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Tea Leaves

Reflections on the French connection down under

Submarine debacle takes Australia-France relations into troubled waters, despite cultural and historical ties

Trust is a hard-won thing. Which is why France's leaders raged about "deceit, treachery, treason and back-stabbing" when Australia on Sept. 15 suddenly reneged on
a 90 billion Australian dollars ($65.3 billion) submarine contract with France in favor of nuclear-powered submarines under a new deal with the U.S. and U.K.

So, was it ill-intentioned duplicity on Australia's part, or a ham-fisted yet pragmatic move to enhance Australian defensive capabilities amid spiraling tensions in the Indo-Pacific region? It depends where you sit on the spectrum of Franco-Australian relations, and what you think about, among other things, alliances, mateship and honor, the blood spilled by 50,000 young Australian soldiers on French soil in two world wars, French nuclear tests in the South Pacific, scientific cooperation in the Antarctic, shared social, economic and political values, and the history of the European colonization of Australia.

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