Biden offers Macron support over plans for bolstering EU defence

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oe Biden, right, speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron during a plenary session during a NATO summit
oe Biden, right, speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron during a plenary session during a NATO summit

Joe Biden offered Emmanuel Macron support over his plans for common EU defence in a victory for a French president wounded by the row over the secret Aukus security pact.

Paris was furious after Australia pulled out of a £72.8billion deal to buy diesel-powered French submarines in favour of nuclear powered submarines from the US and UK.

The US president offered Mr Macron an olive branch after the two leaders held a long-awaited call over the affair, which led France to accuse Washington of a “breach of trust” and recall its ambassadors to the US and Australia.

The White House said in a statement following a phone call between the two leaders: "The United States also recognizes the importance of a stronger and more capable European defense, that contributes positively to transatlantic and global security and is complementary to NATO."

He also admitted the US failed to consult France on the submarine deal. "The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefitted from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners. President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard," said a statement.

Mr Macron, and senior EU figures, are pushing for the bloc to agree to a 5,000 strong rapid reaction force, bolster intelligence sharing and interoperability and deepen military integration among the 27 member states.

France, Berlin, Rome and senior EU figures have argued that the chaotic US-led evacuation of Afghanistan, and the Auukus row prove that the time is right for the EU to be able to flex its muscles on the world stage independently of Nato and Washington.

Biden and Macron at the G7 in Cornwall
Biden and Macron at the G7 in Cornwall

Mr Biden and Mr Macron will meet in Europe at the end of October in order to that end.

After removing the French Ambassador to Washington, it said Mr Macron had decided “he will return next week ”to start “intensive work with senior US officials”.

The comments came hours after France reiterated assertions it was informed of the loss of the submarine contract just hours before Mr Biden unveiled the new so-called Aukus security and defence partnership between the three English-speaking countries.

"We expect our allies to acknowledge that the exchanges and consultations that should have taken place did not, and that this poses a question about confidence, which all of us need to draw conclusions about now,” said spokesman Gabriel Attal after a cabinet meeting.

Nothing that precise was forthcoming from the statement, which called for “clarifications and clear commitments” from the US president.

Mr Macron had been under domestic pressure to wrest some kind of apology or commitment from Joe Biden at the risk of losing face.

Several key opposition figures and potential presidential rivals urged him to leave Nato's integrated military command given the slight.

"I think that it has been shown (via this snub) that we have absolutely no reason to remain in it under these conditions," said far-Right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen. Her number two even suggested France leave completely to “regain the means of its freedom and independence”.

Mr Macron's next-closest rival after Ms Le Pen, centre-right politician Xavier Bertrand, said the same, claiming France was being treated "like the Americans' valet”.

“The question is whether for the Americans we count too or are in the second division.”

“If the answer is no”, he said then French involvement in the top command structure was in question.

France returned to the structure in 2009 under then-president Nicolas Sarkozy. Charles de Gaulle had left it in 1966 over what he saw as US hegemony in Europe.

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