U.S. President Joe Biden and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, Thursday pledged their continued support for Ukraine’s fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion as they held talks at the White House.
“France and the United States are facing down Vladimir Putin’s ambition,” Biden said after warmly greeting the French leader, the first to make a state visit during Biden’s presidency.
“The alliance between our two nations remains essential for our defense,” Biden said. “The U.S. could not ask for a better partner than France.” He described France as “our oldest ally and unwavering partner in freedom’s cause.”
Macron, speaking on a sunny but chilly morning in Washington, said that with Putin’s invasion now in its 10th month, the United States and France “need to become brothers in arms once more.”
He said Washington and Paris “share the same faith in freedom and democratic values.”
The pomp and circumstance of a White House state visit for a foreign leader was on full display, with Biden and first lady Jill Biden greeting Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, and then watching as a band in colonial uniforms played the national anthems of both countries. A 21-gun salute for Macron’s visit rang out.
The two presidents and their wives waved from the White House balcony before Biden and Macron went inside for substantive talks. A state dinner was planned for the evening.
The two leaders were expected to cover a range of topics aside from their ongoing support for Ukraine.
U.S. and French officials said China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region, Iran’s nuclear program and security in the Sahel region of Africa would also be on the agenda. A year ago, the U.S. angered France by agreeing to sell nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, prompting that country to cancel a nearly $100 billion agreement to buy diesel-electric submarines from France.
“If you look at what’s going on in Ukraine, look at what’s going on in the Indo-Pacific and the tensions with China, France is really at the center of all those things,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said ahead of Macron’s visit. “So the president felt that this was exactly the right and the most appropriate country to start with for state visits.”
The Bidens took the Macrons to Fiola Mare, a pricey Italian seafood restaurant overlooking the Potomac River, on Wednesday evening.
Earlier Wednesday, Macron brought up one source of tension between his country and the United States when he spoke to U.S. lawmakers about Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA.
Macron cited provisions in the legislation that provide subsidies for U.S.-made products, saying the measure was “super aggressive” toward European companies.
“The consequence of the IRA is that you will perhaps fix your issue but you will increase my problem,” he said, noting that France makes “exactly the same products as you.”