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Thread: Super Awk AUKUS

  1. #1

    Default Super Awk AUKUS

    I've been reading the news with interest regarding France's response to the announcement of a new US-UK-Australia security agreement whose major feature was an agreement to share technology to enable Australia to produce nuclear powered attack submarines (widely seen as a counter to China's growing blue water navy). I am not surprised that the French are upset, because it meant that a troubled (and expensive) deal to provide Australia with conventionally powered attack subs seems to have been scuttled. But the level of their pique has been a bit puzzling to me. Sure, some French companies lost out on business, but no fundamental French security or foreign policy interests were affected; it's really just a question of money, which in the long run is going to have a pretty marginal effect.

    Am I missing something about why the French are miffed? Their language and actions seemed a bit much to me. Is there a subtext I haven't fully understood?
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  2. #2
    This contract would have gone a long way toward covering the costs of the fleet they sacrificed to help end WW2. They are angry over not getting the credit they deserve for their actions in Toulon. As far as they are concerned we'd all be speaking deutsch had they not sacrificed those ships.
    .

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    I've been reading the news with interest regarding France's response to the announcement of a new US-UK-Australia security agreement whose major feature was an agreement to share technology to enable Australia to produce nuclear powered attack submarines (widely seen as a counter to China's growing blue water navy). I am not surprised that the French are upset, because it meant that a troubled (and expensive) deal to provide Australia with conventionally powered attack subs seems to have been scuttled. But the level of their pique has been a bit puzzling to me. Sure, some French companies lost out on business, but no fundamental French security or foreign policy interests were affected; it's really just a question of money, which in the long run is going to have a pretty marginal effect.

    Am I missing something about why the French are miffed? Their language and actions seemed a bit much to me. Is there a subtext I haven't fully understood?
    They're mostly pissed off they lost a lot of money, though they should have seen that coming even absent this agreement. More reasonably, they're pissed off they weren't given much of a heads up. But withdrawing an ambassador is an overreaction to the latter. My guess a lot of this is theater for domestic consumption.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  4. #4
    That's just the thing, though. It was, what, on the order of $100 billion (when you factor in likely future service/replacement part orders)? Spread over a few decades? That means a whole heck of a lot to a handful of French defense firms, but it's essentially a drop in the bucket for the $2.7 trillion French GDP. It's not even the kind of prestige purchase that is likely to spur a whole lot of imitation orders - there just aren't that many navies that need attack subs but don't make their own.

    I do get the bit about being miffed that they weren't clued in earlier, but because they got all huffy about it now we know they were completely excluded. They could have just as easily said 'we knew the Aussies had some concerns about the deal given the shifting strategic environment, and while we're disappointed we remain steadfast partners blah blah blah'. The way they're doing this makes them just look petulant... and crucially, they have not been able to articulate a good argument for how this is harming their strategic posture (other than the major EU militaries being sidelined and looking bad).

    I guess I also see this kind of thing happening with other largish defense purchases - mostly on aircraft, ships, and some sophisticated systems like integrated air/missile defense. But I never really understood why big countries cared when it came to procurement by other Western allies. Small countries can make significant economic headway with large defense purchases, yes. And sales to non-Western countries can bring them into your sphere of influence for ongoing spares/training/upgrades (as was common during the Cold War vs. Soviet bloc weapons). But neither of these really apply to a French-Australian deal for a dozen attacks subs.

    I am also somewhat surprised that France needed ~$65 billion for 12 subs; the latest Virginia class bloc (with nuke propulsion and much deadlier wrt weapons loadout) is something like $3.4 billion sailaway cost. I guess that's what happens when you can amortize your R&D costs out over 60 or 70 boats.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  5. #5
    2.5% of something is not a drop in the bucket.
    .

  6. #6
    But .1% of something is.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    Am I missing something about why the French are miffed? Their language and actions seemed a bit much to me. Is there a subtext I haven't fully understood?
    The French said there were 500-600 people who were going to be permanently employed by this contract. Given that it's impossible to fire anyone in France, now the government has to pay lifetime pensions to 600 people.

    But in all seriousness, this is an impressive move by Biden. I just wish it took less time to build a nuclear submarine. Hopefully the money somehow allows for great scale/quicker execution.

    I just wish we'd fly over a few dozen plane/shiploads of Stingers, Tomahawks, Harpoons and other wares to Taiwan on an annual basis. Let's not pretend we don't know where this is all going.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    But .1% of something is.
    Using the reported number, $66 billion (instead of your projected $100 billion),

    66,000,000,000 / 2,700,000,000,000 = 0.0244
    .

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Being View Post
    Using the reported number, $66 billion (instead of your projected $100 billion),

    66,000,000,000 / 2,700,000,000,000 = 0.0244
    My ~$100 billion order of magnitude was based on estimates for the full cost of the contract including service contracts, which was $90 billion. Given that the base price has roughly doubled in 4.5 years, I think $100 billion was conservative.

    But the key point here is that the annual contribution to France's GDP is probably only on the order of $3-5 billion because this is a multidecade contract. So 3 billion/2.7 trillion is about 0.1%.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  10. #10
    Ah, yes.
    .

  11. #11
    Hope is the denial of reality

  12. #12
    So... They didn't like being excluded.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  13. #13
    Didn't like being lied to directly to their face for months.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  14. #14
    Isn't this pretty standard, though? From AU's perspective, they had no idea if US/UK would be willing to provide them with highly sensitive technology, so they'd want to keep on trying to salvage the French deal despite continuing deterioration in its prospects (something AU *had* communicated to FR, repeatedly). It's not shocking they'd want to keep their search for alternatives under wraps...

    I guess I really don't have a good sense for when it *would* have been a good time to clue the French in. Certainly letting them know hours ahead of a public announcement seems - at a minimum - rude. I'm still not convinced that this goes much beyond that, though. The key issue here is whether any real FR national security interest is undermined by this change. Other than some (in the grand scheme of things) relatively small economic boost, it's not clear to me that FR's interests in the region have been substantially harmed.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  15. #15
    The US were the ones doing most of the lying.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  16. #16
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    I haven't read up on this, but I have a strong feeling that the French are angry because there is an Australia sized hole in their Pacific security strategy all of a sudden on top of which they must have felt being led around by the nose by their allies. Part of the indignation may however also be because it could be used as an argument for stronger changes towards military integration of the EU. They were planning for that to be on the agenda for their presidency of the EU next year.
    Congratulations America

  17. #17
    Loki: Fair enough, I know I'd be miffed. Just not sure it'd be 'recall my ambassador and throw a tantrum' miffed.

    Hazir: What I don't understand is why the sale of a dozen submarines to Australia constitutes a 'Pacific security strategy'. France can continue to cooperate with and coordinate with Australia on Pacific security; in fact I'd be shocked if this wasn't going to happen with or without subs.

    I'm more skeptical of EU facing arguments, that seems a bit navel gazey to me given their very public (and externally aimed) displeasure.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  18. #18
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    You would be shocked, but apparently the French see that differently given their very strong and public re-evaluation of Australia as a partner.

    I don't know what to say about you EU comment ; all politics are first and foremost national. To think that France would spoil a perfectly good international crisis by not promoting it's military agenda in the EU is overlooking the fact that a shift away from NATO is exactly what France wants.
    Congratulations America

  19. #19
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    The EU angle could be a lot more important than it seemed. The pact has been used by France in a meeting about the NIP and people around Macron have indicated that the permanent seat in the UNSC could be put at the disposal of the EU if France's proposals for a EU army move ahead.
    Congratulations America

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