WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Thursday he’s open to talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin even as he and French President Emmanuel Macron underscored their outrage over Moscow’s atrocities in its war against Ukraine.
At a White House news conference, Biden and Macron emphasized their solidarity against Putin's war on Ukraine and vowed that they would continue to stand with other NATO allies in opposition to the war.
"We’re going to stand together against this brutality, and we'll continue the strong support for the Ukrainian people,” Biden said.
Biden said he has no immediate plans to contact Putin but that he is prepared to meet with the Russian leader "if he has decided he's looking for a way to end the war."
"He hasn't done that yet," Biden said.
If that were to happen, Biden said, he would be "happy to sit down with Putin to see what he wants" or has in mind and would do so consultation with NATO allies, including France.
Macron, in Washington for a state visit, said he and Biden plan to spend the coming weeks and months looking to strengthen their support for Ukrainian troops and the Ukrainian people.
It's extremely important for the U.S. to continue supporting Ukraine for the stability of the world, Macron said. France has increased its military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
"We will never urge the Ukrainians to make a compromise which will not be acceptable for them," Macron said in English. "If we want a sustainable peace, we have to respect the Ukrainians to decide the moment and the conditions in which they will negotiate about their territory and their future."
Macron said in French, through an English interpreter, that Ukraine has demonstrated a "genuine willingness" to discuss a negotiated end to the war, pointing to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's proposed 10-point peace plan. The "conditions" the Ukrainian president has set for talks are reasonable, given that Putin is the one waging war, Macron said.
Maine lobster and American cheeses
Later Thursday, Biden and first lady Jill Biden will fête Macron and his wife, Brigitte, at a White House state dinner – the first of Biden’s presidency. The dinner is intended to celebrate the historic bond between the U.S. and France, its oldest ally.
More than 300 invited guests are expected to attend the glitzy soirée, which is being held in a heated pavilion on the White House South Lawn.
The menu for the red-white-and-blue themed dinner: Butter-poached Maine lobster, beef with shallot marmalade and a selection of American cheeses. Dessert is orange chiffon cake with roasted pears and crème fraiche ice cream. American sparkling wine will be served for the toasts.
Guests will ride trollies down from the White House and be seated at a mix of square and rectangular tables with dark blue silk cloths, red candles and arrangements of red, white and blue flowers, including white irises, the official flower of France.
Rented tableware is being used because place settings from the White House china collection are not allowed to leave the executive mansion.
A transatlantic détente
At their news conference, Biden and Macron signaled a détente over an issue that has vexed the French: U.S. subsidies to American manufacturers.
The subsides – provided to U.S.-made products – are included in the Inflation Reduction Act, a sweeping climate and health care law passed earlier this year that is one of Biden's achievements. Macron considers the subsidies protectionist and argues that they are hurting European manufacturers.
With Macron at his side, Biden suggested that "tweaks" could be made to the new law.
"We can work out some of the differences that exist, I'm confident," Biden said, stressing that it was never his intention to exclude European companies.
Macron said the two leaders agreed to "resynchronize our approaches" for investing in emerging industries and stressed that he doesn't think the U.S. deliberately tried to shut out European companies.
Previously, Macron had been blunter during a reception at the French embassy Wednesday night, when he complained that the subsidies "will fragment the West because they create such differences between the U.S. and Europe."
Macron’s visit to Washington comes just one year after a diplomatic quarrel between the two longtime allies over a submarine deal the Biden administration struck with Australia and the U.K. Australia canceled an agreement to buy submarines from the French after signing the defense pact with the U.S. and Britain.
Macron was so furious that he took the extraordinary step of sending the French ambassador to the U.S. back to Paris. This week's state visit by Macron is an attempt, in part, to show the world that dispute is behind them.
Earlier Thursday, during an Oval Office meeting between the two leaders, Biden heaped praise on Macron.
“Emmanuel is not just the leader of France, he's one of the leaders of Europe,” he said. “He’s been very outspoken, and he has been very, very commanding in Europe.
Macron said Biden’s decision to honor him with the first state visit of the Biden administration is “the best evidence of this, indeed, very long-term friendship and partnership.”
“When we look at our common history, this friendship always prevailed – with quite good results, by the way,” the French leader said.
Michael Collins and Francesca Chambers cover the White House. Follow Collins on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS and Chambers @fran_chambers.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden, Macron open to talks with Putin about ending Ukraine war