How should we assess the state of transatlantic relations nowadays? With a nod to Wall Street, we can say that the Alliance is up, Europe is flat, and the United States is clearly down.
The Alliance is “up” for one key reason: the warming of France’s relations with the US following Nicolas Sarkozy’s election as French president. For the first time since Charles de Gaulle established the Fifth Republic, France’s priority is no longer to live in opposition to the US.
The signs of this shift are profound, even spectacular. From a toughening of France’s position on Iran to a real warming of relations with Israel, not to mention symbolic gestures like Sarkozy’s summer vacation in America, or Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner’s arrival in Baghdad, this is a New France, one seriously considering a return to NATO’s integrated military structure.
France’s shift is the result of both political calculus and deeply felt emotion. For Sarkozy, the French are not anti-Americans, but simply anti-Bush. In his willingness to break with the past – in particular with Jacques Chirac’s legacy – and in adding a global spin to his “mandate for change,” Sarkozy is paving the way for the post-Bush America that will soon be here.