Blinken arrives in France on mission to mend ties after nuclear deal split – .

Blinken arrives in France on mission to mend ties after nuclear deal split – .

The United States has been working to remedy the break with France since the “AUKUS” security pact with the United Kingdom and Australia was unveiled in mid-September, leading Paris to recall its ambassador, denounce the action of the Biden administration as “brutal” and – despite President Joe Biden’s pledge to prioritize close coordination with the allies – denounces his treatment of the allies as no less callous than that of the Trump administration .

Officials in Washington and Paris say there will be no quick fix to the diplomatic split.

The French have said that restoring the relationship will take “time and action.” Biden administration officials have said they are committed to this approach.

“We recognize that this will take time and take hard work, and it will have to be demonstrated not only in words but also in deeds,” State Department Assistant Secretary for Europe, Karen Donfried, said during a phone call Friday before the visit. But there is no “silver bullet” to fix the loophole, she said.

Soften the blow

France will lose around $ 65 billion from an existing deal to supply Australia with conventional diesel-powered submarines due to Australia’s new deal with the US and UK.

The new UK-Australia-US deal involves cooperation on artificial intelligence, long-range strike capabilities, and nuclear-powered submarines, all in response to China’s growing assertion in the Indo-Pacific region. France, which owns territories in the Pacific and has increased military deployments to the region to counter China, not only was not aware of the alliance, but is now grappling with the lost contract and lost jobs that accompany him.

“Can the United States financially cushion the blow? It will be difficult. Could the United States help identify another country to buy the French submarines? said Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS.

French officials have not been publicly explicit about what they want the United States to do to get the alliance back on track. Some say they’re waiting to see what Blinken puts on the table.

“The ball is in the American court,” said a senior French official before Blinken’s visit. “We want to hear what the plan is on the American side to restore the quality of the transatlantic relationship. Since January there has been a lot of rhetoric about friends and allies and, on a number of issues, actions haven’t been much different from (Donald) Trump, so it will be: are you really interested in deal with the EU, NATO and France in the same way you deal with your partners? “

The welcome Blinken receives in Paris should be a stark contrast to the warm welcome he received in France just a few months ago. Blinken will meet French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday, who called the new UK-Australia-US partnership a “stab in the back”.

Blinken and LeDrian have already met once on the fallout from the AUKUS deal, in talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September.

The senior US diplomat, who is officially in Paris to chair a meeting of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development this week, is the perfect envoy for the trip.

Blinken, who speaks fluent French, has a personal connection to the French capital that might slightly warm the cool reception he’s supposed to receive. He spent much of his childhood in Paris and called the city his “second home”. French officials who have known Blinken for decades say he is the right person to be tasked with mending the relationship.

Still, Blinken has the daunting task of figuring out what the French want and what the Biden administration can do. U.S. officials have not yet clarified what the U.S. might offer or set a delivery schedule.

“From those conversations must come concrete actions,” Donfried said of the Blinken meetings, adding that it will take hard work to restore the relationship. “I believe that it will be these concrete acts and actions that will rebuild confidence. “

Fuel the fire

Blinken is expected to discuss U.S. support for France’s counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel and deepening cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, among others, Donfried told reporters. He is also expected to start planning a meeting between Biden and President Emmanuel Macron next month.

But the break is fueled by a number of factors, including domestic politics and the shock of disappointed expectations.

Biden had made rebuilding and strengthening alliances, especially in Europe, a central pillar of his foreign policy, in deliberate contrast to former President Donald Trump. In France, many officials saw Biden’s appointment of two high-profile Francophiles – Blinken and climate envoy John Kerry – as a sign that Paris would be given special consideration in Washington.

But French officials say they had no indication the AKUS announcement was coming, even though high-level meetings between the United States and France have taken place in recent months.

Now, said Donfried, the French feel that trust has been “shattered” and the United States needs to “make sure the trust exists”.

And with the French presidential election next year, domestic politics could complicate any solution as well. Conley of CSIS said the public reaction to Blinken’s bridge-building trip will be an important indicator.

“How long the repercussions of this crisis will last is impossible to know,” Conley said. “If the French government receives clear commitments on issues important to it and the public responds positively, bilateral tensions can ease. against Macron, then the problem will persist. “

“It will be important to see how public opinion reacts to Secretary Blinken’s visit and if it is strongly against the United States, we will know that the bilateral crisis will last for some time,” Conley said.

Blinken will build on the initial efforts to iron out the relationship that began quickly after the AUKUS submarine deal broke on September 15.

Biden spoke to Macron on September 22 and appeared to recognize the missteps in the US approach to the talks. A joint statement released after the call said Macron and Biden “agreed the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on issues of strategic interest to France and our European partners.”

French Ambassador to the United States Philippe Etienne returned to Washington after being dramatically recalled to Paris for consultations and met with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Thursday, then Blinken on Friday to discuss the path to be continued.

Blinken will be accompanied on his trip to Paris, which runs until Wednesday, by climate envoy Kerry, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and other US officials.


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