The EU backs French outrage over the deal, but Biden compromises on travel.
Tensions erupted Monday in the Western alliance as the EU chief sided with France in its outrage over a canceled mega-contract, but US President Joe Biden addressed a key European grievance by reducing Covid travel restrictions.
The transatlantic alliance’s problems clouded the start of the UN General Assembly week, with Biden trying to turn the page on Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency and rally friends in the face of a rising China.
Biden, who will speak at the conference on Tuesday, wants to step up efforts to combat the pandemic and climate change, as well as foster global unity on Afghanistan, where the Taliban quickly seized control when he withdrew US forces last month.
However, tensions with France have resurfaced when Australia rejected a multibillion-dollar contract for French submarines last week, opting instead for US nuclear-powered submarines as part of a new trilateral alliance with Washington and London.
European Council President Charles Michel stated that the group would seek answers, emphasizing the importance of “transparency and trust” among allies.
He told reporters, “We are watching a glaring lack of transparency and loyalty.”
He predicted that Europeans will increase their efforts to strengthen their own defense capabilities, and he expressed dissatisfaction in Biden.
“At least with Trump, it was very evident — the tone, the substance, the language – that the EU was not in his eyes a valuable partner, a useful ally,” Michel added.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has accused the US of betrayal and Australia of backstabbing, but no separate meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been set as of yet.
Although EU power Germany has been publicly cautious in its views, Le Drian has claimed support from “several European countries.”
Blinken will meet with Le Drian in a group setting on Wednesday during negotiations on Iran, according to US officials, as part of last-ditch efforts to rescue a 2015 nuclear deal.
When asked about a bilateral meeting, Erica Barks-Ruggles, a senior State Department official, responded, “the schedule will remain dynamic.”
Another official said Biden plans to speak with French President Emmanuel Macron on “the way forward” by phone, adding that the two leaders have “deep mutual respect.” Macron is one of a handful of leaders who are skipping the General Assembly due to Covid precautions.
Before being recalled, US sources say Blinken, a fluent French speaker who grew up in Paris, tried to limit the damage in a chat with Philippe Etienne, the French ambassador in Washington. Brief News from Washington Newsday.