PARIS – Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, speaking in an interview after meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, said the United States and France were “on the same wavelength” in their determination to resist the possibility of a world ruled by China. an order which would be “of a profoundly illiberal nature”.
On his first visit as secretary to France, where he lived for nine years in his youth and attended high school, Mr Blinken said that “our aim is not to contain China” or “to try to retain China ”. But when it comes to defending a free and open international order, “we will stand up.”
The alternative, he suggested, was either lack of order – a world of chaos that “inevitably leads to conflict and almost inevitably brings us” – or Chinese rule. The challenge for democracies was to “deliver for their people and hopefully for people around the world” in order to strengthen a model that has been challenged in recent years by its own internal fractures and the rise of autocracies.
“And I found President Macron to think exactly the same way and focus on the need to deliver practical results,” Blinken said.
Mr. Blinken’s pleasure to be back in France was obvious. At a meeting earlier today, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian hailed the secretary as “My dear Tony” and said: “Welcome home”.
Asked about it, Mr. Blinken replied, “Oh yes, it is a sacred house to me. I was here from 9 to 18 years old. I had an experience that changed my life.
After saying in Berlin on Thursday that the United States had “no better friend in the world than Germany,” he said he would say the same about France. As he turned to the foundations of America’s oldest alliance, Mr. Blinken’s emotion was evident.
“It comes down to something pretty basic,” he said. “You know, we throw out a lot of words and kind of say them by heart. But at best, our countries have worked to give real meaning to freedom, equality, fraternity. They tried to make sense of freedom of speech. They tried to make sense of human rights. They tried to make sense of democracy.
He continued: “And ultimately – there are obviously differences in culture, history, so many things – but when it comes to a basic set of shared values, there are few countries that are closer.”
It was a deeply felt personal call to France and the United States to reconnect by uniting at a time of challenges, from the coronavirus pandemic to the rise of China, which present “An imperative of cooperation, of coordination, of working together”, in the words of Mr Blinken.
Nonetheless, the convergence of the American and French points of view was a bit surprising as Mr Macron made several remarks recently stressing the importance of Europe’s strategic autonomy.
Former President Donald J. Trump denigrated traditional alliances, started trade wars and resisted Russian aggression. U.S. allies have expressed relief that President Biden has turned U.S. foreign policy in more familiar directions, but their experience with Mr. Trump has left them more wary than ever of following Washington’s lead.
Macron was more conciliatory than the United States towards China and insisted that Europe be at the table in the arms control negotiations between the United States and Russia.
On the eve of the Group of 7 and NATO meetings earlier this month, Mr Macron said: ‘Unless my map has a problem, China is not part of the geography of the Atlantic. – a clear blow against NATO against China.
Such Gaullist claims of an independent French strategy tend to play well here, and Mr Macron plans to run for office next year. In the end, France joined with other large and wealthy G7 democracies in making it clear that they saw China and Russia as repressive and aggressive ideological rivals, and other NATO members in saying that China presents “systemic challenges” in “areas relevant to military security.” . “
China’s Belt and Road Initiative has built roads, ports, railways and communication networks across Africa and beyond, expanding Beijing’s economic and security influence with signatory countries, leaving them indebted and often deeply in debt.
Regarding the Biden administration’s attempt to counter China’s strategy through a “Build Back Better for the World” program dubbed B3W, Mr. Blinken made it clear in the interview that he believed the best option was for low- and middle-income countries.
“We are offering something positive and affirmative,” he said. “It turns out that what China is proposing is not so positive and not so positive. Well I think the contrast is clear.
With China, he said, “there are still conditions attached,” including “the use of vaccines as a coercive tool with other countries.” The West, on the other hand, promised a billion doses of vaccine to end the pandemic “without any political conditions”.
After six rounds of nuclear talks with Tehran and no deal to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Mr Trump abandoned, Mr Blinken said progressing Iran’s nuclear program could become an insurmountable obstacle.
“If this continues, if they continue to run increasingly sophisticated centrifuges at higher and higher levels, we will come to a point where it will be very difficult in practice” to return to the parameters of the nuclear deal initial, he said.
“I can’t put a date,” Blinken said of when the Biden administration might withdraw from nuclear talks, but “it’s getting closer.”
At a press conference earlier today with Le Drian, Blinken warned that “serious differences” persist with Tehran over its nuclear program but preventing an Iranian nuclear capability remains in the national interest American.
Referring to his meeting scheduled for next week in Italy with the new Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, Mr Blinken said one of the objectives was “to try to restore a little more trust between Israelis and Palestinians. so that at some point the conditions can exist. to really move forward again on the negotiations, on a lasting peace.
The Biden administration has firmly supported the Abraham Accords, reached under the Trump administration, normalizing Israel’s relations with four Arab states, Blinken said.
Referring to Israel’s recent war with Hamas in Gaza, as well as clashes in Israel and the occupied West Bank, he added: “But we also know – and I think we’ve just seen proof of that – that they do not replace dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Paris.