White House denies a Biden-Macron rift: Leaders ‘have a warm and close relationship’

President Biden will be the guest of honor at a state visit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday

Andrew Feinberg
Washington DC
Friday 07 June 2024 20:57
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President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and their spouses are pictured during D-Day commemoration ceremonies on June 6, 2024
President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and their spouses are pictured during D-Day commemoration ceremonies on June 6, 2024 (Getty Images)

Though they’re both staunch believers in alliances who are married to educators, US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron haven’t always gotten on like peas and carrots.

First, there was that awkward moment in late 2021 when Biden teamed up with the leaders of Australia and the UK to announce that the Aussies were ditching a deal to buy French-made submarines in favor of a new plan to buy nuclear-powered ones with American and British tech.

And there was that other time in 2022 when Macron pressed Biden and other Nato leaders to let him hold his own set of talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin in an effort to head off what the US believed was an imminent invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces.

Another tiff took place during a recent phone call between the two leaders, when Biden pushed back on Macron’s stated desire to potentially position French troops in Ukraine. An attack on French troops there by Russian troops could escalate the conflict into a third world war, Biden warned.

Biden is a rock-ribbed atlanticist; Macron has long pushed for Europe to demonstrate autonomy from the US on security matters. One is the only member of the Silent Generation to lead his country at 81 years of age; the other is a relatively youthful member of Generation X at 46.

But despite these differences, the White House says the relationship between the leaders of the US and its oldest ally is just fine, thank you very much.

When pressed on the “level of trust” between Biden and Macron by a reporter during Friday’s press briefing, White House National Security Adviser John Kirby said there’s no handwringing required about the Franco-American bromance.

“With all due respect, they have a warm and close relationship,” said Kirby. “Some people” are more focused on the areas where there may be disagreements than the strength of the ties between the two countries and the two leaders, he added.

“One of the things the president respects, admires so much about President Macron is that he's as honest and as forthright as Joe Biden is. That's what he wants to see in a friend and an ally ... an ability to shoot straight and say what’s on your mind,” Kirby added.

“That's exactly the way he likes to lead and he likes to conduct his foreign policy,” he added. “So these are not two men that are strangers to one another and they’re not two men who are afraid to speak their minds. But that they may not see every issue perfectly the same way doesn't mean that the relationship is weaker or hindered or in any way set back.”

Biden, who hosted Macron for the first state visit of his presidency in December 2022, is set to receive reciprocal treatment when he and his French counterpart meet at the Elysee Palace for a welcome ceremony on Saturday, after which the two leaders will engage in bilateral talks across what the White House described as a range of issues.

According to Kirby, the two leaders will announce new initiatives on law enforcement cooperation in the maritime domain, including “active discussions” between the US Coast Guard and the French navy about building maritime law enforcement capacity and increasing technical cooperation between the two countries in the Indo-Pacific.

Kirby also told reporters that the leaders would discuss “new areas of partnership” to advance the fight against climate change and promote clean energy technologies, as well as engage on he called “first and foremost” among the talks, the “issues right in front of the Transatlantic Alliance to include the war in Ukraine, and how we can continue to support Ukraine.”

He added that Biden would “update” Macron on the ongoing efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza and bring about a return of the hostages who are still being held eight months after the October 7 terror attacks.

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