Thursday, August 31, 2006

Chirac's Speech

Jacques Chirac delivered his annual speech to the ambassador's conference in France earlier this week (on August 28). The full English text is available on the presidential website.

And why are we optimistic in Washington about convergence?

Several points:

On Iran: "Iran will not achieve security by developing secret programmes, but rather by fully becoming part of the international community. I once again urge Tehran to take the necessary steps to create a climate of trust. There is still scope for dialogue. Iran is a great country. But recognition of its role also places it under an obligation - an obligation to allay apprehensions and to work for regional stability, as befits a responsible great country."

Doesn't sound like he's thinking about use of force or punitive sanctions to me.

On NATO: "In a few weeks' time, the NATO Summit will be taking place in Riga. We want this meeting to be a success and to mark a further milestone in the adaptation of the Alliance.

We will achieve this by upholding NATO's legitimacy as a military organisation guaranteeing the collective security of the European and North American allies. To seek to involve the Alliance in non-military missions, ad hoc partnerships, technological ventures or an insufficiently prepared enlargement could only distort its purpose."

Not a ringing endorsement of "coalitions of the willing" or of accelerated entry for the Georgians (I assume that as long as Viktor Yanukovych sits in the prime ministerial chair in Kyiv Ukraine's fast track to NATO is on hold).

The Times of London ran an interesting piece back in November 2004 with the headline Backing Bush has won you nothing, Chirac tells Britain. There's a more receptive audience for that message today, not only in Britain but elsewhere, including in parts of "new Europe."

Charles Kupchan, writing in the September/October issue of The National Interest, argues that we have passed into a "fourth age" of transatlantic relations, that the Cold War era has moved beyond recall. Seems like the Riga NATO summit may be a further harbinger of this, if Chirac's remarks are any indication. It also suggests that assumptions about a united Western bloc facing off against Russia and China on Iran may not be as resilient as previously assumed.

Of course, Chirac's speech got little coverage here, so no need to threaten anyone's illusions.

Chirac is against enrichment in Iran.

Iran will not concede.

Chirac and Bush are on the same page regarding this.

Convergence indeed!
Anonymous 5:26,

You can both be against something but that doesn't mean you are in agreement about what to do about it. Chirac is talking a lot about diplomacy; you don't here him saying that Iran's nuclear enrichment is a mortal threat that can ony be met by force.

I assume taht if Hezbollah forces attack French peacekeppers and there is an Iranian signature that may change attitudes, though

I agree that on paper the speech seems less than optimistic for US interests. But there is also a history of French public complaint and private acquiescence in matters of the alliance, so if the US really wants to push expansion it can go through.
A distinction should also be recognized between non-cooperation with the United States and physical opposition to American actions.

Russia came close to nuclear war with us twice, in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and again in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. China intervened in the Korean War and we believed China would intervene in Vietnam in 1965 if we invaded the North.

But Russia did nothing of consequence to aid Saddam Hussein in 2003, and by holding their trade surplus with us in dollars, China indirectly underwrote U.S. military operations in the Middle East. All of the oil exporting countries prop up the American economy to a degree by denominating oil in dollars. France has not supported us in all of the places we would like to have had their support but neither have they opposed us to a degree that would actually stop us from taking the actions we think necessary.

Unfortunately, a lack of foreign opposition doesn't really help if US policy is flawed or is unlikely to succeed without broader foreign support. The real problem with foreign non-support is the opportunity cost of some better policy that cooperation might have achieved.
If the Cold War era has really moved beyond recall, why is Chirac's model for NATO still so tied to the traditional NATO mission statement and geographic parameters? What has changed is that Russia is the key to everything on Iran, and probably no amount of Western unity can accomplish nonviolent nonproliferation.
It also suggests that assumptions about a united Western bloc facing off against Russia and China on Iran may not be as resilient as previously assumed.

Don't worry, you can count on Europe supporting the US on votes that they know in advance will be purely symbolic, thanks to Russia and China.

Broad sanctions on Iran are indeed a non-starter. Europe doesn't want to sever ties with Iran. Why? Well, Iran doesn't want to sever ties with Europe.
This is in sharp contrast towards the U.S's feelings about Iran and the reverse.

Europe doesn't see Iran's nuclear weapons as pointed at them. I'm not sure they are, either. On the other hand, the Euro support of UNFIL II suggests that the Euro convergence on **terrorism** is real. It's just that, unfortunately for US nationalists, Iran isn't blowing up Europeans.

Jordan W.
Jordan W,:

Also this:

At UAE cities there were celebrations after 9/11. Ask Westerners who taught at the universities there how students were reacting.

US policy is incoherent when it comes to Iran: on Salafi Terrorism, on non-Proliferation, on energy security.
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