U.S. Seeks to Make Up With France Ahead of Blinken Trip to Paris
(Bloomberg) -- A top State Department official offered effusive praise of France and underscored the U.S. commitment to its oldest ally as the Biden administration looks to soothe French anger over a defense pact with Australia and the U.K. that blindsided Paris.
Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried acknowledged the U.S. could have done a better job handling the announcement of the defense pact, known as AUKUS, that involved Australia scrapping a multibillion-dollar submarine contract with France. The deal led President Emmanuel Macron to recall his ambassador to Washington for the first time ever.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who will visit Paris next week for meetings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, will also look for concrete ways to deepen the alliance, Donfried said. Blinken is expected to meet French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and other top officials.
“We agree that the September 15 announcement would have benefited from better and more open consultation among allies,” Donfried told reporters in previewing Blinken’s trip.
“I don’t think there’s a silver bullet in terms of how we are working to deepen our relationship with the French going forward,” she said. “Clearly a takeaway from AUKUS was the need for better and more frequent consultations among allies.”
U.S. officials were taken aback by the French fury over the deal, which Macron’s administration said undercut its own strategy for the Indo-Pacific region. Administration officials initially dismissed the French anger as little more than a temporary tantrum, but have since begun to acknowledge more explicitly that they handled the episode poorly.
Blinken’s meetings with French officials will be the latest in a string of engagements in recent days to patch things up. President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Macron on Sept. 22 and Blinken later met Le Drian on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual meeting in New York.
France’s Ambassador Philippe Etienne also met National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Thursday, shortly after returning to the U.S.
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