Australia, France cast aside past for unity on Ukraine

A changing dynamic within the European Union has placed France as the spiritual leader of the bloc’s efforts to support Ukraine in its efforts to defend itself against the Kremlin’s troops. It has made resetting the partnership all the more important.

As so a new joint defence project highlights just how far the two nations have come in a relatively short time, as they agreed to “share the bill” to supply Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s armed forces with ammunition. The deal will see both countries share the cost of the deliveries of the ammunition from French manufacturer Nexter, with Australia providing the explosive powder.

Pallets of 155 mm shells ultimately bound for Ukraine.Credit:AP

There was little detail about bilateral deliveries of the ammunition, but Armed Forces Minister Sebastian Lecornu said he would be “faithful to the French doctrine of discretion” over the quantity and quality of its military support. He signalled the delivery of “several thousand” shells would begin this quarter, suggesting it would be an ongoing, or “continuous” commitment.

Zelensky has made constant pleas for military aid since Russia invaded his country last February 24, including basic supplies of fuel and bullets, famously telling the world amid rumours he had fled Kyiv: “I need ammunition, not a ride.”

And while AUKUS cast a shadow, there was no sign of any change in Australia’s intention to buy US or UK-designed nuclear submarines, despite renewed concerns about long delays. In November, Macron said his country’s submarine offer “remains on the table”, potentially offering Australia new capabilities while it waits for its nuclear fleet.


But Marles said there were no plans for any conventionally powered interim submarine capability as Australia moved towards gaining the nuclear-powered submarine capability.

Both nations want to work more closely on defence manufacturing, with Lecornu downplaying the cancelled $80 billion deal’s impact on future relations.

“Does AUKUS block the capacity for our military cooperation in the future? The answer is no, otherwise … we would not be here holding this 2+2 meeting,” he said.

Asked if the two countries trying to spin their way out of the previous cracks in their relationship, Colonna replied: “It’s not communication. It’s politics”.

And for the first time in a while – without scoring cheap points – both nations got that bit just right.

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