The presidents of the United States, Joe Biden, and France, Emmanuel Macron, pledged to maintain a common strategy on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where they smoothed over some differences on some of the policies pursued by Washington, during a meeting they both held in the Oval Office. The visit was marked by gestures and words of praise between the two leaders. According to Macron, "the United States could not ask for a better partner to work with than France"; he also stressed that the destiny of the United States and Europe is to respond together to the world's challenges.
A large part of the final press conference was taken up by the Ukraine-Russia issue, with Biden declaring himself for the first time since the invasion of Ukraine "prepared to talk" with Vladimir Putin, provided that his Russian counterpart "demonstrates an interest in ending the war". "I am prepared to talk to Putin if he demonstrates an interest in finding a way to end the war, which he has not yet done," Biden said, despite the fact that just weeks ago the White House anticipated that there was "no intention" of setting up a meeting.
Macron has held several talks with the Kremlin leader in recent months for which he has received criticism from Ukraine and other European countries. The French president used the meeting to defend his position and announced that he would hold talks "in the coming days" in the hope of making progress in negotiations to end the war in Ukraine. The two leaders pledged to align their concerns about China's challenges to the rules-based international order, including respect for human rights and cooperation with China on important global issues such as climate change.
Biden welcomed France upon his arrival on the South Lawn, calling it "our oldest ally, our staunch partner in the cause of freedom". The two leaders celebrated their national alliance against Russian President Vladimir Putin and as defenders of democracy. "France and the United States stood courageously against Vladimir Putin's ambitions of conquest" and "defended the democratic values and universal human rights that underpin both countries," Biden said. The US president said that despite differences in their views on the conflict, they agree on "almost everything".
Avec le Président Joe Biden, nous avons toujours été sur la même ligne : aider l'Ukraine à bâtir la paix. pic.twitter.com/uFIl7uGja2— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) December 2, 2022
Macron, who after his appointment in 2017 made his second visit to the White House - the first since Biden arrived - said the two nations had a shared responsibility to protect democracies on both sides of the ocean and to face together the direct and indirect consequences of the war in Ukraine. The Gallic head of state cited French and European concerns about subsidies in Biden's Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a $430 billion bill that provides massive subsidies for US-made products and aims to address the climate crisis.
European leaders say the legislative package signed by Biden in August is unfair to non-US companies and would be a blow to their economies as Europe grapples with the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February. Macron said the law was "super aggressive" towards European companies. Germany supports him, albeit with nuances, because Chancellor Olaf Scholz does not want to anger the United States at a time when Washington has contributed about two-thirds of all the economic and military aid Ukraine has received to deal with the Russian invasion.
Macron told the French community in Washington that the cost of the war in Ukraine was much higher in Europe than in the United States and that the Old Continent therefore risked being left behind if subsidies siphoned off new investment. This could "fragment the West", he said. NATO ministers met in Bucharest and pledged more aid to Ukraine to help against Russian attacks. Another bone of contention was when, in September 2021, the US announced a new alliance, AUKUS, with Australia and the UK, which infuriated France, kept on the sidelines in a key region of the world.
Biden did not backtrack on the substance of the decision, but acknowledged a "clumsiness" in the move, to which Macron pointed out that the risk is that "the United States will look at the United States first, and Europe and France will become a kind of adjustment variable". In a conciliatory tone, Biden said he did not apologise for the law, but that he could nevertheless fix the "flaws" in the pharaonic green energy investment plan, especially in electric cars.
In any case, if it took six months to coordinate the state dinner, nobody knows how long the negotiations on renewable energy and microprocessors might take, especially when the two laws that so annoy Macron have already been approved and, therefore, the only thing that can be done is to stretch as far as possible the margins of application of what is foreseen in them.
America Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.