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Cablegate: Public Affairs Perspectives in the Wake of The

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 001309

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR, EUR/PPD,

E. O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PREL OPRC OIIP FR
SUBJECT: PUBLIC AFFAIRS PERSPECTIVES IN THE WAKE OF THE
PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO EUROPE


1. Summary: French opinion leaders across the political
spectrum commented at length on every stop of the
President's trip to Europe. As with the visit of Secretary
Rice, several, sometimes conflicting, themes emerged. Even
long-standing critics of recent U.S. policy heralded the
visit and President's remarks as a signal of transatlantic
"reconciliation" and a "change in tone" by the United
States. Not far behind, however, came questions about the
"real" motives behind the change in tone and insistence that
tonal changes cannot mask fundamentally different approaches
to foreign policy challenges, even where goals are the same.
Many commentators adopted a wait-and-see attitude, and
reserved judgment on the extent of the narrowing of the
trans-Atlantic divide, recalling Europe's unease with U.S.
"messianic patriotism" (national center-right daily Le
Figaro). Subsequent actions on both sides of the Atlantic,
they opined, would determine whether U.S. foreign policy
remained at its core unchanged, what path and institutions
the U.S. would choose for engagement with Europe, and
whether Europe would be prepared to assume a united,
constructive - if not always the same - policy toward the
U.S. and global objectives. While French opinion leaders
remain divided, it is clear that the President and Secretary
have generated new openness to U.S. views among France's
elite. Our comment offers some thoughts on maintaining the
positive momentum. End summary.

CHANGE OF TONE AND (LIMITED) RECONCILIATION

2. Headlines and articles trumpeted "reconciliation" and "de-
icing" of relations (Le Figaro) with some commentators
declaring the President's visit a success even before his
arrival: "Condoleezza Rice's conciliatory tone in Paris two
weeks ago established the theoretical framework for
reconciliation. The President's trip this week will put it
into practice " (Editorial in Catholic La Croix). "There
has been a spectacular change in tone" and the President's
"objective is no longer to go to war or the crusade against
terrorism; it is to fight tyranny and spread democracy"
(Editorial in Le Figaro). With Iraq behind us, "the scars
left by the intervention . have been for the most part
erased by the January 30 elections" (national center-left
daily Le Monde), and the French media viewed the
Presidential visit as symbolizing "blue skies" for the
transatlantic relationship (Editorial in La Croix). Other
commentaries saw the visit as important American recognition
of the EU: "This is the first time, since the EU has
existed, that an American president has dealt with it
directly as a union. This is the acknowledgment of the
international role that the EU plays." (Editorial in the
regional daily Midi Libre).


3. This transatlantic "reunion" may have been "without
bitterness" but it was also "without enthusiasm," with the
EU worried about the President's "messianic messages and
military doctrine" and desire "to pursue the dream of a
universal American leadership" (Liberation). The media
uniformly singled out transatlantic differences over Iran,
the Chinese arms embargo and NATO's future as points of
friction marking the "limits to reconciliation" (Le Figaro).
Europe and the U.S. might share goals in Iran,
Syria/Lebanon, and China, but commentators steadily
contrasted the EU's preferences for multilateral diplomacy
with U.S. preference for "the big stick of military might"
(national center-left daily Liberation). Pascal Boniface of
the IRIS (Institute for International and Strategic
Relations) acknowledges that the U.S. has gone farther than
Europe to effect reconciliation, but sees in the new U.S.
tone a realization of practical limits to unilateralism. In
his Liberation op-ed of 02/28, "The U.S. Softens Its
Approach," Boniface calls President Bush's European trip "a
veritable charm offensive which confirmed the previous
messages sent by Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld.
President Bush's intention was to bury the hatchet which
Iraq had raised between Washington and the Europeans. Since
January, and to the surprise of those who expected Europe to
have to pay for its dissidence, there has been a series of
gestures from the U.S. towards Europe. This proves that
although the world is not a multipolar world, neither is it
a unipolar one, because the Americans cannot face major
international challenges by themselves. Neither can they
impose their strategic agenda. . While a Euro-American
rapprochement has taken place, it is clear that the
Americans have traveled a longer road than the Europeans.
They have also become aware, more so even than the Europeans
themselves, that Europe's power is growing. The U.S. has not
become a multilateral nation abiding by international law.
But it has gone from `multilateral if we can, unilateral if
we must' to `unilateral if we can, multilateral if we must.'
The U.S. is holding to the same policy, but with a larger
dose of realism, less arrogance, and a smile on their face."


EUROPEAN SELF-ANALYSIS AND THE FUTURE OF EU-US COOPERATION

4. Analytical pieces appearing at the end of the Brussels
trip raised the question of how Europeans can best respond
to America's overtures, but they gave no answers. "Bush has
discovered that Europe exists. Following his re-election,
George Bush recognized that it was urgent to re-establish a
healthy trans-Atlantic relationship. But does he really need
Europe? Despite what he has been saying repeatedly, it is
not so certain." (Le Figaro). Others think the U.S. hopes
to "coddle" Europe in the hopes that Europe will fall into
line with U.S. positions. "George Bush did not come to
Europe to negotiate with his allies, he came to convince and
convince them some more of the righteousness of his crusade
for freedom." (Regional daily Le Journal de la Marne)

Some commentators noted the allies "are talking past each
other" (Le Figaro) as illustrated by the Bush-Chirac dinner
when President Bush "insisted on bringing up democracy in
the Greater Middle East. and President Chirac chose the
issue of climate change" as their personal priorities (Le
Figaro).

Guy Sorman, (Le Figaro), provides an introspective look at
what might be on the horizon for the U.S. and Europe in an
op-ed entitled, "What If Bush Were Right?" Sormon, who has
made similar arguments in the past, marshals evidence of
accelerating reforms in the Middle East to question the
absence of any European vision for democracy in that region.
"The fact that peace between the Israelis and the
Palestinians may be possible re-enforces President Bush's
analysis. The elections in Afghanistan are also a feather in
his cap. In Egypt, candidates are running against Mubarak.
The initial intention of redesigning the Middle East map as
a preamble to peace may have looked unrealistic at the time,
but seems to be on the road to appearing achievable. The
Europeans were too skeptical and underestimated their (the
Arab world's) desire for freedom. For the U.S., the success
of the Iraqi elections means that they will continue to
export democracy with whatever means possible. Bush and the
neo-cons may give the impression of hesitating between
diplomacy and war. But their hesitation will be short-lived.
Unless the Europeans can achieve a warming in Iran and
elsewhere. the U.S. government will pursue its
democratization process."


MULTILATERAL ENGAGEMENT: NATO'S ROLE

4. Gerard Dupuy in left-of-center Liberation on February 22
asserted that: "NATO today seems about as useful as a
bicycle to a fish. but that it is a topic of discussion to
be avoided in order to agree for the sake of agreeing."
However, as Le Figaro reported on February 23, NATO's role
and future provided another area of friction. "If anyone in
Europe had doubts concerning NATO's raison d'etre 15 years
after the end of the Cold War, President Bush gave them an
answer Tuesday: `NATO is the most successful Alliance in
the history of the world,' he said twice. It is `the' vital
security relationship for the U.S. ... Seeing through the
maneuver, Jacques Chirac only repeated the European mantra
of reviewing the situation, `It is necessary for us, as the
German Chancellor has said, to continue to measure changes
occurring on the European Continent.' This direct reference
to the European defense project elicits ambiguous reactions
from the other side of the Atlantic."

CAPITALIZING ON THE POSITIVE

5. Comment: There is genuine French satisfaction with the
President's visit to Europe and the gesture of outreach to
European leaders and publics. While the French media remain
alert to our policy differences and seem eager to highlight
them, their voices have become less shrill. Given the
extremes of anti-Administration rhetoric we have witnessed,
even in the cases of lukewarm receptivity, a positive step
forward has been acknowledged. The change in tone was a
necessary - and successful -first step in any
reconciliation.

To address the wait-and-see critics and build on the success
of the Secretary's and President's trips, we propose the
following public affairs considerations for the upcoming
months:

A. Sustain the positive momentum of public dialogue through
frequent travel of senior officials, to include a public
event during their visit. We highlight the success of the
Secretary's and the President's public addresses. These

SIPDIS
events have a doubly positive effect in that the event
itself provides the image of trans-Atlantic dialogue and the
media covers these events widely. The combination generally
has a more powerful effect than a media encounter alone.

B. Include senior staff briefings for foreign media beyond
the traveling press. Briefings provide further opportunity
to amplify - and clarify when necessary -- the principal's
message and help combat journalists' personal spin, which is
frequent in the French media. Moreover, the encounter
itself is a further "proof" of our interest in dialogue.

C. Repeat and elaborate the themes in the President's speech
that had positive resonance with French opinion leaders:

1. The media noted with satisfaction that the President
spent many minutes of his speech on the resolution of the
Israeli/Palestinian conflict, answering a long-standing
European complaint that the President had not given
sufficient priority to the conflict which was the basis for
other problems in the region (and with Muslims around the
world).

2. Many commentaries focused on Europe's difficulties in
finding fault with the President's message of democracy.
The President emphasized again that the values of human
rights and freedom were not an American exclusivity; rather
it was Europe which was at the foundation of these
principles.

3. While action and optimism should drive us, the
President's acknowledgement of the long and difficult
process in the development of democracy reinforced the image
of an Administration that has thought through its policies,
answering earlier critics of Iraq and Broader Middle East
policy.

4. The U.S. finds a strong, united Europe in its interest
and is ready to work with Europe as a partner. NATO, an
organization of consensus among members, will remain the
central institution for the trans-Atlantic security
relationship, answering conflicting criticism in Europe that
the U.S. no longer cares about NATO and Europe, that the
U.S. directs NATO to its own aims, and that, for the U.S.,
"the mission will determine the coalition: is the U.S.
preferred approach to security.

5. The President values cooperative efforts with Europe,
and gave examples of such ongoing coordination, including in
the area of development and the environment, addressing the
image of an unhearing, powerful America which alone claims
to know the way.
Leach

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