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what do we know about the chronology of events?

This beginning of the week, Emmanuel Macron’s entourage was again offended by Australia’s “treason” in the submarine file, recalling that they had never been warned of such an outcome. . However, if we take all the elements distilled in the press in recent weeks, everything seems to indicate that many warning signs had been issued. We have reconstructed the chronology of events, putting in italics what was not known to the general public at the time of the events.

2016 : Australia signs a contract with France for the latter to supply 12 Attack submarines with conventional (non-nuclear) propulsion, for an estimated amount of 56 billion euros. There is talk of “contract of the century” for NavalGroup, majority owned by the French state.

August 2018 : Scott Morisson arrives at the head of the Australian government and recovers the file of the submarines.

Early 2020 : according to revelations from the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on September 16, 2021, the Australian Prime Minister at that time asked a very small circle within the Australian defense if the option of nuclear-powered submarines was possible.

March 2021 : according to American and British diplomats interviewed in the New York Times, the Australian authorities contacted the American administration shortly after the inauguration of Joe Biden as President of the United States, already with the idea of ​​stepping down of the agreement with France. Boris Johnson is also approached in the UK, according to the Times, and only ten high-ranking people are taken into his confidence.

June 2 : during a hearing in the Australian Senate, the Secretary of Defence, Greg Moriarty (then aware of the Aukus) goes so far as to publicly acknowledge that the Australian authorities are studying “alternatives” to French submarines, if ever those- these could not be delivered on time, reports Le Monde in an investigation. Cleverly revived on the existence of a “plan B” by a senator, he also confirms, without trembling, to think about it “personally, for some time”.

June 12 : secret negotiations on the future Aukus strategic partnership are organized between Joe Biden and the Australian and British Prime Ministers on the sidelines of the G7 in Cornwall, according to the New York times. After the G7, the White House publishes a brief communiqué mentioning that “in the changing context in the Indo-Pacific zone there is a strong logic to deepen the strategic cooperation between the three nations”.

June 15 : during a dinner at the Élysée Palace, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison informs Emmanuel Macron of his “concerns about the capacity of conventional submarines [français] to deal with the new strategic environment” and adds that it is “a question on which Australia had to decide taking into account its national interest”. According to the Australian News site, one of the people present at this discussion heard Emmanuel Macron answer: “I don’t like to lose”.

Mid-June to mid-July : according to Le Monde, Emmanuel Macron instructs Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly to sound out their Australian counterparts on a possible change in direction of the contract towards nuclear-powered submarines, but their request remains unanswered. Even the Americans questioned do not answer.

August 30 : officially, the Franco-Australian agreement is still in progress; the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Armed Forces of the two countries meet by videoconference meet again and underline in a press release “the importance of the program of future submarines”.

September 13 : the French president sends an SMS to the Australian Prime Minister in English, asking: “Should I expect good or bad news for our joint ambition on submarines?”

September 14 in the evening until the 15 in the morning : Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, tries to reach Emmanuel Macron on at least two occasions by telephone, including once during the defense council on Wednesday morning. At the same time, the Australian Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs contacted their French counterparts to announce the termination of the contract. A letter also arrives at noon at the Élysée to officially denounce the partnership.

September 15 in the evening : Australia announces in the media that it is unilaterally canceling the contract in favor of eight American-British nuclear submarines and a renewed military alliance with these two countries, known as Aukus. The French authorities are in a rage in the media and claim to have never been warned of such a decision.

September 16 : Australia justifies its decision “because the Anglo-American submarines corresponded more to the interest of the country and our national security”; the United States assures that they discussed the Aukus with France before September 15.

September 17 : France recalls its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations.

September 19 : Scott Morrison claims on Sky news that Canberra was unable to buy French nuclear-powered ships, due to maintenance operations which must take place every ten years, which include refueling of nuclear fuel. But this is not the case with American submarines, which justifies the choice of the latter, while Australia has no nuclear power plant.

September 22 : Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden talk for the first time by telephone since the announcement and the American president tries to calm things down; Emmanuel Macron proclaims the return of his ambassador for the following week. The next day, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs, meets Anthony Blinken, his American counterpart, but concludes that “reconciliation will take time”. On the other hand, no exchange is planned with Australia.

October 6 : the French president announces the return of the French ambassador to Canberra with the mission of “firmly defending the interests of France”.

October 28 : Emmanuel Macron talks on the phone with the Australian Prime Minister for the first time since the start of the crisis. The French president repeats to him that this breach of contract “broke the relationship of trust” between the two countries.

October 29 : Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden meet for the first time since mid-September at the G20 in Rome, Biden recognizes an “awkward” course which “was not done with much elegance”. The American president insists that he was convinced that the Australians had warned the French that the contract no longer held.

October 31 : on the sidelines of the G20 in Rome, Emmanuel Macron answered the question of an Australian journalist: “Do you think that Scott Morrison lied to you?” with “I don’t think, I know”, provoking the ire of Canberra.

November, 1st : the Australian press discloses Emmanuel Macron’s SMS dated September 13, screenshot in support. The Australian Prime Minister has not officially denied being the source of this SMS. “I’m not here to confirm your editorials”, he only swept away, during questions at COP26 in Glasgow. The Élysée says it is “very irritated”.

November 2 : President Macron’s entourage insists that this is not proof that the head of state was aware of the breach of contract. He came to the news of the partnership “because Australia had expressed concerns over technical points or the delivery schedule”.

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