Meeting with President Emmanuel Macron for the first time since a weapons deal with Australia caused a US-France rift, President Biden said the situation was mishandled by his administration. "It was not done with a lot of grace," Biden said in an appearance with Macron on Friday. France has said it was blindsided by the agreement, which Biden said surprised him, the Washington Post. "I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the deal was not coming through," he said.
The two, who are in Rome for a G20 summit, met at the French Embassy to the Vatican, making their stated effort at rebuilding trust more official. Not only was the announcement last month of the US-UK-Australia alliance "clumsy," as Biden said Friday, it cost France a $65 billion contract to provide submarines to Australia, per the Wall Street Journal. French officials said they learned about the deal from reports in Australian news media. Biden and Macron had talked twice about the issue on the phone before meeting Friday. France also is unhappy with the governments of Australia and the UK.
France's relationship with Australia is not on the mend. Macron spoke with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the phone on Thursday. A French statement issued afterward said the canceled submarine deal "broke the relationship of trust between our two countries." The next move is up to Australia, France's government said. Macron faces an election in six months, and his opponents have attacked him over the security alliance. His far-right opponent, Éric Zemmour, said last week France needs to stop being dominated by major powers such as the US.
Macron does have a plan to increase its military strength and count less on US, and he wants Biden's support. France's security is protected by alliances involving NATO and the EU, but they're also based on US support. A poll this summer found just 31% of French participants say the US takes countries like France into account when setting international policy. "We clarified together what we had to clarify," Macron said after meeting with Biden. "Now what's important is precisely to be sure that such a situation will not be possible for our future." (Read more President Biden stories.)