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Biden’s ‘summer of love’ with Europe hits a sudden break

Biden’s ‘summer of love’ with Europe hits a sudden break

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden’s summer of love for Europe seems to be coming to an abrupt end.

After promising European leaders that “America is back” and that multilateral diplomacy would guide US foreign policy, Biden has angered many Allies with a go-it-alone approach to key issues, most recently a new security initiative for Indo -Pacific which excluded France and the EU in particular.

Some have compared Biden’s recent actions to those of his predecessor, Donald Trump, during Trump’s “America First” doctrine. It’s surprising for a president permeated by international affairs who lined up for the White House and promised to repair shaky ties with allies and restore America’s credibility on the world stage.

While it is impossible to predict whether any harm will be lasting, the short-term impact seems to have revived European suspicions of American intentions — with potential implications for Biden’s broader goal of uniting democracies against authoritarianism, primarily focused on China and Russia.

Just three months ago, on his first visit to the continent as president, Biden was hailed as a hero by European colleagues eager to move beyond the transatlantic tensions of the Trump years. But the tangible relief has now faded for many, and one clear winner, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is on her way out.

Since June, Biden has angered the United States ‘oldest ally, France, leaving Poland and Ukraine, questioning the United States’ commitment to their security and disrupting the EU more broadly with unilateral decisions ranging from Afghanistan to East Asia. And while Europe cheered as Biden vowed to return to nuclear talks with Iran and revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, both efforts have stalled for nine months in his administration.

The seeds of discontent may have been sown in the spring, but they began to bloom in July over Biden’s acceptance of a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany that will bypass Poland and Ukraine, and a month later in August with the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan. , that Europe struggled to keep up after expressing reservations about the withdrawal.

So just this week, Biden raged France and the EU with its announcement that the US would join Britain and Australia after Brexit in a new Indo-Pacific security initiative aimed at countering China’s growing aggressiveness in the region.

Not surprisingly, China reacted angrily, accusing the United States and its English-speaking partners of embarking on a project that would destabilize the Pacific to the detriment of global security. But the reactions from Paris and Brussels were just as serious. Both complained that they were not only excluded from the deal but were not heard of.

White House and Foreign Minister Antony Blinken says France had been informed of the decision before it was announced on Wednesday, although it was not exactly clear when. Blinken said on Thursday that there had been talks with the French about it within the last 24 to 48 hours, suggesting there had not been a thorough consultation.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who in June praised the “excellent news for all of us that America is back”, expressed “total misunderstanding” in announcing the initiative. “It was really a jolt in the back,” he said. “It’s very similar to what Trump did.”

France will lose a nearly $ 100 billion deal to build diesel submarines for Australia under the terms of the new AUKUS initiative, which will get the United States and Britain to help Canberra design nuclear-powered vehicles.

As such, French anger on a purely commercial level would be understandable, especially since since the UK’s transfer of Hong Kong to China in 1997, France is the only European nation with significant territorial holdings or a permanent military presence in the Pacific.

But French and EU officials went further, saying the agreement calls into question all co-operation efforts to blunt China’s growing influence and stresses the importance of abandoning plans to strengthen Europe’s own defense and security capabilities.

In a joint statement with Le Drian, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said the decision “only reinforces the need to make the issue of European strategic autonomy high and clear. There is no other credible way to defend our interests and our values ​​in the world, including in Indo-Pacific. ”

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell reiterated these remarks. “I suspect that an agreement of this kind was not prepared the day before yesterday. It takes some time, and despite that, no, we were not heard, ”he said. “It obliges us once again to reflect on the need to put European strategic autonomy high on the agenda.”

In fact, the EU of 27 unveiled a new strategy on Thursday to strengthen economic, political and defense ties in the Indo-Pacific, hours after the announcement from the United States, Britain and Australia. The EU said the aim was to strengthen and expand economic relations, while strengthening respect for international trade rules and improving maritime security. It said it hopes the strategy will result in more European fleet distributions to the region.

U.S. officials removed the French and EU complaints on Thursday, repeating brief comments from Biden on Wednesday that gave a nod to France’s role.

Speaking with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Australian defense and foreign ministers, Blinken said there was “no regional divide” with Europe in relation to the Indo-Pacific strategy. “We welcome the fact that European countries are playing an important role in the Indo-Pacific,” he said, calling France a “vital partner.”

Biden had said on Wednesday that “France in particular already has a significant Indo-Pacific presence and is an important partner and ally in strengthening the region’s security and prosperity. The United States looks forward to working closely with France and other key countries as we move forward. ”

But how closely they will work together, we shall see.

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AP authors Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.

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