STEVE INSKEEP, HOST – Now, how does this look to the U.K.’s close neighbor and ally? That is one of the questions we have for Catherine Colonna, the foreign minister of France who is visiting Washington, D.C. Welcome to the United States.
MINISTER CATHERINE COLONNA Thank you. Good morning.
I just want to note for people, the U.K.’s political and economic turmoil grows partly out of Brexit. They’re trying to grow their economy outside the EU while also facing, you know, the global stresses that everyone faces. France, of course, remains inside the European Union, a leader of the European Union. Is your country’s view being vindicated here?
Well, I can’t really comment on internal British politics, you know, but allow me to say that France, as a long-lasting friend of the U.K. and of the British people, wishes them to regain political stability as fast as possible. I think we all need a stable and active neighbor and partner as the U.K. And yes, Brexit has been a factor. It has been there now. It is done, so we must turn the page and be, you know, at work on both sides, building for a new relationship – a better one now than the one we’ve seen in the recent past.
Do you believe that your country is in a more sustainable or stable position for being inside the European Union as you face global problems like the war in Ukraine, the economic effects there, inflation and so forth?
We certainly are in a, you know, similar situation regarding the war in Ukraine, but with a stability in our economy and in our internal politics that the U.K. doesn’t currently enjoy. That’s why we want to see it back as an active and close partner.
Now, I want to note that you’re preparing, if I’m not mistaken, for a visit to the United States by your president to President Biden. I’m sure when they talk, a central issue is going to be the war in Ukraine. Do your governments still fully agree on the strategy as we head into winter now?
I absolutely think we do. We absolutely align on what we must do and must keep doing in order to sustain Ukraine and be with them as long as needed. What we’re seeing is that things are not going for Russia exactly as the Kremlin has expected, neither on the military front or on the economic front, because the sanctions are hitting. And you know, just like I do, that on the internal front mobilization is not popular, and that’s an understatement. So our strategy is to keep supporting Ukraine and its people, to keep isolating Russia on the diplomatic front, and to go on and help as much as we can by keeping on economic, diplomatic, humanitarian and military support.
And allow me to remind everyone that the EU is welcoming 10 million Ukrainian refugees. So we do our part. We have the same goal, and we are together. Our unity is absolutely key. And we – along with that, the president will come in December, this coming December, for a state visit. It’ll be an opportunity to talk about Ukraine, obviously, and other international issues, but also an opportunity to stress the vitality of the bilateral relations…
…And continue acting together on the world scene.
How much will Europeans suffer this winter from the loss of Russian gas and oil?
Well, there’s a price we all pay for that war chosen by Russia because the economy has been affected. Inflation is on the rise. Energy prices, especially for European people, have been really increasing. But I can assure you that this is the cost Europeans are ready to pay to defend the principles and the values we collectively rely on and cherish and will defend, along with the United States.
You don’t see a loss of political support because I assume that’s what the Russians would count on, is a loss of political support for the war as people’s energy prices go up?
The political support has been steady and strong and remains so. Of course, it is our responsibility to make the people understand what is at stake, what we must do and keep doing, and to also with our allies and partners, make sure that the Kremlin cannot bet on that, on that, you know, “fatigue,” quote-unquote, or on some difficulties with the economy of, you know, either the U.S. or Europe. So combination of useful conversations between us and strands and forward-looking for Ukraine is what we’re looking for.
I’d like to note that we’re in the middle of election season in the United States. Republicans have a good chance to make gains in Congress or even capture control of one or both houses of Congress, as I’m sure you know very well. Kevin McCarthy, who could be the new House speaker if Republicans do well, has said there will not be a blank check for aid to Ukraine, and some of his lawmakers have actually voted against it in recent months. Now, I realize this is a delicate question because you don’t want to comment on U.S. politics, but there is this question of keeping together the alliance between different countries that are supporting Ukraine. How would you answer skeptics of Ukraine aid here in the United States?
Well, certainly I cannot comment – neither the British politics or the U.S. politics.
Absolutely not. But first of all, I think it’s a bipartisan issue, more than you just said right now. You know, this is a season for the election, but beyond the election, I’m quite convinced that this is a bipartisan issue. What we would say is what we all say as governments. This is our collective system that is at stake – you know, the pillars of the international order, our principles and values, our democratic countries. So we are here to defend them because it is our interest to defend them. And in order to defend them, we have to be united, be strong and see ready to choose the best solution for that, including ready to pay some economic cost for it.
Are you saying that you feel that this will remain a bipartisan issue in the United States, even if Republicans, some of whom have taken a different approach to this, gain power?
I’m convinced it is a bipartisan issue because it is in the interest, in the strong and deep interest, of our nations.
Foreign Minister, it was a pleasure talking with you. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your visit to the United States.
Thank you so much. Thanks.
[Source: NPR website]