Biden speaks to Macron to smooth tensions

French Ambassador Philippe Etienne to return to Washington next week

September 23, 2021 04:26 am | Updated 07:42 pm IST - Washington

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the phone with French President Emmanuel Macron from the Oval Office of the White House on September 22, 2021. Photo: Special Arrangement

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the phone with French President Emmanuel Macron from the Oval Office of the White House on September 22, 2021. Photo: Special Arrangement

France’s Ambassador to the U.S., Philippe Etienne, will return to Washington next week. This was announced after U.S. President Joe Biden spoke to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron , on Wednesday.

This was the first call between the two leaders after a falling out over the September 15 announcement of a trilateral security partnership (AUKUS) between Australia, the U.K. and the U.S., which led France to recall its envoys to the U.S. and Australia . The call was initiated at Mr. Biden’s request, a joint statement said.

It is quite rare for statements to specify who initiated the call and suggests the Biden administration is engaged in significant damage control with the U.S.’s oldest ally. The AUKUS pact was worked out behind closed doors and came as a surprise to other nations, enraging Mr. Macron.

The French said the establishment of AUKUS had significantly disrupted their plans in the Indo-Pacific and also had come at a hefty price tag. France and Australia signed a $66 billion deal in 2016 under which Australia got diesel electric submarines. Australia is now exiting that deal as a result of AUKUS, whose main deliverable, for now, is providing Australia with a fleet of superior submarines that run on nuclear fuel.

Open consultation

“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,” the statement said.

Mr. Etienne will begin “intensive work” with U.S. officials when he gets back next week, the White House said, to build confidence between the two countries, whose leaders will next meet in Glasgow at the UN Conference on climate.

“President Biden reaffirms the strategic importance of French and European engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, including in the framework of the European Union’s recently published strategy for the Indo-Pacific,” the joint statement said, presumably responding to a statement from French officials calling for greater strategic autonomy for Europe following the AUKUS announcement.

Wednesday’s statement also said that Mr. Biden recognised the importance of a more capable and strong European defence contributing to transatlantic and global security and complimenting NATO.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.