Monday, May 07, 2007

Sarkozy Peut Améliorer les Relations Franco-Américaines?

As it was expected, Nicholas Sarkozy won the presidential election of France on May 6. The debate between Sarkozy and his opposition Ségolène Royal focused on domestic issues, particularly the economy. However, this is not the only issue that matters in French politics. Currently, France is becoming less and less influential in the world. As to the Iraq War, French opposition did not have a slight effect on the Bush administration’s decision but simply worsened its relationship with the United States. Once upon a time, France assumed itself the power center of Europe, but it has rejected to ratify EU constitution at national referendum. Quite recently, France experiences another chasm between Old Europe and New Europe over the Missile Defense system. As it happened on Iraq, New Europe supports this program by the United States and Britain, while France and Germany oppose it.

Unfortunately, the media did not pay sufficient attention to these issues. As mentioned in “From the other side of the Atlantic” on Certain Ideas of Europe, it is quite odd that France is so inward-looking. France is one of Big 5 nuclear powers, and one of two military powers along with Britain.

The media tend to expect that pro-American Sarkozy will improve the Franco-American relationship. Eric Besson, Senior Economic Advisor to Royal calls Sarkozy an “American neoconservative with French passport” (“Foreign Policy Priority Will Be to Improve Relations with US” in the Independent, 7 May). But can he really improve ties with the United States? I am asking this question, because German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not change the relationship with the United States dramatically. Also, it is noteworthy that just as anti-American sentiment is growing in Europe, anti-European sentiment is rising in the United States. According to the Economist (Lexington: Against anti-Europeanism, April 26), Americans see Europe unreliable to fight against Islamic radicalism. The end of the Cold War has loosened transatlantic ties, and the Iraq War has left a chasm between America and Europe beyond the Bush administration. The Economist comments that antipathy on both sides of the Atlantic is meaningless, and concludes as follows.

The rise of Mr Sarkozy coincides with a growing determination in America to defuse global anti-Americanism. Even George Bush has tried to do this a little in his second term. But post-Bush politicians—particularly Democratic ones—will put this at the top of their priorities.

I would like to mention further sources to foresee French foreign policy under the Sarkozy administration. Sarkozy advocates military build-up of French forces, and tough stances against human rights abuses in China and Russia. However, he remains unclear on Iraq. Sarkozy warns that early withdrawal of US troops would lead to chaos, but excessively long stay would provoke more terrorist attacks. Despite his admiration to the United States and Britain, his opposition to Turkey’s entry to the EU is at odds with American and British policy (“Sarkozy Outlines Foreign Policy”, International Herald Tribune, February 28). While Sarkozy praises vigor of American free market economy and strength of British parliament, he is not so much enthusiastic with Germany, says Charles Grant, Director at the Centre for European Reform in London (“A French Force”, Prospects, March). The Franco-German duo has been the key to French policy in Europe. This shift could change the balance of power in the transatlantic community.

Not everything is optimistic. According to the Washington Post, Sarkozy said the following.

"I'd like to appeal to our American friends to say that they can count on our friendship, but I would also like to say that friendship means accepting that your friends don't necessarily see eye to eye with you." In particular, he said, "a great nation like the United States has the duty not to oppose the fight against global warming, but to lead that battle, because what is at stake is the destiny of mankind." Sarkozy said he would make the issue a top international priority as president. (Sarkozy Wins, Vows to Restore Pride in France, May 7)

In addition to Turkey and Iraq, the missile defense issue will be critically important for the future of transatlantic military cooperation. As Robert Kagan mentions in “Of Paradise and Power”, belligerent American Mars tackles seriously against nuclear threats from Iran or Russia, pacifist European Venus ―― particularly Old Europe ―― is reluctant to confront possible enemies. Some hurdles still exist between France and the Unites States.

Despite rifts between both countries, economic ties are strong. The United States is the largest importer of French merchandise outside the EU, according to Certain Ideas of Europe. Forbes says that American big businesses keep their eyes on Sarkozy, because they see his deregulation policy would provide great opportunities for them (French Vote Important to U.S. Business, May 4).

In foreign policy and national security, it remains to be seen whether President Nicholas Sarkozy will be able to fill fundamental gaps with America. However, he may change the political framework of the transatlantic alliance. In the economy, mutual ties will develop rapidly. His relationship with les Étas-Unis will have significant impact on Europe and the world.