Joe Biden met with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, their first meeting since Biden scorned France with the US-Australia security alliance. The deal, which was also made with the United Kingdom, supplies Australia with state-of-the-art submarines, negating a multi-billion submarine deal the French had made with Australia in 2016.
Biden expressed remorse about how the deal moved forward, admitting that “it was not done with a lot of grace,” and that he hopes he can make France, historically one of the US’s closest allies, feel comfortable working with the country again:
“I think what happened was, to use an English phrase, what we did was clumsy. It was not done with a lot of grace,” Biden said. “I was under the impression certain things had happened that hadn’t happened. And – but I want to make it clear: France is an extremely, extremely valued partner – extremely – and a power in and of itself.”
Biden also suggested that the apparent ruthlessness of the deal may have been the result of a misunderstanding, telling macron that “I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the deal was not going through. I, honest to God, did not know you had not been.”
Macron was receptive to Biden during their talk but told reporters after the meeting that he was waiting for the U.S. to substantiate their words with actions before he could say whether or not the two countries were on good terms again:
“Trust is like love: Declarations are good, but proof is better.”
“What really matters now is what we will do together in the coming weeks, the coming months, the coming years,” he added.
The deal sparked an outrage when it was announced in September, and caused France to temporarily suspend its diplomats to both the U.S. and Australia.
AUKUS is meant to bolster the alliance between the U.S., U.K. and Australia
The US, UK and Australia will hold meetings over the next months to discuss cyber security, developing technologies, and defense. The AUKUS alliance hopes to strengthen the nations ability to engage with contemporary security threats.
AUKUS believes that supplying Australia with nuclear submarines will give the country the ability to function at a more advanced military level. Nuclear submarines are capable of moving at faster speeds and withstanding greater amounts of stress than standard submarines.
The US and the UK are working together to form teams capable of helping Australia obtain nuclear submarines within the next 18 months.
U.S. officials noted that helping allies with nuclear propulsion is an extremely atypical move for America, having only happened once before.
“This technology is extremely sensitive. This is, frankly, an exception to our policy in many respects,” a U.S. official said.