Friday’s gala was scheduled to celebrate the long history of diplomatic ties between France and the U.S., but a French official told the New York Times that continuing with the event would be “ridiculous” in light of the pressure.
It was specifically going to mark the 240th anniversary of the 1781 Battle of the Capes, in which the French navy secured sea supply lanes to give goods and weapons the Americans needed to win the Revolutionary War. The party was to take place at the embassy in Washington, D.C., and on a French frigate docked in Baltimore.
This comes after Australia left a 2016 agreement with a French shipbuilder and cut a deal with the U.K. and the U.S. in what is commonly seen as a bid to fight China. French diplomats told the New York Times their U.S. counterparts kept them completely in the dark.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the deal a “unilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision” that “is not done between allies” in an interview with Franceinfo radio.
“The American decision, which leads to the exclusion of a European ally and partner like France from a crucial partnership with Australia at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region […] signals a lack of consistency which France can only notice and regret,” Le Drian said in a statement .
France had been trying to strike its own, multibillion-dollar deal with Australia, and French officials said that the new agreement, which Mr. Biden announced at the White House on Wednesday with the leaders of Australia and Britain joining virtually, was an affront.
Nevertheless, even as American officials scrambled to respond to the French anger, they dismissed the notion of a serious rift. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters that the United States informed the French before the president’s announcement but did not have an obligation to include the country in their arrangement with Australia and Britain.
“This is not the only global engagement or global cooperative partnership the United States has in the world,” she said. She added that the United States and France will continue to be partners in a number of other ways, noting that “the French are a member of the G-7.”