Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Knowing Who Your Friends and Enemies Are

When Foreign Minister Michel Barnier of France cut the tricolor ribbon on a new building for the French high school [in Moscow] last week, much was made of the historical and cultural ties between Russia and France
writes Katrin Bennhold in the International Herald Tribune.
Moscow, he said in an interview Friday, is one of his foreign-policy priorities. "Look at the size of this country, which stretches from the heart of Europe to Asia, which has considerable natural resources and which plays an important role in regional and international affairs," he said. "It's no longer the Soviet Union, but it is still a global power."
What!? No raving and ranting at, no scorn and anger directed at, powers and hyperpowers, on a global, on a continental, or on a regional scale?

(Oh, that's right, that kind of talk is reserved for Uncle Sam…)

Consciousness of Russia's importance played a large part in the French — indeed, the European and American — reaction to the recent crisis in Ukraine, which ended Sunday with the inauguration of Viktor Yushchenko as president. Barnier will visit Yushchenko later this week, after the Ukrainian leader makes his first foreign trip — to Moscow, on Monday.

"We want to tell the Ukrainians what I already told Poland last week: You have to respect Russia," he said. "We can't have tensions between Ukraine and Russia, because we need Russia."

What?! No asking that the other player respect (and listen to) its neighbors, and "us French allies", and the rest of the world?

And for the neighbors, no "You are not very polite people" who "would have done better to keep quiet"?

(Oh, that's right, that kind of talk is reserved for situations involving Uncle Sam…)

In fact, Barnier has gone out of his way not to irritate Russia

But France's interest in Russia is emblematic of the French vision of the world. In this view — not popular in Washington — Russia is one of several poles in global economics and politics, along with the United States, China, India and the European Union. France, conscious of its status as continental Europe's only nuclear power and permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, alongside Russia, paints itself as Russia's key strategic partner in Europe — a bridge to Moscow, Barnier said, as Britain is a bridge between the EU and Washington. "We have been a mediator for a long time" the minister said. "Our analysis of a lot of problems in the world is often similar."
What!? No high-falutin' comments on "Friends having to be allowed to disagree", "we are allies, not serfs", etc…

(Oh, that's right, that kind of talk is reserved for Uncle Sam…)

But some analysts caution that the exchange often lacks substance. "They've created a lot of infrastructure to talk, but they don't have that much to talk about," said Thomas Gomart, a Russia specialist at the Paris-based French Institute for International Relations. "It's a much less tangible relationship than that between Germany and Russia."
Nyet, do not say it is simply more talk of the type seen at the United Nations debating society…
Barnier's aides admit that President Jacques Chirac of France has no [warm friendship] with [President Vladimir] Putin. But Russia, home to the world's largest natural gas reserves and a rapidly growing investment needs, is near the top of the list of 25 countries in which France wants to increase its economic presence. "We have big companies in industries that interest the Russians," Barnier said.
How many democracies among the 25?

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