Biden will head to France for state visit and 80th D-Day anniversary

Visit to Nato ally comes as US President faces rematch against Donald Trump, an alliance doubter

Joe Biden will continue a long tradition of US presidents commemorating the anniversary of the beach landing of about 160,000 Allied soldiers in Normandy. EPA
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President Joe Biden will leave the campaign trail this week for a state visit to France, where he will mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, give a speech on democracy, and address US foreign policy on Ukraine and the Middle East.

Mr Biden, who is running for re-election in November, will continue a long tradition of US presidents commemorating the anniversary of the beach landing of about 160,000 Allied soldiers in Normandy on June 6, 1944 – an event that set the stage for the liberation of Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany.

“American and Allied forces exhibited remarkable bravery on D-Day and throughout the war, and their bold defence upheld freedom and democracy everywhere,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a preview of the visit.

“That war showed the world the value of strong alliances and partnerships, which is a lesson that continues to resonate strongly today, both in Europe and, quite frankly, well beyond Europe.”

The four-day trip will be Mr Biden's first state visit to France since taking office in 2021.

On Friday, he will deliver a speech on “democracy and freedom” at Pointe du Hoc, the White House said, where US Army Rangers scaled high cliffs and seized German weapons.

And on Saturday, he will meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

Before heading back to the US on Sunday, Mr Biden and his wife Jill Biden will visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, a First World War memorial in northern France where about 2,300 soldiers are buried.

The visit to Nato ally France comes as he faces a tightly contested rematch in November against Donald Trump, the former president who has spoken scathingly of Nato partners and called into question the importance and continued US membership of the alliance.

Since taking office, Mr Biden has made strengthening Nato a core focus of his foreign policy agenda, supporting and arming Ukraine as it fends off Russia's invasion.

Under his watch, Nato has grown to 32 members after Finland and Sweden joined following Russia's attack on its neighbour.

“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,” Mr Kirby said.

Mr Macron has shown support to the Israel-Gaza peace plan Mr Biden unveiled last week.

Last month, the Biden administration announced a $400 million military aid package for Ukraine.

That followed the April approval by Congress of $60 billion in aid for Kyiv in a supplemental funding bill.

More than two dozen heads of state are scheduled to attend the D-Day commemoration ceremonies, among them Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Mr Kirby said no official meeting between Mr Zelenskyy and Mr Biden had been scheduled so far.

Mr Biden has recently given Ukraine approval to use US-made weapons inside a limited area of Russia, as Kyiv tries to counter Moscow's advances in the Kharkiv region.

Mr Biden has sought to focus his re-election campaign on protecting the US from the return of Trump, who was last week convicted of 34 felonies.

In comments that shocked global leaders, Trump in March said he would encourage Russia to do “whatever the hell they wanted” to Nato countries that did not spend enough on defence.

The presumptive Republican nominee has championed the idea of an “America First” approach to US foreign policy.

Mr Biden, a Democrat, has opposed that approach and presented his vision for continued US engagement with the world.

“We're at an inflection point in history,” Mr Kirby said. “And it's not tied to elections, whether they're here in the UK or anywhere else for that matter.

"[Mr Biden] believes it's tied to the way geopolitics are changing, the way challenges are being presented to us all around the world in different ways.”

Days after returning from France, Mr Biden is due to travel to southern Italy to attend the G7 Leaders' Summit.

Updated: June 05, 2024, 3:00 AM