Biden to tout American global leadership during trip to France

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(FRANCE) — President Joe Biden arrived in France early Wednesday morning where he looks to highlight America’s world stage leadership — past and present — as conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza remain top focuses for him and allies, the White House said.

Biden will begin his “action-packed” trip commemorating the 80th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday, the day Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, in World War II, according to the White House.

While there, he will also meet with American veterans who “exhibited remarkable bravery, skill and intrepidity” and deliver remarks touting “the continued impact of their contributions” during the war, White House national security communications adviser John Kirby told reporters Tuesday.

And, in contrast to rival Donald Trump, Biden plans to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, where thousands of American troops, many of whom fought in World War I, are buried. (Trump did not attend a ceremony there while he was in France in 2018.)

“The message is simple: that the service and the sacrifice of American troops in wars overseas should never be forgotten,” Kirby said of Biden visiting the cemetery. “And our commitment to honor that sacrifice should never waver, and our obligations to those they leave behind, even though it may be generations ago, can never be lessened.”

He said Americans have a “somber and sober” obligation to acknowledge fallen soldiers because “they didn’t sacrifice their futures for nothing.”

On Friday, Biden will deliver remarks on defending freedom and democracy at Pointe du Hoc, a 100-foot cliff Army Rangers scaled under gunfire to seize German artillery that could have been fired upon American forces landing on Omaha Beach down below.

“He’ll talk about the stakes of that moment. An existential fight between dictatorship and freedom,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters. “He’ll talk about the men who scaled those cliffs and how they put themselves behind — they put the country ahead of themselves.

“And he’ll talk about the dangers of isolationism and how if we back [down?] to dictators, fail to stand up to them, they keep going and, ultimately, America and the world pays a greater price,” Sullivan added.

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While Biden is in France, Kirby said Russia’s war in Ukraine and Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza will be major points of discussion.

“This visit will come at an important moment as Ukraine continues to face down Russian threats in its east and north, and as we are working to address the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East,” Kirby said.

He said that discussion will be had both in France and at the G7 Summit in Italy next week, on how the U.S. and its allies can pursue the “worthwhile endeavor” of using frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine, particularly with reconstruction.

Sullivan said Biden will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in both Normandy and on the sidelines of the G7 and will discuss “how we can continue and deepen our support for Ukraine.”

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He said the two meetings will give Zelenskyy and Biden — who will miss Ukraine’s peace summit in Switzerland this month in favor of a glitzy fundraiser with former President Barack Obama, George Clooney and Julia Roberts — the opportunity “to go deep on every aspect and every issue in the war.”

Vice President Kamala Harris and Sullivan will represent the U.S. at the peace summit.

Biden is also scheduled to go to Paris, where French President Emmanuel Macron will welcome him for a state visit, which will include a dinner and a meeting, during which they will discuss world issues, the White House said.

As part of the state visit, the two men will announce new steps they are taking to deepen Indo-Pacific cooperation, boost clean energy investments, increase nuclear energy capacity, and how the U.S. and France are working together to ensure the 2024 Paris Olympics are safe, Kirby said. He would not get into specifics.

Despite the U.S. and its allies walking in lockstep on many issues, including Ukraine, one issue where there has become some separation is the Israel-Hamas war, including with some nations unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state, Kirby said.

“Many nations have different views, of course, about what’s going on in Gaza,” Kirby admitted, adding that Biden “respects that, he appreciates that. It’s the very idea of sovereignty, and territorial integrity and the precepts of the U.N. Charter that apply, and he respects all that. It doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.”

“He doesn’t make national security decisions based on popularity and he doesn’t do it based on contrary opinions outside the United States,” Kirby added.

But, overall, Kirby said Biden’s engagements in France will highlight the importance of American leadership on the global stage.

“When he talks about American leadership, it’s not an arrogant leadership,” Kirby said. “It’s a humble leadership.”

“He recognizes that, for as powerful as we are, as much good as we can do, we need help,” Kirby said. “Our allies and partners bring things to the endeavor that we can’t always bring.”

Kirby added: “We send a much stronger signal about lofty words like peace and freedom and stability and security when we’re working in concert with one another.”

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