As D-Day commemorations conclude in France, Biden turns his gaze to Ukraine and Gaza wars (2024)

POINTE DU HOC, France – President Joe Biden on Friday held up the bravery of Army Rangers who scaled 100-foot cliffs during World War II as a shining example for Americans whom he said must do whatever it takes to protect freedom from tyranny.

“They’re summoning us,” Biden said. “They’re asking us what we will do. They’re not asking us to scale these cliffs. They’re asking us to stay true to what American stands for.”

Standing on the soaring landscape in northwestern France, Biden is facing a steep climb of his own as he turns his attention from this week’s commemorations of D-Day to the two global conflicts that have consumed much of his presidency: the wars in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip.

Biden met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Paris on Friday — a full day before he was scheduled to confer with French President Emmanuel Macron. He'll hold bilateral talks with Macron on Saturday, before he is feted by the French leader at a formal state dinner. Biden with see both allies again next week when he returns to Europe for the annual Group of Seven leaders' summit.

Tough conversations are ahead for Biden and the European nations that − along with Canada, the U.S., the UK and Japan − make up the G7, about how to bring about an end to the war between Israel and Hamas and how Gaza will be governed after the conflict. Two more European Union members and Norway recognized Palestine as a state at the end of May.

G7 nations have not followed suit. They have, however, endorsed a three-phase peace proposal Biden laid out last week, which he said would pave the way for Palestinians to return to their homes.

More:As Joe Biden marks D-Day anniversary, he faces a world again embroiled in conflict

Biden looks to G7 for help with Ukraine and Gaza

Biden is also trying to urgently persuade G7 allies to unite around a plan to support Ukraine’s military operations and the reconstruction of the war-torn country’s critical infrastructure. The proposal involves leveraging the interest from an estimated $300 billion in frozen Russian assets to provide Ukraine with a loan that could be used to pay for military aid and reconstruction aid. The loan could generate as much as $50 billion in additional revenue.

That money would supplement the $60 billion in aid the U.S. approved in late April, roughly half of which is allocated to military equipment and nearly $8 billion of which was set aside to pay for essential government services. The E.U. also approved roughly $54 billion in financial assistance for Ukraine earlier this year.

U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine’s Economic Recovery Penny Pritzker told USA TODAY in an interview prior to Biden's trip to France that the assistance packages plus the prospective loan would “show people that there's enough capital there that Ukraine will win this war…and that there's also capital to begin the rebuilding."

"You're seeing the US flooding the zone with more weapons and equipment, given our supplemental, but you're also seeing the rest of the democratic world stepping up," said Pritzker, who recently visited Ukraine.

As D-Day commemorations conclude in France, Biden turns his gaze to Ukraine and Gaza wars (1)

Congress gave the Biden administration the authority it needs to carry out the plan in the Ukraine aid legislation. But the White House has countered that it can't pull it off without G7 nations' help, because most of the money is held outside the U.S.

The topic will be at the top of Biden's agenda on Saturday when he meets with Macron."The clock is ticking down to the G7, and we’re going to make a big push to see if we can get clarity on a path forward over the course of the next several days," White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan said this week."This is a priority for the United States.We believe it’s a priority for the entire G7. We want to see every country come on board with a method by which we can mobilize resources for Ukraine at scale so that they are able to have what they need to be able to succeed in this war," Sullivan said.

Ukraine Caucus co-chair Marcy Kaptur said lawmakers are hopeful G7 nations can find a way to move forward together. She described the Biden administration's interest plan as a "down payment" on the reconstruction of the eastern European nation.

More:Biden on D-Day anniversary and Normandy landings: 'Let us be worthy of their sacrifice'

"Let's work with our allies and find a way to do it. But I think that nations that choose not to — if they were to choose not to participate — that tells us a lot about those countries," Kaptur, D-Ohio, told USA TODAY. "And so I think it'll be a test of mettle."

Biden is hoping to have a deal in place by the time he sees his counterpart next week in Italy at the G7 summit.

At their meeting in France, he apologized to Zelenskky for the slow pace of Ukraine aid after a months-long battle with Republicans in Congress to get it approved. But he did not show up the meeting empty-handed: Biden said the U.S. would be sending $225 million for munitions − including air defenses that will aid in the protection of Ukraine's electric grid, which Russian forces have been heavily targeting.

"You continue to fight in a way that is just remarkable, just remarkable. We’re not going to walk away from you," Biden said. "I apologize for the weeks of not knowing what’s going to pass in terms of funding because we had trouble getting the bill that we had to pass that had the money in it."

Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to see Zelenskyy next weekend at a Ukraine-backed peace summit in Switzerland.

As D-Day commemorations conclude in France, Biden turns his gaze to Ukraine and Gaza wars (2)

Biden sees parallel with WWII

In his remarks later on Friday in Normandy, Biden said the Rangers who scaled the cliffs above the English Channel on June 6, 1944, didn’t know they would change the world. But they did. “They did their duty,” he said. “They were a part of something greater than themselves.”

Drawing parallels to current threats to democracy at home and abroad, he said it’s not enough just to honor the Rangers. Americans should follow their example.

When Americans talk about democracy, they often speak in big ideas like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness but seldom talk about how hard it is, Biden said.

“American democracy asks the hardest of things: to believe that we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves,” he said. “So democracy begins with each of us.”

His remarks came on the third day of a five-day trip to France and just hours after he attended ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day, when from the United States and its allies landed on the beaches of Normandy to liberate France from the grip of Nazi Germany.

Pointe du Hoc, eight miles west of the American Normandy Cemetery, where more than 9,000 American soldiers killed in the war are buried, was the scene of a legendary feat of bravery during the D-Day landings.

More:'The Americans are landing': A grandmother's 80-year-old diary documents opening of D-Day

During the 1944 invasion, Army Rangers using ladders made out of rope scaled the 100-foot cliffs and seized German artillery pieces that could have fired on troops landing at Omaha and Utah beaches. T

The Rangers, under the command of Lt. Col. James E. Rudder of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, endured German machine gunfire and hand grenades that rained down on them as they climbed. The Rangers suffered heavy casualties, with 77 killed and 152 wounded.

His warnings about current dangers to democracy have come amid signs that Americans have grow weary of wars in Europe and the Middle East. Ukraine is fighting for survival after its unprovoked invasion by Russia two years ago. Hamas has been at war with Israel in Gaza following the militant group’s surprise cross-border attack that killed 1,200 Israelis.

More:Russia opens new front in Ukraine war. Is Ukraine losing the war with Russia?

Both have been costly to Biden. He has had to battle Republicans in Congress to provide war assistance to Ukraine. His unyielding support for Israel has hurt him politically among members of the Democratic Party’s left wing, who have been angered by his refusal to demand an immediate cease fire and by the humanitarian toll that the war has wreaked on Gaza.

In the lead-up to the G7 summit, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who accompanied Biden to France, will also make a just-announced trip to the Middle East, including a stop in Israel. Blinken will push for Hamas to accept the ceasefire agreement that is on the table and for the release of all hostages, the State Department said.

The U.S. is still waiting for an official response from Hamas to the proposal, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday.

Biden’s focus while in France has so far has been D-Day, but with the commemorations concluded, he will meet with Macron to discuss the wars in Ukraine and Israel and priorities such as the Indo-Pacific region, climate change and U.S.-French cooperation on security for the upcoming summer Olympics in Paris.

Later on Saturday, Macron will host Biden and first lady Jill Biden for a state dinner. Macron was the first leader the Biden's threw a lavish bash for at the White House and the only European leader who Biden has honored with a state dinner during his term.

Michael Collins and Francesca Chambers cover the White House. Follow Collins on X, formerly Twitter, @mcollinsNEWS and Chambers, @Fran_Chambers.

As D-Day commemorations conclude in France, Biden turns his gaze to Ukraine and Gaza wars (2024)
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