Sunny skies ahead for US-French relations
Sunny skies are ahead for US-France relations no matter who becomes the next American president.
WASHINGTON, March 28, 2008 - Sunny skies are ahead for US-France
relations no matter who becomes the next American president, US leaders said
this week as French President Nicolas Sarkozy also vowed closer ties with
The French leader swept his new model-wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy to a glowing
welcome on an official state visit to Britain and pledged to put aside
differences that arose over Britain's involvement in the US-led war on Iraq.
And in the United States, the current president forecast warm ties with
Paris, which has proposed boosting its troop levels in Afghanistan where
France has 1,500 soldiers and Britain 7,800.
"No question the relationship is changing for the better, and President
Sarkozy gets a lot of credit for that," President George W. Bush said
Wednesday in an interview with foreign media.
Arizona Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee in the
presidential race to succeed Bush in 2009, also just returned from a trip to
France where he promised to rise above any past bickering over predecessor
Jacques Chirac's opposition to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
"Our relationship with France will continue improving, no matter who
becomes president of the United States," McCain said in Paris.
Beyond the emergence of Sarkozy, who was elected last year and has led the
charge for better ties with his anglophone allies, France's commitment to
Afghanistan has vastly improved relations with the United States.
Sarkozy's announcement in London Wednesday that he intended to propose
boosting French troop levels at a NATO summit next week, received rave reviews in Washington.
White House hopeful Barack Obama has made bolstering efforts to fight
Al-Qaeda and the Taliban a pillar of his campaign platform. The Illinois
senator favors withdrawing troops from Iraq but would like to see more forces
in Afghanistan, including an expanded European engagement there.
Obama, who is locked in a tight race for the Democratic nomination with
rival Hillary Clinton, has said that if elected he would swiftly visit France,
Britain and Germany.
Prior to being elected president, Sarkozy met with Obama in Washington in
September 2006, and Obama has indicated he would like to return the courtesy.
New York senator Clinton has also urged stronger transatlantic ties.
"It is important to engage our adversaries but even more important to
reassure our allies," she said in an article on her foreign policy views
published in November by the journal Foreign Affairs.
"We must reestablish our traditional relationship of confidence and trust
with Europe," she said, hailing the arrival of a new generation of leaders in
the region, particularly in France.
The times when France and the United States were at odds over the Iraq war
may be swift becoming a forgotten era, but some conservative experts warn that
giving France a clean slate now may lead to excessive demands later.
"Washington and London must not give in to French demands," said Sally
McNamara, senior policy analyst on European affairs at the Heritage
Foundation, a Washington conservative think tank.
According to McNamara, if France is willing to boost its troop levels in
Afghanistan it is because it desires US and British support in return for a
stronger European defense structure.
"The ransom being demanded by Paris for a return to the NATO fold is too
high a price for the US and Great Britain," McNamara said.
Sarkozy said in August that he would take "very strong" initiatives to
build up European defense and renew the NATO military alliance, while giving
France "its full place" in the organization.
Experts believe Sarkozy could soon move to end a 30-year French boycott of
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, held at arm's length since president
Charles de Gaulle withdrew from its integrated military command in 1966.
Growing demands by the French could resuscitate negative feelings in the
United States, where already a minor backlash has been seen over the US Air
Force's awarding of a huge contract to Europe's parent company of Airbus,
EADS, instead of longtime US supplier Boeing.
The Campaign for America's Future, a self-described "progressive" think
tank, released an advertisement last week railing against McCain for allegedly
backing the decision and siphoning off US jobs to France.
"John McCain, hero of France," reads a banner on the Arc de Triomphe in the
opening scene, and later McCain is depicted as wearing a beret and a curly