Joe Biden met in Rome Friday with French President Emmanuel Macron, their first face-to-face meeting since Biden blew up relations with America’s oldest ally two months ago by maneuvering to cancel a diesel submarine deal between France and Australia in favor of a deal where the U.S. and U.K. would help Australia develop nuclear subs as part of a new Pacific alliance between the three nations called AUKUS. The move caught France by surprise, prompting an angry Macron to recall the French Ambassador to the U.S.–for the first time in well over two hundreds of close ties going back to the Revolutionary War.
Biden told Macron on Friday his administration’s handling of their relations was “clumsy”, adding he did not know what was going on.
“I think what happened, to use an English phrase, what we did was clumsy. It was not done with a lot of grace. I was under the impression that certain things had happened that hadn’t happened. But I want to make it clear that France is an extremely, extremely valued partner. Extremely…”
“I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the deal would not go through, I honest to God did not know you had not.”
The meeting was held on French territory–the Embassy of France to the Vatican in Rome, a point highlighted by the French.
This is the "Villa Bonaparte" in Rome, the French embassy to the Vatican, where Macron will receive Biden in a few minutes. Macron’s advisers are keen to point out the first meeting between the two leaders since the #AUKUS crisis is held on "French soil", showing US goodwill pic.twitter.com/TUKzrkWXsK
— Michel Rose (@MichelReuters) October 29, 2021
Earlier this month, the White House denied a comment by Biden administration climate envoy John Kerry that Biden was clueless about France’s reaction to the deal. Kerry told French outlet BFM TV, “He literally had not been aware of what had transpired.”
John Kerry admits in interview with French TV that Joe Biden had no idea about the fallout with the French from the AUKUS sub deal.
"He literally had not been aware of what had transpired" pic.twitter.com/EblvE05zKg
— POLARIS (@polarisnatsec) October 5, 2021
When pressed by Fox’ Peter Doocy about Kerry’s comment, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said about Biden, “Of course he knew about the French being displeased.”
Press Secretary Jen Psaki responds to John Kerry saying Biden “literally had not been aware” that the French were upset about the U.S. submarine deal with Australia:
“Ask John Kerry” pic.twitter.com/xJNq5amjJc
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 6, 2021
Three weeks later Biden admitted to Macron and the media he did not know what was going on in his administration.
President Biden called the U.S.-Australia submarine deal "clumsy," adding that France is an "extremely valued partner."
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 29, 2021