Macron and Biden rectify relations between France and the United States – POLITICO

ROME – When Joe Biden met Emmanuel Macron last Friday, there was clarification yet no apology.

AUKUS was “clumsy” and “not done with much grace,” Biden said, but that was not entirely a mistake.

The plight of AUKUS – the US-led Indo-Pacific strategic alliance that sparked a bitter diplomatic feud with France – continued when Biden and Macron met in Italy, apparently to patch up a relationship that the two presidents said had already become patched up, but perhaps could be repaired even more.

When Macron greeted Biden in Villa Bonaparte, the French embassy to the Holy See, a reporter asked the US president if he needed to apologize. “To whom?” Biden replied.

The pressure on the point added to Biden: “We have already spoken.”

In fact, he and Macon had talked together – on the phone – twice since the whole ugly AUKUS business unfolded.

They spoke once in September when Biden acknowledged that France should have received a better offer that it would lose a multi-billion dollar contract to build submarines for Australia, and also that the United States would announce its new Indo-Pacific partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom. That conversation seemed to dampen the immediate tensions that had prompted France to recall its ambassador to the United States – the first time it had happened in the nearly 250-year-old relationship between the countries.

And they spoke again just a week ago, when NATO defense ministers gathered at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels. A description of the White House call said: “They also discussed efforts to enable a stronger and more capable European defense while ensuring complementarity with NATO.”

But all that was just ending prior to Friday face-to-face in Rome ahead of the G20 leaders’ summit.

Or maybe it was a fret-a-fret.

France, for its part, was keen to get a solid commitment from the United States to maintain what an adviser to Macron called “critical” military support for French operations in the Sahel. Despite Macron’s great talk of strategic autonomy, France is heavily dependent on US intelligence and logistical support for its flagship anti-terror missions in North Africa.

And Macron appeared particularly keen on using Friday’s meeting with Biden to present France and the United States as primary partners on a long list of security and other policy issues – efforts that he said Biden had confirmed in their recent talks. .

“Over the last few weeks, President Biden has made some fundamental decisions that benefit our armies,” Macron said, adding: “We recognized some bilateral partnerships on arms exports, the nuclear sector, the space industry and, of course, the most advanced technology. And we would like an expanded collaboration on rules as well. ”

“And then we will continue to work together on the most important international issues – climate change, the digital sector, health – which will be on the agenda of this G20,” Macron continued.

“And we will also upgrade our discussions on arms control, which remains a key issue. In a few words, this is what was at the heart of our work in the last few weeks – what we want to discuss today. It is very concrete decisions that will be taken to support some initiatives, some joint initiatives, joint actions on all these issues. “

To underscore Macron’s pointers, the Élysée Palace and the White House followed up with a lengthy communiqué, signed by each president, outlining the various partnership initiatives and an intention by the United States to “increase its support and material contribution” to French and European air. and naval deployments in the Indo-Pacific.

But if Macron was worried about making it clear that France ranks, Biden was worried that Paris was really offended, and he seemed to go overboard giving reassurance, praising France and the US-French military alliance. , which dates back to the American Revolutionary War.

“We have no older or no more loyal, no more decent allies than France,” Biden said. “It has been – you have been with us from the beginning. You are partly the reason why we became an independent country.”

At another point, he said, “I want to make it clear: France is an extremely, extremely valued partner – extremely – and a power in itself.”

While powers usually do not need to be reminded that they are powers, Biden did not give up and even invoked NATO’s mutual defense clause, Article 5, which states that an attack on one ally is an attack on all.

“And then I want something clear in front of all the press,” Biden said. “We see you as incredibly valuable, serious partners. Article 5 means everything to us. You were there for us; we want to be there for you. There is a lot more work we can do together, guaranteed.”

Macron seemed for the most part quite happy with all that.

“We clarified together what we were going to clarify,” he said in response to a question about whether he was satisfied that relations with the United States had been repaired (despite Biden’s apology-no-apology).

“What’s important now is to be sure that such a situation will not be possible for our future,” Macron said. “This is an extremely important clarification.”

What remained less clear, despite all the president’s spins, was how specifically the United States was willing to support the expansion of European defense capabilities, or whether France has the support of its European partners in its self-proclaimed efforts to balance the EU-US relationship.

When they met on the steps of the embassy, ​​the two presidents showed affection, and at one point they even held cards in their hands. It was followed by pats on the back and they turned to walk away from the cameras with each arm around the shoulder of the other.

Regarding the whole AUKUS affair, Biden said: “I was under the impression that France had been informed long before the agreement did not come through.”

By that agreement, he undoubtedly meant the cancellation of the submarine contract, which France had won by beating Germany, its EU partner, and Japan, another G7 ally.

As for not telling Paris about the strategic partnership with Britain and Australia, Biden could have referred to it when he said: “I think what happened was to use an English phrase … clumsy. ” He added, “it was not done with much grace.”

The meeting began with an approximately half-hour-long one-on-one between the two presidents and was followed by a 49-minute meeting in an extended group with six advisers on each side.

What was clear, however, was that the meeting was a much bigger issue for the French side than for the Americans.

French officials stressed that the meeting was being held at a French embassy, ​​making Macron the host, and that they were checking the format.

The White House was a little less attentive to detail, so much so that its guide to journalists suggested that the meeting would be held at the French Embassy in Italy, known as the Palazzo Farnese, rather than the French Embassy to the Holy See, Villa Bonaparte.

In the end, the presidents and the countries emerged as friends, something that no one ever thought there was much doubt about.


Give a Comment