by contrast, were quietly amused by France’s distress. Britain’s always nasty media needled the French with usual references to the battles of Agincourt, Trafalgar and, of course, Waterloo. Paris retorted by asserting, ‘nous sommes trahis!’ (we have been betrayed). Indeed, they were.

No mention of cancelling the $66 billion deal was made by the US or British before they abruptly barged into it. This was no way to run an alliance. France is America’s oldest ally. Without military help from France, the American revolution would have failed.

Washington’s behavior was crude and ham-handed. Its new secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, deserves brickbats for this embarrassing fiasco. President Joe Biden, who has so far been doing a pretty good job of managing the world, deserves an F- grade for this debacle. The highly experienced Biden should have known better.

Meanwhile the British Royal Navy is having serious trouble finding enough sailors to man it current subs and its shrinking number of surface warships. London has had to borrow US warplanes for its new, and only, aircraft carrier.

So, it’s up to Uncle Sam to keep patrolling the China seas. Australia won’t be able to deploy its new submarines for 6-8 years, maybe more. Warship construction has always had a painful, slow learning curve.

Too bad the Aussies did not allocate some of their submarine funds for building fire shelters for their endangered wild animals who have been burned alive by the millions by recent massive conflagrations.

China, as usual, will see a dark side to this business.


Conventional submarines are fine for defending territorial waters. But the seas around China are very far from Australia – near the operating range for conventional submarines. However, Canberra’s new US subs with nuclear propulsion will be able to stay on station for three or more months, posing a major threat to China’s all-important maritime commerce, its front-line warships and will, of course, bolster Taiwan’s maritime defenses which are today vulnerable to Chinese blockade.

I have a better way for China to extricate itself from this Pacific mess. Beijing, which is rolling in cash, should offer to buy all the French subs available. The French will be pleased and able to sell more Hermes handbags to Chinese tourists. China will have the latest French sub technology and quality rather than China’s not so great undersea craft. The Aussies will have their new US-engineered subs, and Britain will claim that its imperial sagacity enabled this happy solution.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Australia, China, Joe Biden 
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  1. Notsofast says:

    well now you know why the u.s. let the u.k. poodle off the e.u. leash. so much for fukus, now the french know what that stands for. the 3 eyed monster will become the 5 eyed monster after canada and new zealand get shaken down for their contribution (protection money) to fighting the evil dragon. now we don’t have to waste our time learning foreign languages (not that we ever did in the past). appearently the e.u. was getting too uppity and not listening to our sage advice and have been seen flirting with the russians and chinese. hope they remember what happened to the italians after signing on board the b.r.i.

    • Replies: @J
  2. Yee says:

    “Beijing, which is rolling in cash, should offer to buy all the French subs available.”

    Nah, submarines are old fashion. China will use the $66 billion to build hypersonic missiles…

    If the Aussie sub launch an attack, then drop a dozen missiles on Sydney and Melbourne each. Either no war or total war, Aussie can take its pick.

    • Replies: @Dule
    , @Anonymous
  3. Trinity says:

    Australia has more to worry about than the Chinese.

    • Replies: @LJ
  4. There is the absurdity of wasting billions of dollars to protect Australia from its most important trading partner, as shown here:

    So Australia needs no new submarines to keep its sea lanes open to Chinese ships, but faces economic hardship as an American colony because its American rulers demand that it cut trade with China to help maintain American dominance in Asia in the face of a fast growing China.

    • Agree: animalogic
  5. This topic is so boring and meaningless and pointless. Why are we being subjected to it? What is it obscuring?

  6. Molip says:

    Australia is really getting up the nose of the Chinese who will soon stop buying the former’s commodities. Australia’s prosperity depends on this Chinese trade so it will soon not be able to afford to buy or run fantastically expensive nuclear subs.

    And of course the Australian people will now have big, fat nuclear targets painted on their cities.

    So they cast off their largest trading partner, become poor and sitting targets for Chinese nukes all by the one risible decision.

    A lose/lose/lose proposition Australia’s leaders can be proud of – and all just to please its US masters.

    • Agree: RoatanBill
  7. Dule says:

    China might pay for the French submarines using US bonds instead of cash. Thus they will “kill two flies by one stroke” – obtain a respectable fleet of reasonably good submarines and get rid of the surplus toilet-paper bonds that they cannot dispose otherwise, as any attempt to sell them on the market would decrease their value and hurt the Chinese finances.

  8. J says: • Website

    What happened to the Italians? Decimated by the coronavirus?

    • Replies: @Notsofast
  9. Notsofast says:

    imo, yes. they were hit first and hardest just as the italians were ignoring the e.u. and u.s. demands not to join the b.r.i. in order to make the italian people blame the chinese. they were also the template for the e.u. response to covid, lockdowns, fear porn reporting, hurried vaccines and loss of civil rights.

  10. Anonymous[280] • Disclaimer says:

    Like the United States, its oceans provide ultimate protection from potential foreign invaders.

    You’re aware that the Japanese bombed Australia during WWII, right?

    You’re aware that the Japanese firebombed the west coast of the U.S. during WWII, right?

    You’re aware that the Germans used a submarine to insert saboteurs on the east coast of the U.S. during WWII, right?

    By your logic the Atlantic Ocean should have protected Germany from the D-Day invasion.

  11. LJ says:

    President Joe Biden, who has so far been doing a pretty good job of managing the world, …


    • Replies: @Professor Chops
  12. LJ says:

    Australia has more to worry about than the Chinese.

    If that ain’t the truth!

    Australia’s own government (like many others) is a bigger threat to the Aussies than any foreign enemy at the moment.

    Funny, the same thing fan be said about the US

  13. “Joe Biden’s done a pretty good job so far in managing the world. ” Has Margolis gone mad or is he still suffering from TDS? What world is Margolis referring to? Biden has done nothing right and I challenge Margolis to prove me wrong!

  14. @LJ

    Unbelievably stupid or intentionally deceptive comment by a reporter who knows better. Much better! Margolis must miss the invitations to democratic fund raisers.

  15. Jim H says:

    ‘Washington’s behavior was crude and ham-handed.’ — Eric Margolis

    As always.

    Best possible result of this fiasco is that France’s withdrawal causes obsolete, failed NATO to crumble to dust.

    Let it bleed!

  16. France is America’s oldest ally. Without military help from France, the American revolution would have failed.

    Ironically, France’s “ally”, by reneging on loans, helped cause the French Revolution. Something for which the toy boy inhabiting Élysée Palace is, undoubtedly grateful.

    • Replies: @Marshal Marlow
  17. The highly experienced Biden should have known better.

    Biden is in early-stage Alzheimer’s and is incapable of executive level decision-making.

    • Replies: @Corvinus
  18. Corvinus says:
    @The Anti-Gnostic

    You really are letting your elitist handlers walk all over you. Is renewal in your country club membership worth patent lying?

    • Replies: @The Anti-Gnostic
  19. Anonymous[658] • Disclaimer says:

    Their ICBM tech is still quite poor seemingly. Havent been able to inflitrate raytheon etc enough yet with the spies/students that the US educated the last 35 years.
    Naval force cant get to Taiwan much less Melbourne.

  20. @Curmudgeon

    Are you saying the US defaulted on loan repayments? That’s a bit of history I didn’t know.

  21. @Corvinus

    I am dealing with a family member with the same issues. Biden is patently symptomatic.

    • Replies: @Corvinus
  22. A clever suggestion by the author. But the episode is part of a pattern leading towards another world war. For Washington must confront Beijing if it wishes to maintain its global dominance, and China must resist if it is to maintain its rise as a superpower. Neither capital is heeding the warning of history.

  23. Corvinus says:
    @The Anti-Gnostic

    As have I in the past. But Biden doesn’t fit the description as you so desperately want to believe.

  24. sb says:

    My understanding of the France -Australia submarine deal was that it was a series of contracts over time whereupon either party could withdraw as a new contact was to come into operation .
    The media seems to imply that there was One Big Contract from go to woe . Apparently not .

    I think Australia can suffer being in France’s bad books -the countries have never been that close . Australia is not America in this regard .I have Australian family members who fought the French in WWII ( in Syria ).

    Of course being badly treated by the whole EU is a completely different matter but I wonder how many of the 26 other countries will follow France’s lead .All countries are mainly driven by ( perceived ) self interest

  25. Dan Hayes says:

    Editor-In-Chief Ron,
    A question: How come Eric’s column has been relegated to the Archives Section although there you continue to be publishing his up-top-date works?

  26. Alistair says:

    “Vive La France Eternelle”; but the French elites should get a grip with the high doses of reality that France is no longer a major power.

    The French elites are certainly nostalgic of the hegemonic good old days in the post Napoleonic era, when France had the colonial control over half of Africa and the Indo-China; these elites want their beloved France to keep projecting an image of superpower — that’s not because they’re delusional, or have grandiose hegemonic ambitions, no, not at all, it’s all about “Vanity”, these elites just want to be treated at the same level as the new world power brokers on the international scenes, without losing the face while drinking champagne “à la honour de la France éternelle,” specially, in the power cocktail parties or intellectual galas etc.

    The reality is that France is no longer a major power, and the vanity of projecting the superpower image could cost dearly to France in every respects; including even to her cherished national independence; from the old French elites’ perspective, the European Union is a new frame for prolonging the old image of France as a still relevant superpower without losing the face; so they’re hiding their hegemonic ambitions behind the European Union, or hiding behind similar multilateral agreements, or major technology consortium such as the Airbus industry; or the European Space Agency and so on, but such strategy has certainly its limit.

    As to French Submarines, we can be sure that the core technologies within them are American patented high tech instruments, that’s licensed to France, just like the Core Technologies in Mirage Jet Fighters or Concord Super Sonic Airliners which were made by the American advanced military high tech research labs, through and through.

    The French elites should get a grip with the high doses of reality, and stop their costly vanity ambitions.

    • Replies: @Dan Hayes
  27. Dan Hayes says:

    The last sentence of your diatribe even more equally applies to the late Great Britain!

    • Replies: @Alistair
  28. Alistair says:
    @Dan Hayes

    All the old colonial powers are the same, they all live in the past; yet, we know too well that back in 1950’s, France had failed to protect her own colonial possessions in the Indo-China from the Chinese influence — leading to the U.S-Vietnam war, and the break up of the Indo-China — France cannot protect South Pacific Ocean, she has no means to do so, nor would French public support such grandiose ambition across the globe. French elite should stop their vanity power projection abroad, but focus on France’s internal matters.

    • Thanks: Dan Hayes
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