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Newsweek: France Learns How to Say Yes

Author: Philip Gordon
September 25, 2007

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Summary:

Philip Gordon writes that with France's unabashedly pro-American President Nicolas Sarkozy, Paris seems to be signaling that France will no longer seek to constrain U.S. power as a matter of principle. Even as other European leaders keep their distance from the unpopular hyper power, France is pursuing a revolution in foreign policy that could transform the transatlantic relationship.

Excerpt:

"We've already turned the page," Bernard Kouchner, France's popular new foreign minister, likes to say. The page in question concerns the tensions between France and the United States, a historic rivalry that reached a peak several years ago over the invasion of Iraq. Now, under the unabashedly pro-American President Nicolas Sarkozy, Paris seems to be signaling that France will no longer seek to constrain U.S. power as a matter of principle. Even as other European leaders keep their distance from the unpopular hyperpower, France is pursuing a revolution in foreign policy that could transform the transatlantic relationship.

From the very start of his presidency last May, Sarkozy made clear that he would not be afraid of aligning himself with the United States when it was in France's interest to do so. In the past few weeks, it's become clear he meant what he said.

The first and symbolically most important sign came when Kouchner unexpectedly visited Iraq in August. Prior to that trip, the French government had taken the view that the Iraq War was a colossal mistake that France had warned against—and that the United States alone had to clean up the mess. Now Kouchner is saying that it's a common problem—and that "France is ready to play a role." For now, that role may be limited to diplomatic mediation, technical advice to the Iraqi government or economic aid. But the contrast with the past is striking.

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