Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron vowed to maintain a united front against Russia on Thursday amid growing worries about waning support for Ukraine’s war effort in the U.S. and Europe. Biden also signaled he might be willing to tweak aspects of his signature climate legislation that have raised concerns with France and other European allies.
Biden honored Macron with a grand state dinner Thursday evening — the first of the U.S. president’s COVID-19 shadowed presidency for a foreign leader. But following up on Biden’s upbeat comments might not go as smoothly as that fancy affair. Republicans who are about to take control of the House have shown less willingness than Biden to spend billions on Ukraine, and Democratic lawmakers said Thursday they were not about to jump back into the climate legislation, reports AP.
In fact, for all the positive statements, Macron’s visit to Washington has been tempered by his criticism of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and the challenges both leaders face amid the mounting costs of keeping military and economic aid flowing to Kyiv with no end in sight for the Russian invasion.
Despite the differences, Biden and Macron sought to underscore that the U.S.-France alliance remains solid and that the West must hold steadfast against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
“Today, we reaffirm that, as I said, we’re going to stand together against this brutality,” Biden said. “Putin thinks that he can crush the will of all those who oppose his imperial ambitions by attacking civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, choking off energy to Europe to drive up prices, exacerbating the food crisis. That’s hurting very vulnerable people not just in Ukraine but around the world and he’s not going to succeed.”
Both leaders at an outdoor welcoming ceremony paid tribute to their countries’ long alliance. But they acknowledged difficult moments lay ahead as Western unity shows some wear nine months into the war in Ukraine.
In Washington, Republicans are set to take control of the House, where GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has said his party’s lawmakers will not write a “blank check” for Ukraine. Across the Atlantic, Macron’s efforts to keep Europe united will be tested by the mounting costs of supporting Ukraine in the war and as Europe battles rising energy prices that threaten to derail the post-pandemic economic recovery.
Macron stressed that the issue has ramifications far beyond Ukraine’s borders.
“What is at stake in Ukraine is not just very far from here, in a small country somewhere in Europe,” he declared. “But it’s about our values. And about our principles.”
“Our two nations are sisters in the fight for freedom,” he said.
Biden indicated he would be willing to talk with Putin if the Russian leader demonstrated that he seriously wanted to end the invasion. But the U.S. president, as always, conditioned such talks on support by NATO allies.
“I’m prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding that he’s looking for a way to end the war,” Biden said. “He hasn’t done that yet.”
In addition to their talk of Ukraine — what White House officials said was at the top of the agenda — the two leaders discussed Macron’s and other leaders’ concerns about the recently enacted clean energy law.
Macron has made clear that he and other European leaders are opposed to incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act that favor American-made climate technology, including electric vehicles.
Biden acknowledged “glitches” in the legislation but said “there’s tweaks we can make” to satisfy allies.