President Joe Biden, right, and French President Emmanuel Macron arrive at the international ceremony at Omaha Beach, June 6, 2024, in Normandy, France.

US President Joe Biden is due to meet President Emmanuel Macron for talks at the Elysée Palace in Paris on Saturday, June 8, followed by a state banquet given in his honor, with Ukraine’s battle against the Russian invasion the dominant topic. In a speech on a clifftop in northern France that was the scene of a bloody confrontation between US troops and occupying Germans on June 6, 1944, Biden Friday had drawn parallels between D-Day and the present. The president is set to face his Republican rival and predecessor Donald Trump later this year in presidential elections that commentators predict will subject US democracy to a severe test.

Biden invoked the ghosts of the heroes of the assault on the Pointe du Hoc, a clifftop promontory where German bunkers were attacked by US troops. No surviving veterans remain alive. “They (the veterans) are summoning us,” said Biden. “They ask us, what will we do? They’re not asking us to scale these cliffs. They’re asking us to stay true to what America stands for.” Biden’s speech also came under the shadow of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, which has left war again raging in Europe eight decades after the end of World War II.

There are also fears Trump will scale down US participation in international alliances like NATO and lessen support for Ukraine if he wins. “American democracy asks the hardest of things: to believe that we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves. So democracy begins with each of us,” Biden said.

Ukraine aid

Biden, a Democrat, was unmistakably invoking the memory of a famous speech given by late Republican president Ronald Reagan at the Normandy clifftop in 1984 where he saluted the American “boys” of the Pointe du Hoc. “The rangers who scaled this cliff did not know they would change the world but they did,” said Biden. “They came, they did their job, they fulfilled their mission… They were part of something greater than themselves.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky had earlier Friday urged the West to do more to achieve a fair peace as Ukraine battles the Russian invasion, telling Biden that Kyiv is counting on “shoulder-to-shoulder” support. Meeting Zelensky in Paris after the speech, Biden pledged his support for Ukraine and announced another $225 million in aid to Kyiv. Zelensky thanked him for the “tremendous support”, comparing it to the United States coming to Europe’s aid during World War II.

Kyiv has been pushing Europe to increase military assistance, with Russia gaining the upper hand on the battlefield in recent months, in particular in Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region. After his own talks with Zelensky in Paris on Friday evening, Macron said he wanted to “finalize” the creation of a coalition of military instructors to train Ukrainian troops in the coming days. He said he hoped for Kyiv’s EU accession talks to start “by the end of the month”.

Macron also lashed out at what he called a “camp of pacifists” and the “spirit of defeat” over Ukraine’s fight against Russia, vowing Ukrainian resistance would not end with capitulation.

Le Monde with AFP