Biden and Macron are ready to discuss with Ukraine, visit a country, act

French President Emmanuel Macron is heading to Washington for the first state visit of Joe Biden’s presidency – reviving the diplomatic contest that has been suspended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The start of the relationship between Biden and Macron was intermittent. Macron briefly recalled the French ambassador to the US last year after the White House announced a deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia, undermining France’s contract to sell submarines.

But the relationship has changed as Macron has become one of Biden’s most forward-thinking European allies in the Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This week’s visit — which will include Oval Office talks, an impressive dinner, a press conference and more — comes at a critical time for both leaders.

U.S. and French officials said the leaders had a long agenda for their meeting Thursday at the White House, including Iran’s nuclear program, China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region and growing concerns about security and stability in Africa’s Sahel region. But front and center in the Oval Office meeting will be Russia’s war in Ukraine, with Biden and Macron fighting to maintain economic and military support for Kiev as the country tries to fend off Russian forces.

In Washington, Republicans are poised to take control of the House of Representatives, with GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy vowing Tuesday after meeting again with Biden and his fellow congressional leaders that Republicans will not write “blank checks” to Ukraine. Across the Atlantic, Macron’s efforts to hold Europe together will be tested by the rising costs of supporting Ukraine during the nine-month war, and as Europe grapples with high energy prices that threaten to derail the post-pandemic economic recovery.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday called Macron a “dynamic leader” of America’s oldest ally as he explained Biden’s decision to honor the French leader with the first state visit of his presidency.

The American tradition of honoring foreign heads of state dates back to Ulysses S. Grant, who hosted King David Kalakaua of the Kingdom of Hawaii for a 20-plus-course dinner at the White House, but the tradition has been on hold since 2019. due to of Corona virus. – 19 fears.

“If you look at what’s happening in Ukraine, look at what’s happening in the Indo-Pacific and the tensions with China, France is really at the center of it all,” Kirby said. “So the president felt that it was the right country to start a state visit. »

Macron was also Republican Donald Trump’s choice as the first foreign leader to be honored with a state visit while in office. The 2018 state visit included a short trip the two leaders took to Mount Vernon, the estate of George Washington, the founding president of the United States.

French government spokesman Olivier Ferrand said on Tuesday that Macron’s second state visit was “a strong symbol of the partnership between France and the United States”. He said it showed the “very strong bond” between the two countries and came at a time when the world was grappling with key international issues, including the war in Ukraine, food security, climate and energy. .

Ferran added that there was a need to “re-synchronize” EU and US programs to deal with crises, especially with regard to energy and price increases.

Macron was due to arrive in Washington on Tuesday night ahead of a busy day of meetings and appearances in and around Washington on Wednesday – including a visit to NASA headquarters with Vice President Kamala Harris and talks with Biden administration officials about nuclear energy.

On Thursday, Macron will hold his private meeting with Biden, followed by a joint press conference and visits to the State Department and Capitol Hill, before paying tribute to Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron at a state dinner. Grammy-winning Jean-Baptiste provides the entertainment. The White House had been preparing for Macron’s arrival for several days by setting up a large tent for ceremonies on the South Lawn and decorating lampposts next to the White House complex with French flags.

Macron will travel to New Orleans on Friday, where he will announce plans to expand support programs for French language teaching in American schools, according to French officials.

However, there are still areas of tension in the relationship between the United States and France.

Biden has avoided accepting Macron’s calls for Ukraine to resume peace talks with Russia, something Biden has repeatedly said is a decision left solely to Ukrainian leaders.

Perhaps more pressing are the disagreements French and other European leaders have raised over Biden’s inflation-saving law passed in August, which includes historic spending on climate and energy initiatives. Macron and other leaders have been angered by a provision in the bill that gives tax breaks to consumers who buy electric cars made in North America.

The French president will argue against subsidies and stress that it is vital that “Europe, like the US, emerges stronger… not weaker” as the world emerges from the turmoil of the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a senior French official who briefed journalists. On condition of anonymity, preview private conversations.

Macron said earlier this month that the aid could disrupt a “level playing field” for trade with the EU and called aspects of Biden’s legislation “unfriendly”.

Meanwhile, the White House plans to counter that the legislation goes a long way toward helping the United States respond to global efforts to curb climate change. The president and his aides will also seek to convince the French that the legislation will also create new opportunities for French companies and others in Europe, according to a senior Biden administration official who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity to view the talks.

Macron’s visit comes about 14 months after relations hit rock bottom after the US announced its deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia.

After the announcement of the agreement, negotiated in secret, France briefly recalls its ambassador in Washington. Weeks later, Macron met Biden in Rome ahead of the G20 summit, where the US president tried to smooth things over by admitting his administration had been “clumsy” in how it handled the issue.

Macron’s visit with Harris to NASA headquarters on Wednesday will be an opportunity for the two countries to highlight their cooperation in space.

In June, France signed the Artemis agreement, a space cooperation program that supports NASA’s plans to return humans to the Moon by 2024 and launch a historic human mission to Mars.

That same month, the United States joined a French initiative aimed at developing new tools for climate change adaptation, the Space for Climate Observatory.

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Courbet brought back from Paris. Associated Press writers Coleen Long and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed reporting.

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