US Vice President Kamala Harris has paid a five-day visit to France. It was not her first international trip as America's second person, but she never before acted as chief delegate at summit meetings. Some analysts consider this visit a turning point that made them look at the vice president as a new world-class leader. Other experts doubt this, as Ms. Harris's overall performance has so far left much to be desired. At least two of her previous foreign trips this summer – to Latin America (Guatemala and Mexico) and Southeast Asia (Vietnam and Singapore) – can hardly be called successful.
Kamala Harris apparently decided to compensate for the failures of her previous foreign trips by visiting Paris, where her stay was really eventful. On Wednesday, she held a bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron; on November 11, Harris delivered a speech at the fourth annual Paris Peace Forum; the next day she took part in a conference on Libya. The US Vice president herself tried to make the visit pompous: she moved around Paris in a motorcade of 40 cars, minibuses and motorcycles, having, apparently, followed in the footsteps of her boss Joe Biden who used a motorcade of 100 cars at the G20 summit in Rome.
It should be noted here that Kamala Harris went to Paris just a few days after the US President returned from a European tour, where he attended the G20 summit in Rome and the UN-sponsored climate meeting in Glasgow. According to her statement published on the White House website, Ms. Harris flew to the French capital at the invitation of President Macron to "to build on our Administration’s progress strengthening our alliances and partnerships in Europe and around the world."
However, it's no secret that Kamala Harris' visit to Paris generally aimed to atone for the recent misunderstanding between the United States and France over the US-thwarted contract for Australia's purchase of French submarines. It is worth reminding that the September creation of the AUKUS military bloc comprising the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom greatly annoyed US NATO and EU allies and partners, whom Washington even failed to inform. France suffered most, as it was to get $66 billion from Australia for the construction of 12 new Attack-class submarines for its Navy. Paris called the creation of a new military alliance and Canberra's rupture of its 2016 multibillion-dollar contract with France's Naval Group a "stab in the back." Moreover, an alliance in the Indo-Pacific region, where France studies its own interests, was outside Paris' plans. It seemed that France would harbor grievance against the United States in a way that lasts.
But it was not to be. Soon bilateral relations began to normalize, started by President Biden, who met with his French counterpart at the G20 summit in Rome. Judging by information and video reports about that meeting, France ate the dust and pretended as if nothing had happened. After Angela Merkel quit politics, President Macron apparently dreams of seizing leadership in the European Union to become America's key European ally, along with Great Britain. In this regard, being at loggerheads with Washington is definitely outside the French leader's plans. And the fact that the country lost tens of billions over the failed submarine construction contract with Australia can be blamed on "mere misunderstanding" – for the time being, friendship with the United States is more important to Macron.
With this in mind, Ms. Harris's meeting with President Macron at the Elysee Palace should have demonstrated that everything is fine in American-French relations. By and large, that's exactly how it happened, because after the meeting with Ms. Harris, President Macron announced a "new era" in relations between France and the United States. The American vice president agreed with the statement. In the course of their talks, Macron and Harris reached agreements on expanding cooperation between the United States and France in space and cyber security. This particularly refers to convergence in outer space national security, as well as civil and commercial partnership in space. There is a good chance this was to pay for the AUKUS impaction against Paris' authority and French pocket.
So far, the United States has provided no response to Kamala Harris' visit to Paris. But Chinа has. Its Communist Party's mouthpiece, the Global Times newspaper, writes that after stabbing France in the back, the United States enthusiastically sends band-aids to calm its European ally. As the outlet notes, diplomatic gestures alone won't restore Paris' trust; this requires recovering the lost contract. Moreover, according to expert with the Beijing Foreign Studies University Wang Shuo, US President Joe Biden's "America is back" political strategy is little or no different from Donald Trump's "America first" one. As a result, Europe will face even more selfish behavior of the United States, the expert believes.
One final comment: Ms. Harris's trip to Paris coincided with announcements of Joe Biden's dropping approval ratings. The latest joint survey by USA Today and Suffolk University revealed the reluctance of most Americans to his second term. However, Biden himself will unlikely run for president again – in 2024, he will be 82. By the way, Ms. Harris' support level is even lower than his (27.8% and 37.8% respectively). In this regard, some American analysts believe the time is ripe for the ruling Democratic Party to look under the hood and, giving credence to ordinary voters, pay heed to other candidates, since Mr. Biden or Ms. Harris can hardly win in three years.