The US and France moved toward making up Wednesday, after Presidents Biden and Emmanuel Macron spoke on the phone, but the nations suggested they have a lot of work ahead to rebuild shattered trust. It was the first time the two had spoken since Biden announced a new security alliance with the UK and Australia and France expressed its anger at being surprised by the news and left out of the deal. In the language of diplomacy, ABC reports, the US and France issued a joint statement after the phone call saying, "The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners."
The statement added, "President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard." France had pointed out last week that that sort of consultation is supposed to be routine among allies. French officials had also warned that their anger would not be fleeting, and all indications are that the rift is not yet healed. Biden and Macron plan to meet in Europe at the end of next month, possibly around the G20 summit in Italy. But they might also meet somewhere else, per the New York Times, to show they're working on this. France has recalled its ambassador to the US but said Wednesday that Philippe Étienne will return to Washington next week.
He'll be busy, officials from both administrations said, starting "intensive work with senior U.S, officials." The presidents will lead the way themselves through "a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence." The official record shows no mention of an apology, but a French official said "consultations that should have taken place did not," which he said "poses a question of confidence whose consequences must be reviewed together." The chastening seems to indicate both sides consider the matter important, per CNN. Macron is up for reelection in about six months.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's foreign minister, has said the Biden administration's move reminded him of something former President Trump might do, and he wasn't alone on that point. A Le Monde editorial said, "For any who still doubted it, the Biden administration is no different from the Trump administration on this point: The United States comes first." Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday that he planned to avoid Macron at the UN this week, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson mocked France's concern in two languages. "I just think it's time for some of my dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip about this and donnez moi un break," Johnson said in Washington. (France declared the party over last week.)