The Biden-Macron relationship had a choppy start. Macron briefly recalled France’s Ambassador to the United States last year after the White House announced a deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia, undermining a contract for Paris to sell diesel-powered submarines.
But the relationship has turned around with Macron emerging as one of Biden’s most forward-facing European allies in the Western response to Russia’s military operation against Ukraine.
The visit comes at a critical moment for both leaders.
The leaders have a long agenda for their Thursday meeting at the White House, including “Iran’s nuclear program”, “China’s increasing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific” and growing concerns about security and stability in Africa’s Sahel region, according to US and French officials.
But front and center during their Oval Office meeting will be Russia’s war in Ukraine, as both Biden and Macron work to maintain economic and military support for Kyiv as it tries to repel Russian forces.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Monday described Macron as the “dynamic leader” of America’s oldest ally while explaining Biden’s decision to honor the French president with the first state visit of his presidency.
“If you look at what’s going on in Ukraine, look at what’s going on in the Indo Pacific and the tensions with China, France is really at the center of all those things,” Kirby said, adding, “And so the president felt that this was exactly the right and the most appropriate country to start with for state visits.”
Macron was also Republican Donald Trump’s pick as the first foreign leader to be honored with a state visit during his term.