The vice president is basically a part of this charm operation that the United States implemented towards France in the past month and a half [...] The vice president's visit is sort of the last straw of this procession of high-level American officials who who are coming, passing by Paris or meeting with the French in order to remind everybody that they value the French-American relationship, that they value the bilateral relationship in the context of Europe.
The American travel ban on Europeans felt much more arbitrary and also allowed for much less exceptions... It reinforced the feeling that the American passport is stronger than the European passports. [The announcement of AUKUS] came on the back of a very difficult summer transatlantically for Joe Biden. [Lifting the ban, which only applies to vaccinated travelers, still excludes many countries where the vaccine is not yet easily available or recognized by the U.S. The administration is also working through a backlog of visas, which were halted during the ban.]
[The October 29 bilateral meeting between Biden and Macron] will be the occasion to make some announcements and to see whether or not [... the AUKUS] crisis was the occasion to define [...] a new common agenda, or if there are sort of long, lingering issues that cannot be addressed. [... The meeting is] highly anticipated on the French side. I wonder if it's highly anticipated on the other side. [... The dynamic is] a reflection of the imbalance in a relationship. [...] One is the superpower. The other one is this strong middle power. But you have an imbalance. And for France, having a good relationship, or having a clear relationship, with the U.S. — it's also a condition, for instance, for influence in Europe.
In many ways, this [AUKUS] is not just about the French. It goes to the core of the conversation that the U.S. should be having with their allies, which is, what do you actually expect from European allies in the Indo-Pacific?
[Eric Zemmour has been an intellectual reference point for the far-right for many years on issues like national identity and gender roles.] He's very bright, he's very knowledgeable, he has a passion for history, and like a good ideologue, he tweaks history to serve his own arguments. [... Like Donald Trump, Zemmour has energized his voters with his willingness to say things that no mainstream politician would dream of saying... In 2017, the race was characterized by] a movement towards centrism and modernization and anti-incumbency [... At present] the mood is populist, it's radical, it's extremist. [Macron seems focused on winning over center-right voters, believing left-leaning voters have little choice but to stick with him.]
After the submarines, I think Europeans really needed to have some proof that something was going well [... With world leaders gathering for the United Nations General Assembly, and with the fallout over the submarine deal still ongoing] there was a need to just lift this irritant. [...] It’s definitely not enough, but it’s a good first step in acknowledging at least that your partners deserve a minimum of respect. One less irritant cannot be a bad thing.
[France could rally fellow European nations around shared perceptions that the Biden administration is lacking a Europe strategy]. France needs to share this assessment with European allies and put it on the table with the Americans to find solutions.
Fighting Islamic jihad remains France’s top priority, and [President Macron's trip to Iraq] demonstrates that. But in the context of the U.S. retreat from Afghanistan, it is also a demonstration that French [and European] vital interests remain in the region, and that France [and Europe] are not leaving.