The surprise announcement that the United States, United Kingdom and Australia have agreed a defense pact that will go some way toward countering China in the Indo-Pacific region sparked an array of emotions. In Europe, it left the French government furious and European Union officials somewhat confused as to what the bloc should do about China.
The deal, which was unveiled on Wednesday, will see the US and UK send strategic and technical teams to Australia to help the country procure nuclear-powered submarines. It also meant that the Australian government cancelled a multi-billion contract for non-nuclear submarines with a French manufacturer.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described this as a "real stab in the back" from Australia. He also fired a shot at US President Joe Biden, saying that the sudden announcement of this deal without consulting other allies was a "brutal and unilateral decision" that "resembles a lot of what Mr. Trump was doing."
Leaving aside France's wounded pride, the new geopolitical pact between English-speaking maritime powers (known as AUKUS and pronounced "aw-kiss") presents a strategic headscratcher for the EU.
Officials in Brussels told CNN that the timing of the AUKUS announcement was viewed dimly, as the EU's high representative on foreign affairs was set to deliver his own strategy for the Indo-Pacific on Thursday afternoon.
At best, it was considered a bit rude; at worst, it confirmed that, despite Brussels' global ambitions, it is not taken seriously as a geopolitical player.
Either way, Brussels is feeling scarred. A senior EU official told CNN that this was "English-speaking countries" who are "very belligerent" forming an alliance "against China." The official noted that these were the same nations who took the lead in invading Afghanistan and Iraq. "And we all know the results," they added.
The EU's strategy for handling China differs from the US in one major way: the EU actively seeks cooperation with China, and sees it as an economic and strategic partner.