America’s oldest ally, France, recalled its ambassador to the United States on Friday in an unprecedented show of anger that dwarfed decades of previous rifts.
The relationship conceived in 18th century revolutions appeared at a tipping point after the U.S., Australia and Britain shunned France in creating a new Indo-Pacific security arrangement.
It was the first time ever France has recalled its ambassador to the U.S., according to the French foreign ministry. Paris also recalled its envoy to Australia.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement that the French decision, on request from President Emmanuel Macron, “is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements” made by Australia and the United States.
He said Australia’s decision to scrap a big French conventional submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology is “unacceptable behavior between allies and partners.”
Ambassador Philippe Etienne tweeted the announcements are “directly affecting the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe.”
The Biden administration has been in close contact with French officials about the decision to recall Etienne to Paris, National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said.
“We understand their position and will continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our differences, as we have done at other points over the course of our long alliance,” she said in a statement. “France is our oldest ally and one of our strongest partners, and we share a long history of shared democratic values and a commitment to working together to address global challenges.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price also stressed the value the U.S. places on its relationship with France and expressed hope that talks between the two sides will continue in the coming days, including at the United Nations General Assembly next week.
Macron, however, for the first time since he came into office in 2017, won’t be making a speech to the annual meeting of world leaders. Le Drian will instead deliver the French address.
The Australian government said it regretted France’s decision to recall its ambassador to that nation.
“Australia understands France’s deep disappointment with our decision, which was taken in accordance with our clear and communicated national security interests,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s office said in a statement. It added that Australia valued its relationship with France and looked forward to future engagements together.