Monday, January 04, 2010

Sarkozy's coolness towards Obama: France's current frustration is aimed at Washington's hesitancy or even weakness

Nicolas Sarkozy, the most pro-American president of France for half a century, has gone cold on Barack Obama, the most popular American leader in France in generations
writes the Financial Times' Ben Hall (Thanks to Janina who adds that this is the first time that she found something positive to say about Sarkozy).
Mr Sarkozy has expressed his frustration at the White House's perceived equivocation over how to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions and the priority that Mr Obama attaches to the long-term goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.

Mr Sarkozy's frustration boiled over in September in a remarkably barbed speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

"We are right to talk about the future, but before the future there is the present, and the present is two major nuclear crises," Mr Sarkozy said, alluding to Iran and North Korea. "We are living in a real world, not a virtual world," he added, in a clear dig at Mr Obama's disarmament ambitions.

Policy differences have been compounded by friction over choreography and symbolism. The Elysée still smarts at Mr Obama's visit to France in June for the commemoration of the D-Day landings, when he declined an additional bilateral event with Mr Sarkozy.

The French press regularly publishes Mr Sarkozy's unflattering comments about Mr Obama's lack of prior government experience, his alleged difficulty in reaching decisions or his domestic electoral setbacks.

Like his predecessor, Mr Sarkozy plays up differences with the US for domestic purposes. But there is a crucial difference. Whereas Mr Chirac's stance towards the US was determined by suspicion of US power, current French frustration is aimed at Washington's hesitancy or even weakness.

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