In France, Kamala Harris Searches for Role on Global Stage


PARIS — Vice President Kamala Harris spent hours speaking with Emmanuel Macron, the French president, managing to skirt a latest diplomatic rift between the 2 allies over an Australian submarine deal. She attended a convention on selling democratic elections in Libya. And she secured a dedication for the United States to affix a nonbinding worldwide declaration to guard civilians in opposition to cyberattacks.

During a tightly choreographed journey to France this week, Ms. Harris appeared decided to claim herself as a diplomatic asset for a president who believes he is aware of extra in regards to the course of — and the vice presidency — than most.

The journey, coming amid declining approval scores for President Biden and Ms. Harris inside the United States, additionally offered an opportunity to cement the worldwide profile of the vice chairman, who has demonstrated aspirations for increased workplace.

“I think there is no question that I’m here as a representative for my country,” Ms. Harris mentioned. “And my presence here is reflective of the priorities that the United States has as it relates to France.”

But 10 months into her vice presidency, Ms. Harris’s monitor document on delivering on the administration’s world priorities has been blended.

Earlier journeys, to Southeast Asia and Central America, served as essential exams on collaborating with allies and confronting adversaries on the worldwide stage. Experts mentioned they have been nonetheless making an attempt to course of whether or not Ms. Harris’s five-day journey to France, which ends Saturday, had helped her set up American priorities abroad.

“I think she’s been really hidden this whole time and out of the sight of most Europeans,” mentioned Célia Belin, a visiting fellow within the Center on the United States and Europe on the Brookings Institution. “I think she’s been quite under the radar.”

The fundamental diplomatic achievement Ms. Harris brings residence from the journey was the announcement on Wednesday that the United States had joined a French-led world initiative to guard civilians in opposition to cyberattacks and shield elections from digital threats. That could have helped soothe France’s anger over a profitable submarine deal it had with Australia that Canberra abruptly canceled in favor of a brand new one with the United States and Britain.

Ms. Harris’s assembly with Mr. Macron got here at a very difficult time, Ms. Belin mentioned, as France — just like the United States — confronts an increase in far-right and nationalist rhetoric.

Mr. Macron faces a tricky re-election marketing campaign subsequent yr and a possible problem from a far-right firebrand, and in response has moved to the fitting on points like immigration and crime.

“The irony of this trip and this meeting,” Ms. Belin mentioned, was that France was “undergoing a particularly nonprogressive moment that extends out as very much an opposition to what she represents.”

But Ms. Harris — who usually has lunch with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to debate international coverage points — got here with not one of the blunt messaging she has delivered on different journeys overseas. During her first international journey as vice chairman, to Guatemala, she got here with powerful messages on two difficult points at the same time as she met the nation’s leaders: surging migration and the corruption that plagues the Latin American nation.

In public feedback, Ms. Harris mentioned the United States wouldn’t welcome asylum-seeking migrants from Guatemala who entered the nation illegally. She additionally voiced help for an anti-corruption unit whose integrity had been criticized by Guatemala’s president, Alejandro Giammattei. “We will look to root out corruption wherever it exists,” she mentioned.

“She struck the correct balance between trying to establish productive relationships and being extraordinarily frank,” mentioned Stephen McFarland, a former ambassador to Guatemala in the course of the Obama administration. Still, he added, that message had performed little to sway the Guatemalan authorities.

Just a month after Ms. Harris’s go to, an anti-corruption prosecutor, Juan Francisco Sandoval, who had been investigating Mr. Giammattei, was abruptly fired and fled the nation.

Ms. Harris’s subsequent journey, to Singapore and Vietnam, was touted as an effort to bolster financial and public well being partnerships.

But it got here in the course of the Biden administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, forcing her senior aides to face questions in regards to the historic parallel between that exodus and the U.S. evacuation of American residents in 1975 from Saigon in the course of the Vietnam War.

William Choong, a senior fellow on the Yusof Ishak Institute, a analysis group in Singapore, mentioned Ms. Harris was a “good trooper” for the Biden administration, “delivering a very commendable performance and delivering an emphatic note about American commitment to the southeast region as well as the wider Indo-Pacific.”

During her journey, Ms. Harris additionally took a tricky line with China, accusing Beijing of intimidation within the South China Sea and pledging to problem its “bullying and excessive maritime claims.” China condemned Ms. Harris’s feedback, and stepped up its criticism of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

While Ms. Harris’s time in France saved her largely freed from controversy and allowed her to ascertain a better presence, nonetheless managed, on the world stage than on previous journeys, she is dealing with important headwinds at residence.

The Biden administration is dealing with rising inflation, a home agenda whose success continues to be in query, a world pandemic that has not receded, and a harmful Democratic loss within the Virginia governor’s race that has some within the occasion questioning whether or not the White House is taking the fitting cues from American voters.

There can be the problem of lagging approval scores for each President Biden and Ms. Harris: a latest USA Today-Suffolk University ballot discovered that 28 % of voters permitted of the job the vice chairman is doing.

Symone Sanders, Ms. Harris’s press secretary and senior adviser, advised reporters en path to Paris that dismal new polling mirrored “a snapshot in time,” and that Ms. Harris was targeted on different issues, together with a social spending deal.

Allies of the administration treaded gingerly when requested how Ms. Harris’s efficiency overseas may change her personal political fortunes.

Former Senator Chris J. Dodd of Connecticut, a member of the Biden marketing campaign’s vice-presidential search committee and a confidant of the president, praised the job she had performed, and mentioned the vice chairman’s political future may embody being part of an extended listing of Democratic candidates ought to the Biden presidency be restricted to 1 time period.

“I’m hoping the president runs for re-election,” Mr. Dodd mentioned, “but for whatever reason that might not be the case, it’s hard to believe there would be a short list without Kamala’s name on it. She’s the vice president of the United States.”