Politics

Biden and Macron plan to meet as the U.S. and France try to smooth things over in their submarine saga

Key Points
  • President Joe Biden spoke Wednesday with French President Emmanuel Macron following a messy arms deal last week that triggered a diplomatic row.
  • The two leaders will meet at the end of October in Europe.
  • Macron has also agreed to send France's ambassador to the United States, Philippe Etienne, back to Washington next week.
US President Joe Biden (L) and France's President Emmanuel Macron speak after the family photo at the start of the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on June 11, 2021.
Ludovic Marin | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden spoke Wednesday with French President Emmanuel Macron as the leaders sought to smooth tensions following a messy arms deal with Australia that triggered a diplomatic row resulting in France – America's oldest ally – recalling its ambassador to the U.S.

"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," according to a joint White House and Elysee statement.

"They will meet in Europe at the end of October in order to reach shared understandings and maintain momentum in this process," the statement added.

Macron has also agreed to send France's ambassador to the United States, Philippe Etienne, back to Washington next week. France had recalled the ambassador to protest an arms deal in which the U.S. and the U.K. agreed to assist Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines.

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The deal effectively ended a longstanding submarine contract between Australia and France. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the arms deal a "stab in the back."

"This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on 15 September by Australia and the United States," Le Drian said last week when he announced that France would recall its ambassadors to Australia and the U.S.

French officials had also canceled a gala at their sprawling embassy compound in Washington commemorating the decisive role France's navy played in the American Revolutionary War.

The submarine deal is part of a new security partnership between the U.S., Australia and the U.K. in the Indo-Pacific region. Prime Ministers Scott Morrison of Australia and Boris Johnson of the U.K. joined Biden virtually for the announcement of the partnership last week.

The leaders said the security partnership would seek to strengthen stability in the Indo-Pacific as China expands its military might and influence. The submarine deal will allow Australia's navy to help counter Chinese nuclear-powered vessels.

Biden on Wednesday also agreed to reinforce support for counterterrorism operations in the Sahel, a region in Africa where approximately 5,100 French service members are deployed.

"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," the White House said in Wednesday's joint statement.