Thursday, November 06, 2008

Obama and Sarkozy, Continued

Judah Grunstein looks at my New Atlanticist comment that suggests French president Nicolas Sarkozy may be positioning himself to become the new interlocutor between Moscow and Washington and agrees that Sarkozy does appear to be pursuing a policy which would make "Paris the fulcrum upon which American-EU relations pivot." Writing in World Politics Review, he observes:

"Sarkozy has been very careful to balance his gestures towards Washington with demands for concessions (NATO vs. EU defense, for instance), and has also not been reluctant to oppose American positions (on NATO expansion, for instance) when it was both in his interest and he had sufficient support to come out on top.

"But I think Gvosdev is onto something, and it goes beyond the Washington-Paris-Moscow conduit. His suggestion brings to mind the possibility that France's recent insistence upon engaging Syria has been in anticipation of an end to America's isolation of Damascus. ... Certainly the progress Sarkozy and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner have made in restoring French-Syrian relations will put them in good position to help smooth the way for Washington.

"But on the back end (because when it comes to quid and quo, Sarkozy's a pro), my hunch is that he's going to do everything he can to make sure that Obama's willingness to engage Iran directly does not undermine the enormous efforts that have gone into maintaining a very firm and consistent EU3 negotiating position on Tehran's nuclear program, perhaps even pushing for an American presence at jumpstarted P5+1 talks with Iran before any bilateral channels are opened up between Washington and Tehran."

But would an Obama Administration be prepared to work closely with Sarkozy, in what would be a realignment of the trans-Atlantic relationship? I realize that he is talking mainly at this point about economic policy, but so far, Steve Clemons, over at the Washington Note, is concerned that Obama "is not ready to make the first term ... about the new great leaps forward we need. He may be crafting a hybrid of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush holdovers. Indeed, there is a chance that Obama I could turn out to be GW Bush III & Clinton III."

We'll have to see whether a direct Sarkozy/Obama relationship might overcome that tendency.

Sarkozy might have gone to Damascus expecting that the US would soon change course on Syria, but the French have a very particular strategy: they get closer to the US only to rival against their newly found partner.

That's been true in Iraq for example:

The world could do a lot worse, though, than Bill Clinton and late-term GWB.
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