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New-look Leadership And Uncle Sam

  • September 13th, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

sarkozy-brown.jpgCOMMENTARY: It’s no secret that the former French President Jacques Chirac and American President George W. Bush did not have the strongest relationship, especially in regards to foreign policy in Iraq.

Having spent just over 100 days in office Chirac’s successor President Nicolas Sarkozy has made it a priority to bridge the divide between the two counties and reaffirm the American- French alliance.

Sian Graham has been studying the record so far, and responses to it; and also drawing some comparisons with that other newly installed leader, Gordon Brown in the UK.


At a time when anti-American sentiment for the Iraq war is growing on the streets day by day it might seem strange that the President should choose this time to show such support for America.

On closer inspection, the new allegiance is exactly what France may have been looking for to recoup some position in the world game.

Speaking recently to the annual ambassadors’ gathering in Paris, the President marked a break from the immediate past, on the part of a new generation of French leadership:

“I am among those who believe that the friendship between the United States and France is as important today as it has been over the course of the past two centuries,” he said.

The ambitious President’s remarks come on the back of a recent holiday to America in July, (a vacation spot his predecessor emphatically avoided).

During a stay in New Hampshire Mr Sarkozy happily joined President Bush for an informal lunch consisting of the traditional American picnic – hotdogs and hamburgers.

Mr Sarkozy is determined to have France taken seriously; the country’s voice rather ignored and unpopular for the last few years across the Atlantic.

He believes also Europe must reactivate its common defence policy, together with the United States, seeing America as a valuable partner from which positive lessons may be obtained.

In a turnaround from the agenda, and ideals of the Chirac era, Nicolas Sarkozy was quoted in Britain’s The Economist calling America “the greatest democracy in the world.”

Such gracious words do not go unnoticed.

The Wall Street Journal provided a “rave” review for a speech in which Mr Sarkozy announced a set of foreign policy commitments with a pro-American tilt.


These included a harder French line on Iran, Mr Sarkozy quoted as saying, that should sanctions fail, the choice would be: “an Iranian bomb, or the bombing of Iran.”

The French President also affirmed he would step up its military contribution in Afghanistan, causing some delight at the White House.

Perhaps the most remarkable was the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner’s three day diplomatic visit to Iraq in late August; the first such trip by a Foreign Minister of France since 1988, The Economist noted.

French authorities were calling this a fact finding mission to discover how they might offer more diplomatic contributions within the region.

By all accounts it seems the French public are satisfied with Mr Sarkozy’s renewed co-operation with the United States.

A survey by TNS Sofres found 75% approved of his efforts regarding France’s position in the world; 71% believed his first 100 days in office had been positive.


Across the channel another change was brewing, something unlike fervent zest for things American.

Since moving in to number 10 Downing Street, 27.6.07, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has made it clear there’s to be no pandering to American demands.

In contrast to the former PM Tony Blair, Mr Brown’s first meeting with President Bush, on the lawn at Camp David, came with some bad news about military commitments, marking a change in the “special relationship”.

While assuring the profitable alliance with America would remain intact, Mr Brown has moved on from the “Bush-Blair love affair” to talk of a more business-like kind of partnership.

A prime item of business has been the withdrawal of more British troops from Southern Iraq, putting relations to the test.

Last week Britain handed over control of the Basra patrols to the Iraqi army.

Basra is the last of five areas in the former United Kingdom sphere of operations; British troops will continue to remain on the outskirts of the city, for now, in an ‘overwatching’ role.

Most observers think the British government will go ahead with withdrawal of all its troops from Iraq by the middle of next year, focusing its military efforts on the war in Afghanistan instead.

President Bush’s top commander, General David Petraeus, is to travel to Britain next week to meet Mr Brown, a move that might serve to dispel any suggestion of new trans-Atlantic tension.

What affect the British withdrawal might have on the “special relationship” between the two long-term allies is as yet unknown.


“Bush warns Brown not to pull out of Iraq”, The Daily Mail, London, 31.7.07. (8.9.07)

“A cloud looms over Gordon Brown’s honeymoon”, Taipei Times, Taipei, 2 9.7.07. (8.9.07)

TNS Sofres, “Politics and Elections”, (8.09.07)

“The world according to Sarkozy”, 30.7.07 (8.9.07)

“Running fast but where is he going?”, The Economist, London, 30.7.07. (8.9.07)

Picture: Brown and Sarkozy, google –