NATO downplays the impact of the submarine debate on military cooperation

The partially state-owned Marine Group of France was selected to build 12 conventionally operating submarines for Australia, based on France’s Barracuda nuclear-powered submarines under development.

But US President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday a new Australia-US-UK defense alliance (AUKUS) that expands US nuclear submarine technology to Australia and into cyber defence, applied artificial intelligence and submarine capabilities.

“There may be a consequence of this agreement, but at the moment I do not foresee that it will have an impact on cohesion within NATO,” Admiral Rob Bauer, head of the NATO Military Committee, told reporters in Athens.

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“First, Australia is a partner, as far as I know, but not part of the NATO organization. There are many agreements between countries that can affect NATO politically.

After the NATO military defense chiefs conference, Bauer said, “For now, however, this will not have an impact on military cooperation within NATO as far as I can see.” he added.

The deal, widely seen to be aimed at countering the rise of China, infuriated France, which lost a conventional submarine supply contract worth A$50 billion ($36.5 billion, €31 billion) to Australia when signed in 2016.

As a result, French President Emmanuel Macron recalled his ambassadors from the US and Australia on Friday.

A White House official expressed “regret” for the recall of the French envoy, but said that “we will continue to engage in resolving our differences in the days ahead, as we have done at other points throughout our long alliance.”

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