Friday, March 28, 2008

No More Surrender Jokes, Guys

The French are tough again, and it's official. President Nicholas Sarkozy made a speech today fundamentally shifting French foreign strategy back to cooperative internationalism (a strategy very similar to Mr. Gordon Brown, and also US Candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain), and toughening France's stance in Iran.

France has, for decades, avoided full NATO integration (since its withdrawal from NATO joint command in 1996), and has shouldered a disproportionately low burden in NATO operations. But Sarkozy has declared that France will become a full member once more, and has started re-integration talks with the Secretary General. As a full member of NATO, France will carry a higher military burden, which Sarkozy is willing to accept; he has offered to increase France's troop presence in Afghanistan.

Sarkozy has furthermore pledged to reduce France's nuclear warhead stock to 300; not that he is not willing to use them. Standing in front of France's newest nuclear attack sub, he said "All those who threaten to attack our vital interests expose themselves to a severe riposte by France.” He is getting tough, and not just in rhetoric.

France is taking a tougher anti-Iran stance, and is pushing for more sanctions against Iran to stop what France believes is a continued nuclear weapons program. In this stance, as well as full-frontal diplomacy in visits to the United States and the United Kingdom, Sarkozy is possibly pushing France to join the United States and United Kingdom's special foreign policy relationship. As the US and UK have been in near lock-step on foreign policy for decades--and particularly after 9/11/2001--Sarkozy may attempt to turn the Big Two into a Big Three.

Finally, Sarkozy's public mullings over boycotting the Chinese Olympic Opening Ceremony is a nearly unilateral attempt at pressuring the Chinese into changing their Tibet policy, as Bush and Brown play "good cop" and encourage dialogue between Hu Jintao and the Dalai Lama.

Ultimately, Sarkozy has thawed the somewhat frosty relationships France has had with the US and UK by showing not only a willingness to work with their leadership, but a toughness on the Middle East and China that the US and UK are likely to appreciate. If he can continue this blitz of policy and diplomacy, French surrender jokes and "Freedom Fries" are likely to be snippets of the past.

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