U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron renewed their commitment to fighting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday in a White House meeting where the allies also acknowledged tensions over handling the economic stress of the war.
Biden is hosting Macron at the first state visit since the U.S. leader took office in early 2021. Biden and his wife Jill greeted Macron and his wife Brigitte with hugs, kisses and broad smiles as they celebrated more than 200 years of U.S.-French relations.
In a joint statement issued after their Oval Office talks, the two leaders said they were committed to holding Russia to account “for widely documented atrocities and war crimes, committed both by its regular armed forces and by its proxies” in Ukraine.
They vowed to coordinate on their concerns regarding “China’s challenge to the rules-based international order, including respect for human rights and to work together with China on important global issues like climate change.”
Biden welcomed France as “our oldest ally, our unwavering partner in freedom’s cause” at the arrival ceremony on the South Lawn. Both leaders celebrated their countries’ alliance against Russian President Putin and as defenders of democracy.
“France and the United States are facing down Vladimir Putin’s grasping ambition for conquest” and “defending the democratic values and universal human rights which are the heart of both our nations,” Biden said.
“It doesn’t mean that every single solitary thing we agree on,” he said. “But it does mean we agree on almost everything.”
Macron said the two nations had a shared responsibility to protect democracies on both sides of the ocean and face the direct and indirect consequences of the war in Ukraine together.
“A carbon-neutral economy, creating a lot of jobs, which means investing a lot in our economies, and we have to synchronize our actions on this issue,” he said.
The Macrons arrived in Washington on Tuesday for his second state visit to the United States since taking office in 2017.
Biden, 80, and Macron, 44, have had many meetings at international gatherings but this will be the most amount of time they have spent together. A glittering state dinner was planned, with 200 Maine lobsters flown in for the occasion.
The men smiled as they shared asides and appeared at ease with each other before their talks.
Macron was expected to raise French and European concerns about subsidies in Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a $430 billion bill that offers massive subsidies for U.S.-made products and is aimed at addressing the climate crisis.
European leaders say the legislative package signed by Biden in August is unfair to non-American companies and would be a serious blow to their economies as Europe deals with the fallout from Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine.
At a meeting on Wednesday with U.S. lawmakers, Macron said the act was “super aggressive” toward European companies, one participant told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Macron told the French community in Washington that the cost of the war in Ukraine was much higher in Europe than in the United States and that Europe risked falling behind if the subsidies siphoned new investments. This could “fragment the West,” he said.
There was no sign that Biden was prepared to make concessions.
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said the legislation “presents significant opportunities for European firms as well as benefits to EU energy security” when asked about European concerns.
Both leaders have sought to bolster support for the Ukrainian military.
NATO ministers met in Bucharest and pledged more aid to Ukraine to help against Russia’s attacks on energy infrastructure as winter bites.
The alliance, of which the United States and France are founding members, was also discussing how to address challenges posed by China’s military buildup and its cooperation with Russia, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. Macron has said in the past that China should not be a focus for NATO.
The two leaders and their wives, who dined together informally on Wednesday, took part in a South Lawn arrival ceremony that featured a military honor guard, a red-jacketed colonial band with the Fife and Drum Corps and national anthems.
Among the gifts Macron brought was a vinyl and CD version of the original soundtrack of Claude Lelouch’s 1966 film “Un Homme et une Femme,” the film the Bidens went to see on their first date, according to the Elysee Palace.
The Bidens presented Macron with a custom mirror made of fallen wood from the White House grounds and a custom vinyl record collection of great American musicians.
The formal dinner in a pavilion on the White House South Lawn will feature music from Jon Batiste, Chardonnay from the Napa Valley and cheeses from Oregon, California and Wisconsin.