Friday, May 24, 2024

President Biden and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia expressed their shared condemnation of the Hamas attack this month on Israeli civilians and soldiers, saying during a state visit on Wednesday that they would stand with Israel.

In a visit laden with ceremony, military pomp and personal references, the two leaders made every effort to show that the United States-Australia alliance was about more than just the military might of two countries that also cooperate on issues including artificial intelligence and the development of critical minerals.

But, given their close work on the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel, the tumult overseas took center stage.

Speaking at the White House during the arrival ceremony, Mr. Albanese said the two countries were bound by a commitment to democratic values and “the dignity and liberty” of every individual.

“That is why Ukrainian soldiers are driving Australian-made Bushmasters as they drive back an illegal and immoral invasion,” Mr. Albanese said. “And it is why all Australians condemned the atrocities, terror” and “brutality of Hamas.”

“And, Mr. President,” he continued, “we applaud the personal resolve, you have brought to this troubled part of the world.”

The visit came hours after Richard Marles, the deputy prime minister and defense minister of Australia, said on X that his country would deploy additional Australian military personnel to the Middle East, along with military aircraft. In recent months, the Australians have accelerated efforts to supply missiles for the United States and expand joint military cooperation and training between the two countries.

Both leaders seemed to want to project a shoulder-to-shoulder image to the rest of the world. They spoke of the historical work the two countries have done together, including the Australian engineers who helped broadcast the moon landing in 1969 and the armed forces “standing side by side in the Pacific” during World War II, as Mr. Biden said.

At one point, Mr. Albanese invoked the words of Mr. Biden’s late son, Beau, to emphasize the strength of their partnership: “When there’s an Australian with you, they’ll always have your back.” Mr. Biden bowed his head.

Before an extended meeting in the Oval Office, the president told reporters that the two leaders would continue discussing how to support Israel “in the wake of Hamas’s appalling terrorist attack.” The president declined to answer questions, pointing reporters instead to a news conference that was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in the Rose Garden.

The leaders are expected to discuss the obstacles ahead of a joint contract with Britain to develop and deploy nuclear-powered attack submarines, which gives the United States a crucial technological edge against China. The Biden administration is relying on Congress to pass legislation that would allow for the shipment of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, as part of an agreement called AUKUS among the United States, Britain and Australia.

U.S. officials said before the visit that Mr. Biden would tell the prime minister that the United States would fulfill that promise. Mira Rapp-Hooper, the Biden administration’s senior director for East Asia and Oceania, told reporters on Wednesday that “the strategic case for why this funding is important is clear, is understood on a bipartisan basis.”

But it is unclear how the Biden administration’s legislative proposal would fare in a barely functional Congress.

Charles Edel, a senior adviser and the inaugural Australia Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an interview that congressional lawmakers have also been concerned with the U.S. capacity to build and maintain a naval fleet if parts of the AUKUS agreement includes sending ships to Australia.

“The Australians are understandably agitated and want this to move forward,” Mr. Edel said, adding that Mr. Biden’s supplemental budget request, which asks for $3.4 billion to build up the Navy’s submarine fleet and industrial base, has quelled some lawmaker worries.

Countering China was expected to be another topic of discussion between the leaders, according to Mr. Biden’s advisers, including the expansion of a joint military presence in the Pacific islands, including Papua New Guinea.

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