Sarkozy victory spells downturn in France-Russia relations

8th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

MOSCOW, May 8, 2007 (AFP) - A surprising delay in an official Kremlin reaction to the victory of Nicolas Sarkozy is a sign that French-Russian relations could take a turn for the worse under France's new pro-US president, analysts said Tuesday.

MOSCOW, May 8, 2007 (AFP) - A surprising delay in an official Kremlin reaction to the victory of Nicolas Sarkozy is a sign that French-Russian relations could take a turn for the worse under France's new pro-US president, analysts said Tuesday.

Almost two days after Sarkozy's dramatic win, the Kremlin on Tuesday had still not issued any official congratulatory message, making Russia the only major world power not to have done so.

Analysts said the silence was a statement in itself.

"Congratulations from one head of state to another are more than just official protocol, they are a sign of personal relations," said Yevgeny Volk of the Heritage Foundation in Moscow.

"Relations with Nicolas Sarkozy are seen without optimism. We can't expect the same sympathy as there was with Jacques Chirac," France's outgoing president, Volk said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin joined Chirac and former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in opposing the US-led war in Iraq and the three leaders were seen as having friendly relations.

Some analysts interpreted as a potential major hitch in French-Russian relations the fact that Sarkozy has expressed strongly pro-US views at a time when Russia is taking an increasingly hard line against Washington.

"The Kremlin doesn't know how to react, it's not sure and it wants to work out if Sarkozy is really pro-American," said Alexei Malashenko, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Centre.

In a possible further sign of scepticism about the victory, news reports about the French election on Russian state television stations have focused coverage on relatively small anti-Sarkozy protests in the streets of Paris.

Russian newspapers also voiced concern on Tuesday about the future of relations between Paris and Moscow, pointing to critical statements about Putin and the war in Chechnya made by Sarkozy.

The pro-Kremlin Izvestia daily said lawmaker Pierre Lellouche, one of Sarkozy's advisers, was "particularly malicious towards Russia" and that his potential appointment as foreign minister would be "catastrophic."

But analysts also pointed to strong economic ties between France and Russia and said these were likely to remain unchanged under Sarkozy.

"Economic relations are not going to change between France and Russia," said Boris Kagarlitsky, director of the Institute of Globalisation and Social Movements.

"France will remain a major investor in Russia and Russia will continue to provide raw materials to France."

Volk agreed with that view, saying: "In the economic sphere, the dynamic is not going to change but Sarkozy is going to be firmer on energy security in Europe, like (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel."

Merkel has voiced doubts about the reliability of Russian oil and gas supplies to Europe amid European concern over increasing dependence on energy from Russia.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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