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Biden Says He Is Willing to Talk to Putin About Ukraine, With Conditions


WASHINGTON — Standing next to the French leader, who has supported the need for dialogue with Moscow, President Biden said he would speak with President Vladimir V. Putin, but only in consultation with the Kremlin. NATO allies and only when the Russian leader said he was “looking for a way to end the war.”

Mr. Biden’s public expression of a conditional willingness to reach out to Putin has surprised French officials and surprise support for President Emmanuel Macron’s outreach. Mr. Biden noted that Mr. Putin has not shown any interest in ending his invasion, but said that if that changes, “I’d be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he thinks.”

Evidently determined to show a united front in a White House press conference that sometimes resembles a festival of love, Mr Macron said France would increase its military support for Ukraine and “will never again”. now urge the Ukrainians to make a compromise unacceptable to them.”

In fact, the two leaders met halfway, with Mr. Biden appearing more open to a negotiated solution and Mr. Macron’s clearer support for Ukraine’s cause. If partially staged, the meeting of minds seems to exceed the expectations of both sides.

It is an important demonstration of transatlantic unity on the eve of a winter that will put great strain on the Ukrainian people, as well as put pressure on Western economies, especially the European countries are trying to find new energy sources as prices rise sharply.

During the three-hour closed-door meeting, Mr. Biden and Mr. Macron agreed that more victories on the Ukrainian battlefield would provide important leverage in any negotiations with Moscow, French officials said. . In fact, the idea of ​​negotiating seems far-fetched at a time when Putin has nothing to call victory, and Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, is militarily motivated.

“I wouldn’t do it alone,” Biden said of the possibility of talking to Putin, who he called actions in Ukraine “sick.”

Mr. Macron has been staunchly supportive of Ukraine and its right to full restoration of sovereignty, and there is no hint of his earlier calls for the need to avoid “humiliating” Russia. “If we want lasting peace, we must respect the Ukrainians to decide when and under what conditions they will negotiate over their territory and their future,” Macron said.

The two leaders’ very friendly tone throughout reflected the comfort they had established in a number of previous meetings. The two leaders, demonstrating close friendship, called each other “my friend,” “Emmanuel” and “Dear Joe” throughout the day.

Later, during a lunch honoring Mr. Macron at the State Department, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken presented the broader significance of the war in Ukraine. Declaring the post-Cold War era over, he said the world was “in a global competition to determine what happens next”. In that struggle, he said, the United States and France stood side by side in defense of free and democratic societies.

Mr. Macron responded by describing the struggle in Ukraine as a struggle that the United States and France can only feel as part of “our souls and roots”, in which it concerns ” fight for freedom and universal values”.

His tone is radically different from the one he chose on Wednesday, when he harshly criticized Mr Biden’s signed Inflation Act for potentially “killing” jobs in Europe. through large subsidies for green production, suggesting that this is a policy that can be “fragmented”. West.”

Such a split in the alliance as the war enters its 10th month is precisely what Western leaders are most concerned about avoiding.

Mr. Macron’s criticism was harsher than expected by Biden administration officials on the first day of Mr. Macron’s state visit, the first visit by the Biden administration to a foreign leader.

But a show of force in the United States is almost a necessity for French presidents, who like to say that the hallmark of the strength of America’s oldest alliance is its ability to accept even stark differences. markedly at times.

Mr Macron warned on Wednesday that “trade hostility could flare up in the next few weeks and we don’t need it. What we need is parallelism” — a process the French call “synchronization.”

Today, the French president’s concerns seem to have dissipated as each leader once again tries to accommodate the other’s concerns.

Mr. Biden said he was “not sorry” for the Inflation Reduction Act and the billions of dollars in government funding for green energy initiatives. However, he expressed a desire to assuage the concerns of the French, saying the bill had “hiccups” that could be solved. “There are a lot of things we can deal with,” he said.

Regarding the law providing tax credits to U.S. automakers that make electric vehicles, among a host of other measures, Biden said “it was never intended to exclude people who are legally licensed vehicles.” work with us.”

Mr Macron also moderated earlier criticism, saying he had told Mr Biden of the need to “resynchronize” their economic partnership to “succeed together”.

The combination of the war in Ukraine and the need to transition to carbon-neutral economies to combat climate change has put enormous pressure on European economies.

The warmth of the two presidents for each other, and more broadly in honor of what Mr. Blinken called the “steadfast” friendship between the two countries, comes just 14 months after the relationship collapsed in the middle of nowhere. heavily criticized a deal Mr Biden reached with Britain to help Australia build nuclear-powered submarines.

Because this agreement broke a previous French contract for the supply of conventional submarines, France saw an “Anglo-Saxon” plot against its interests. Mr Macron quickly recalled his ambassador to France but relations quickly warmed back up after Mr Biden called the US action “clumsy”.

In a joint statement, the United States said it would support French maritime deployments in the Indo-Pacific region and that both nations were committed to working with China in the fight against climate change. climate change. Once again, past differences seemed to fade as the two leaders agreed to “coordinately address our concerns about China’s challenge to the rules-based international order.”

Mr. Macron has previously argued that the United States is too confrontational with China and that Europe must take a more cautious stance to ensure, among other things, that Russia does not fall on the side of China.

The two leaders also said they would focus on the need to strengthen Europe’s defenses.

“Presidents recognize the importance of a stronger and more capable European defense that makes a positive contribution to transatlantic and global security, and complements and is interoperable with NATO,” Macron and Biden said in a statement.

This is a clear concession to Mr. Macron’s strong belief that Europe must establish “strategic autonomy”, even as the war in Ukraine and the decisive US role in supplying arms much needed gas for Kyiv shows that this goal has hitherto been a pipe dream. There are no European armies.

“The strong American support for the Ukrainian people at that time was very important not only for the Ukrainian people but also for the stability of our world today,” Macron said.

For today, autonomy is clearly indisputable. On the table at the state dinner under the tent on the South Lawn of the White House were lobster, caviar and even American cheese (a test of French openness) to celebrate the relationship. relationship in which, as Mr. Biden said, there can be “small, but never fundamental, differences”.

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