President Biden on Friday apologetically told French President Emmanuel Macron that he was “clumsy” in blindsiding France with a nuclear submarine pact among the US, the UK and Australia.
“What happened was, to use an English phrase — what we did was clumsy. It was not done with a lot of grace,” Biden said as he met with Macron during the G20 summit in Rome.
“I was under the impression that certain things had happened that hadn’t happened,” Biden claimed. “I was under the impression that France had been informed long before.
“I honest to God did not know you had not been,” Biden insisted.
Macron recalled France’s ambassador to Washington last month after Biden stunned America’s oldest ally by unveiling the three-country pact called AUKUS to counter China.
French officials said they were not given a heads-up on the US-UK commitment to help Australia build nuclear submarines.
Biden told Macron on Friday, “I want to make it clear, France is an extremely, extremely valued partner — extremely. It is a power in and of itself.”
Macron told reporters that “we clarified together what we had to clarify” and “now what’s important is to be sure that such a situation will not be possible for our future … This is an extremely important clarification.”
The AUKUS agreement cost a French company work to build conventional subs and excluded France despite its nuclear expertise and its far-flung island holdings in the Pacific and Indian oceans.
Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Paris next month in another step toward mending the rift.
AUKUS was launched to patch up the US-Australia relationship after Biden snubbed that country’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, during the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Australia fought alongside the US throughout the 20-year war, but reportedly learned of the Aug. 31 US withdrawal date from the news and Biden didn’t call Morrison during the frantic evacuation of Kabul.