Vice President Kamala Harris met Wednesday with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris to help mend a bitter diplomatic spat over the three-country AUKUS submarine pact that excluded France.
“I think we share this belief that we are in the beginning of a new era, which presents us with many challenges, but also many opportunities,” Harris told Macron during brief public remarks at the Élysée Palace.
Macron and Harris avoided mention of the September pact in which the US and UK agreed to build nuclear submarines for Australia in an effort to counter China. France wasn’t given a heads-up or invited to participate in the deal, despite having nuclear expertise and possession of nearby territories, and a French firm lost a multibillion-dollar contract to build conventional submarines for Australia.
President Biden told Macron during a meeting in Rome last month that the AUKUS rollout was “clumsy” and insisted that he thought France had been briefed on the plan. Recriminations between France and Australia are ongoing after the Australian Financial Review recently published a leaked text message from Macron to Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison implying that the French leader knew the agreement with Australia was in trouble before AUKUS was announced.
Macron did not mention — at least publicly — his government’s harsh rebuke of US actions around AUKUS. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian initially called the deal “a stab in the back.”
Ironically, AUKUS was launched to patch up the US-Australia relationship after Biden snubbed Morrison, during the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Australia, which fought alongside the US throughout the 20-year war, reportedly learned of the Aug. 31 US withdrawal date from news reports and Biden didn’t call Morrison during the frantic evacuation of Kabul.
On Wednesday, Harris told Macron she was looking forward “to a conversation about space.”
“As you know, I’m chairing the Space Council for the United States,” said the vice president, who recently filmed a critically panned space-themed video with child actors.
“And we think about where we have yet to explore together and the opportunities that are presented not only in terms of security, but also the opportunities that I believe will enhance our priorities around the climate crisis and what we might do in terms of an investment in terms of cooperation with the private sector, in terms of creating rules of the road as it relates to this new frontier in space,” she added.
Macron told Harris that the “French people are extremely proud to have you here today” and that “we do share the view that we are at the beginning of a new era. And now cooperation is absolutely critical.”
Earlier Wednesday, Harris and husband Doug Emhoff visited the Suresnes American Cemetery near Paris, which holds the remains of US troops who served in World War I and World War II.