Cablegate: French Foreign Policy Under Nicolas Sarkozy Or

DE RUEHFR #0921/01 0681619
O 091619Z MAR 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 PARIS 000921



E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2016


Classified By: PolMC Josiah Rosenblatt for reasons 1.4 (B & D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Foreign policy has not and probably will not
play a prominent role in the French presidential election
campaign, and neither Nicolas Sarkozy nor Segolene Royal has
enunciated a fleshed out foreign policy vision. (This
message does not discuss emerging "third man" centrist
Francois Bayrou, whose views fall somewhere between those of
Sarkozy and Royal.) While it is likely that French policy
overall under a Sarkozy or Royal presidency would be largely
marked by continuity, signs are already emerging that the two
candidates would -- initially at least -- adopt somewhat
different approaches to the U.S., the Transatlantic
relationship, and Europe. Sarkozy favors a relationship of
confidence with the U.S. based on trust and with each side
free to disagree (a position which is hurting him with
voters), whereas Royal's natural reflex is to adopt a more
distant and critical approach. If both worry that a NATO
built on global partnerships risks undermining the UN,
Sarkozy at least explicitly endorses a transatlantic alliance
built on shared values and emphasizes the complementarity of
NATO and the EU. If not inherently more pro-European than
his counterpart, Sarkozy's prescription for moving Europe
forward on the basis of a simplified treaty is generally
considered as more realistic (i.e., attuned to European
realities) than Royal's for a new treaty with an enhanced
"social(ist)" dimension.

2. (C) SUMMARY CONT'D: Both candidates favor restoring the
place of human rights and democratization as a foreign policy
standard, although it is not clear to what extent this would
mean increased criticism of Russia or China in practice.
Sarkozy is more openly supportive of Israel than Royal (which
could make a difference with respect to current GOF
consideration of contacts with a Palestinian NUG), but both
see resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the key
to increased stability across the Middle East. Both
candidates are committed to France's current policy on
Lebanon, although without the intensive personal engagement
of Chirac. Sarkozy is tough on Iran, and Royal was initially
tougher -- but she has moderated her tone of late, perhaps
under the influence of new advisors. Chirac's departure
might open the way for either Sarkozy or Royal to engage more
positively on Iraq reconstruction. We would expect both to
remain serious about NATO's engagement in Afghanistan. On
Africa, while Sarkozy and Royal alike would put an end to the
Chirac model of personal diplomacy with his counterparts, it
is not clear what this would mean in practice. Chirac's
departure will offer a welcome opportunity to reevaluate
French policy in Africa in particular, including current
troop deployments. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- -

3. (C) Foreign policy issues so far have not played a
prominent role in the French presidential election campaign,
and there is little chance this will change substantially in
coming weeks. French voters are focused primarily on whether
and to what extent France needs to reform in order better to
adapt to globalization, particularly with respect to the
price to be paid in lost jobs and social protections. From a
U.S. perspective, of course, what counts most will be the
foreign policy orientation of the new president. Both the
leading candidates -- Nicolas Sarkozy of the Union for a
Popular Movement (UMP) and Segolene Royal of the Socialist
Party (PS) -- have in recent weeks outlined views on foreign
policy and defense issues (refs A and B) and offer some clear
indications of what can be expected. (This message does not
discuss centrist Francois Bayrou, the "third man"
neither-Sarkozy nor-Royal candidate whose views fall
somewhere between those of Sarkozy and Royal, although he is
widely regarded as the most pro-European of the three.)

4. (C) Sarkozy is above all a pragmatist (witness his recent
reversal on Airbus, where he originally favored a business
approach to the issue that he quickly dropped for more state
intervention in response to popular pressures). In contrast,
Royal leaves an impression of greater rigidity and
ideological orthodoxy. This said, neither Sarkozy (although
he came close in his recent press conference, ref A) nor
Royal (despite her remarks on defense, ref B) has delivered a
formal address on foreign and security policy, and it also
bears repeating that what the candidates say in the heat of
an election campaign may differ substantially from what they
might actually do or not do once elected. It is likely that

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French policy under a Sarkozy or Royal administration would
largely be marked by continuity. We believe nonetheless that
it is possible to draw a few preliminary conclusions about
each candidate's leanings or "reflexes," particularly with
respect to the U.S. and the transatlantic relationship;
market liberalization; Europe, human rights and
democratization; and Africa.


5. (C) As their public positioning makes clear, Sarkozy and
Royal differ perhaps most in their approaches to the United
States, primarily in tone if not substance, although the one
invariably bleeds into the other. Beginning with his
September 2006 visit to the U.S., Sarkozy has deliberately
and systematically spoken in favor of putting the U.S.-France
relationship on a new footing based on mutual confidence and
trust. Not only in response to (demagogic) accusations from
the left that this shift risked turning him into an American
"poodle," Sarkozy at the same time has made clear that the
relationship would have to be based on equality, with France
also free to differ with the U.S. -- he cited his opposition
to Turkey's EU accession as one salient example. Significant
is not that Sarkozy has abandoned Gaullism -- he has not --
but that he has attempted to define it in a way that is more
explicitly America-friendly or at least America-compatible.
Above all, he has spelled out the need for active engagement
with the U.S. at all times; the assumption is that France
should be able to work together with the U.S. unless, in a
given situation, our views are fundamentally incompatible.
In cases of disagreement (e.g., Iraq), the clear implication
is that France would stand aside rather than actively seek,
as Chirac did in 2003, to marshal a coalition against the
United States. Sarkozy's pro-Americanism is an electoral
liability for him, and his opponents, Royal foremost among
them, are using it as a campaign issue against him.

6. (C) Royal has yet to enunciate with anything approaching
the same degree of clarity the kind of relationship she would
seek with the U.S., owing at least partly to her relative
inexperience. But she leaves the lingering impression of
someone who reflexively wants to keep her distance from the
U.S. In part this is the product of a lack of direct and
personal experience with the United States. It also reflects
the accumulated weight of traditional leftist preconceptions
-- not to say prejudices -- of the U.S. as a hegemonic and
unilateral power (leaving aside hot-button and publicly
popular issues such as environmentalism, climate warming,
globalization, and our more limited social safety net).
Emblematic of this distancing has been the relatively greater
difficulty we have had in setting up meetings with her and
her staff, or her initial inclination -- before she abandoned
the idea altogether -- to travel to the U.S. and meet only
with certain members from the Democratic Party and none from
the Administration. Moreover, in her public utterances,
Royal has explicitly accused the U.S. for contributing to
global instability. The clear implication is that the French
role in international affairs, more than working with the
U.S., should consist of presenting alternatives to our vision.


7. (C) These differences of approach are well illustrated in
the candidates' attitudes toward the NATO Alliance and
European Security (ESDP). As Chirac before them, Sarkozy and
Royal alike object to NATO's evolving global role, and both
cite the argument that the U.S. vision for NATO, through
global partnerships and assuming out-of-theatre missions that
go beyond its traditional military role, could lead NATO to
become a competitor for the UN. Both candidates also insist
on the importance of increased EU autonomy and cooperation on
defense (ESDP), as well as on the capability of taking
independent action outside NATO. But they appear to differ
significantly in their basic attitudes toward the Alliance.
Sarkozy explicitly referred to the transatlantic relationship
as indispensable for being based on common values; he also
called for retiring old arguments over the pre-eminence of
the one the other, calling them mutually complementary and
noting that not all EU member states are NATO Allies and vice
versa (which may also be convenient in the case of Turkey).
Although committed to the idea of a political Europe as
independent actor, Sarkozy's envisions Europe acting jointly
with or in parallel with the U.S., but not as an alternative
or counterweight to the U.S. Royal's departure point is that
Europe needs to evolve and to reinforce its security
capabilities in order to present an potential alternative to
the U.S., although beyond her distaste for the use of

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military force, she has offered few prescriptions as to how
that would occur.

8. (C) The two candidates also differ with respect to the
importance of defense. While Royal and Sarkozy have voiced
support for maintaining defense expenditures at two percent
of GDP, Sarkozy insisted that it should be "at least" two
percent. In public debates and discussions, Royal has
moreover indicated a willingness to reassess France's defense
budget and programs, most notably questioning the need for
the construction of a second aircraft carrier. Sarkozy, for
his part, has made it clear he supports a strong defense and
that the planned construction of a second carrier must go


9. (C) Sarkozy does not have a reputation as an avid
pro-Europeanist, and he has not hesitated on occasion, like
Chirac, to blame the EU for some of France's problems, mainly
in connection with trying to prevent the migration of money
and jobs to the newer member states with fewer social
protections, or promoting a level of political control over
European monetary policy. He has criticized "fiscal dumping"
by newer member states with lower cost and other barriers to
investment. Sarkozy has also advocated EU-wide coordination
on domestically sensitive issues such as immigration. Royal
represents a party that traditionally is viewed as more
pro-European, although many of her positions do not differ
dramatically from Sarkozy's on the surface (although Sarkozy
has been much more strident in calling for a coordinated EU
immigration policy). However, mainly to satisfy that part of
her electorate which voted against the EU constitutional
treaty despite its pro-European tradition, Royal has put more
stress on promoting a more "social" Europe that would adopt
EU-wide standards for social protections and labor rights.

10. (C) Indeed, where the candidates diverge most is in the
remedies they would prescribe for overcoming the current
impasse on the EU constitutional treaty. There is already
evidence that Sarkozy's pragmatic proposal for a "simplified
treaty" (formerly referred to as a mini-Treaty) that would
focus on institutional reforms and not require ratification
through popular referendum has made inroads even with the
Germans, notwithstanding the official German position on
retaining the existing draft constitutional treaty. By
contrast, the Germans have privately expressed to us, and
French press reports corroborate this view, considerable
concern over Royal's calls for a new referendum on an
improved treaty, which they see as a recipe for another
French rejection. Royal has argued that a referendum could
be successful if a revised treaty were to include additional
social protections, but it seems likely that this would make
the treaty unacceptable to a number of other European
partners (in particular the UK), and would lengthen the
negotiating process in any case. In sum, although Royal may
be more pro-European in theory, in practice Sarkozy seems
more likely to move the European project forward over the
short term.


11. (C) Although Sarkozy is viewed by many French voters as
a radical free-market "liberal," in fact his differences with
Royal may be less significant than labels would indicate. As
the Airbus controversy has shown, Sarkozy does not hesitate
to shed his free-market rhetoric when he believes the market
is not looking after France's interests. Both Sarkozy and
Royal support "economic patriotism," even if Sarkozy
rhetorically speaks more of European than strictly French
champions. That said, partly out of necessity in order to
help reduce France's high debt, Sarkozy would remain more
interested than his Socialist counterpart in privatization of
state-owned enterprises. Unlike Royal, he also supports
cutting corporate tax rates, cutting all payroll taxes on
overtime beyond the statutory limit of 35 hours, and ending
France's two-tiered labor market as a means of tackling
France's chronic unemployment. As noted earlier, however,
Sarkozy's "liberalism" has often in the past been trumped by
political expediency -- which would likely be the hallmark of
a Sarkozy presidency. His demand for more European-wide
coordination on fiscal policy as a means of reducing
relocation of French jobs to other EU member countries is
emblematic of bending liberal principle to accommodate French


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12. (C) Both Sarkozy and Royal have called for restoring
more prominence to human rights and democratization as a
means of remaining true to France's heritage and its
universal mission. How far either candidate would be
prepared to make transformational diplomacy a cornerstone of
his or her foreign policy in reality remains an open
question, however. It is likely that Royal would take a more
principled approach to human rights questions than her
counterpart, and it is telling that Sarkozy justified his
criticism of Russia's human rights record in Chechnya
primarily by arguing that, in the modern media age, it is no
longer possible to hide human rights violations as before,
which in turns creates public pressures that cannot be
ignored. At this stage of the campaign, the jury is still
out on whether human rights considerations would become a
main driver of French foreign policy. What seems certain is
that neither Sarkozy nor Royal will be driven by the
sometimes sentimental approach of Chirac, whose admiration
for countries with their own long histories and traditions
(e.g., Russia and China) with a skepticism of the
applicability of Western notions of democracy and human
rights to other countries and civilizations.


13. (C) Similar considerations also apply toward both
candidates' likely approaches to the Middle East and Africa.
Sarkozy differs dramatically from Royal in his insistent
emphasis on the need to take Israeli security interests into
account. This might eventually affect Sarkozy's policy on
dealing with a Palestinian national unity government, where
the GOF of late has argued that it would be a mistake to
isolate Hamas completely if it fails to explicitly accept the
Quartet conditions. Sarkozy has indirectly criticized Chirac
for his overriding attachment to maintaining stability for
its own sake, which encourages authoritarian rule. That
said, both candidates accept the conventional wisdom that the
key to resolving the range of conflicts and tensions in the
Middle East is to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian

14. (C) Both candidates are also committed to maintaining
current French policy toward Lebanon, although neither will
be driven by Chirac's loyalty to the memory of former PM
Rafic Hariri -- both in terms of personal involvement, and
Lebanon's centrality to French policy on the Middle East.
Sarkozy and his foreign policy advisors are tough-minded on
Iran. Royal initially was tougher, demanding that Iran be
prevented from developing a civilian nuclear capacity, as
permitted under the NPT. This demand was notably absent from
her most recent foreign policy remarks. (This may reflect
increasing influence of former Foreign Minister Hubert
Vedrine, who is far more dovish with regard to an Iranian
nuclear capability, including military.) We would expect
Sarkozy or Royal to maintain France's commitment to NATO's
engagement in Afghanistan. Finally, Chirac's departure from
the scene should result in greater openness to opportunities
to assist in Iraq's reconstruction.


15. (C) On Africa, both candidates have indicated that they
would like above all to change the manner in which France
does business in Africa, with Sarkozy going so far as to
stress France's desire to reduce its military footprint
(except in coordination with the AU or under the authority of
the UN). But this does not mean withdrawal, and France will
continue to want to leverage its influence to the greatest
extent possible -- perhaps through an increased EU role --
even as it competes with the growing influence of the U.S.
and China. But both candidates understand they will no
longer be able to rely (nor do they appear to want to) on the
kinds of personal relationships that Chirac developed over
many years with a number of African leaders. The departure
of Chirac will allow the French foreign policy establishment
a welcome opportunity to reevaluate French policy toward Cote
d'Ivoire, Chad, and the Central African Republic.
Inevitably, troop redeployments across Africa will come under


16. (C) Whoever is finally elected, we believe that the
bilateral U.S.-France relationship will eventually settle

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into a kind of normal balance based on our enduring shared
interests and values and the intertwined nature of our
economies on the one hand, and the requirement of a distinct
French voice and authentically independent positions in the
international arena, on the other. In the case of Sarkozy,
we believe it will be important not to set our expectations
too high, since even his pragmatism will always be tempered
by the Gaullist imperative of a French "difference," in
particular vis-a-vis the U.S. As for Royal, although we
would expect her, at least initially, to maintain more of a
distanced approach to the U.S., there is no reason to believe
that she would be anything but pragmatic over the longer
term. In all likelihood, her personal comfort level would
rise with increased contact and experience, and foreign
policy under a Royal presidency would be characterized by the
signature French mix of strategic convergence with the U.S.,
heavily marked by strategic differences and tactical

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