WASHINGTON — President Biden said he would talk with President Vladimir Putin if the Russian leader expresses a desire to end his invasion of Ukraine, but Mr. Biden said he would only do so in consultation with NATO allies.
“I’m prepared if he’s willing to talk to find out what he’s willing to do,” Mr. Biden said during a news conference at the White House following a three-hour meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of France. “But I’ll only do it in consultation with my NATO allies. I’m not going to do it on my own.”
Mr. Biden made the statement after condemning Mr. Putin for the invasion of Ukraine, calling the Russian president’s actions “sick.”
After their private meeting, Mr. Biden and Mr. Macron lavished praise on each other despite tensions about the handling of the nine-month war in Europe and French anger over what they see as unfair economic policies by the Biden administration.
Mr. Biden said he makes “no apologies” for Inflation Reduction Act, which directs billions of dollars in government funding to green energy companies. But he appeared eager to ease the French concerns, saying that the bill had “glitches” that could be solved. “There’s a lot we can work out,” he said.
Mr. Macron also moderated his previous criticisms, saying that he told Mr. Biden of the need to “re-synchronize” their economic partnership to “succeed together.”
Mr. Biden on Thursday is hosting the leader of America’s oldest ally for a day of elaborate pomp that began with an arrival ceremony featuring a 21-gun salute and will end with a state dinner of butter-poached lobster and caviar.
In the news conference, Mr. Biden acknowledged that France and the United States occasionally have “some slight differences, but never in a fundamental way.” And he stressed the unity being shown by the two countries opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Today, we reaffirm that, as I said, we’re going to stand together against this brutality,” Mr. Biden said. “And we’ll continue strong support for the Ukrainian people as they defend their homes and their families and their nurseries, their hospitals, their sovereignty, their integrity, and against Russian aggression.”
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Mr. Biden bristled at a question about why he didn’t help negotiate paid leave for rail workers, saying that he had “negotiated a contract no one else can negotiate.” He said that he would continue to fight for paid leave for all Americans, but acknowledged that the rail contract under consideration in Congress would not include that benefit.
The French president played down disagreements with Mr. Biden about Ukraine, echoing the United States’ view that there should be no pressure on Ukrainians to accept a compromise that they do not agree with. “We have to respect Ukrainians to design the moments and the conditions in which they will negotiate about their territory and their future,” Mr. Macron said.
In addition to lobster, the Macrons will also be treated to an American cheese course at the dinner, including Oregon-based Rogue River Blue, the winner of the 2019-20 World Cheese awards. The feast is the first official state dinner of the Biden administration — coming later than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic.