US-Europe gap ‘can only deepen’

4th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 4 (AFP) - The French government is resigned to President George W. Bush's second term of office, which it has long expected, and could even extract some strategic benefit, Paris-based analysts said Thursday.

PARIS, Nov 4 (AFP) - The French government is resigned to President George W. Bush's second term of office, which it has long expected, and could even extract some strategic benefit, Paris-based analysts said Thursday.

But they warned that the long-term implications of the president's clear victory are disturbing for transatlantic relations, confirming the steady estrangement between an ideological, nationalistic America and a Europe built on softer and more consensual values.

One of the first results of the election is that it has dispelled any illusion in France and other European countries that the United States is any more a nation built after their own image, according to Francois Heisbourg, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research.

"Up to now in every crisis it has been possible to distinguish between the policies of the Bush administration and the American people. Now we are in a completely new ball game. His share of the vote was the biggest since 1968. I suspect we will see that anti-Americanism here will be more and more naked," he said.

But Heisbourg said that President Jacques Chirac, who for the last two years has led opposition to US policy in Iraq, was well-placed to take advantage of a second term - reinforcing his role as international spokesman for the anti-Bush camp and pushing his vision of a strong European counterweight.

"Chirac is going to find Bush mark 2 easier to handle, especially from the European perspective. Because Europe is increasingly going to have to take a role for itself. It will disagree with the US more and more, so it will be forced to get its act together," he said.

According to Dominique Moisi of the French Institute for International Relations, Chirac has long since calculated that a Bush victory was the most likely outcome of Tuesday's vote - so there is no surprise at the result.

"There is even an element of relief," he said. "It would have been extremely hard to say a blanket no to (Democratic challenger) John Kerry if he asked for troops in Iraq. And that would also have caused tensions with Germany, who were much more ready to respond if Kerry made a request."

There was broad agreement among analysts that a second Bush term will see fewer foreign adventures, as the White House seeks an exit strategy from Iraq, and some hope that the president will take a more cooperative line with his European allies in confronting new challenges.

"Experience shows that re-election can transform a president," said Pierre Rousselin, editorialist at the conservative Le Figaro newspaper. "A first term is directed at the electoral rendezvous which is its conclusion. But once re-elected, a president's only concern is his place in history."

Rousselin urged the French government to seize the moment and "open a new stage in our relations with America. Rather than wait for Bush to make a gesture of detente, the leap has to come from this side of the Atlantic."

But according to Moisi, the government has little expectation that relations with Washington will be dramatically improved.

"It's resignation. They are asking - what can we do that will alleviate the tensions, knowing that anything we do will be at the margins, that the US is not going to change, and that our principles will prevent us from doing what they want," Moisi said.

According to Moisi Europeans should expect a "hybrid America" - a nation less likely as a result of Iraq to engage in foreign military ventures, but on the other hand "more drastic and more ideological when it comes to the moral climate inside the US."

"I get a sense of a new moral order in America which can only deepen the gap between Europe and the US," he said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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