This is from the Hindu.
This article shows why Sarkozy is courting the U.S. He wants France back in the command structure of NATO. De Gaulle a nationalist pulled France out to preserve French autonomy. Sarkozy however is competing with Britain for the role of U.S. lapdog in NATO. Soon Freedom Fries can return to being the traditional French Fries in the U.S.
U.S. courting France as new NATO partner
The obstacle to the cosying up between Paris and Washington could come from London.
The three-day summit meeting of the 26-member North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which opened in Bucharest on Wednesday, could lay the foundations for France’s return to the pact’s Integrated Military Command. The meeting brings together some 60 heads of state including Russia and NATO membership hopefuls, Georgia, Ukraine, Albania and other central European nations.
Two questions dominate the summit: President Bush’s determination to bring Georgia and Ukraine into the Alliance’s fold — a decision bitterly contested by Russia and one which does not have the support of France or Germany — and the possible return of France, one of NATO’s founding members, to the Integrated Military Command.
France quit NATO’s command structure under President Charles de Gaulle in 1966 in order to “fully exercise its sovereignty.” Since then relations between Paris and Washington have never been entirely easy. President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is distinctly pro-American, has publicly expressed his desire to mend that relationship and re-enter NATO’s command structure.
The United States is reportedly courting France as a new partner in leadership, perhaps even more than Britain and Germany, although Mr. Sarkozy is unlikely to give clear answers as yet to the issue of French reintegration. He announced last year that Paris was willing to return to the military structure provided the European Union first made progress on a common defence capability.
Le Monde reported that the entire scenario for the Bucharest summit was planned: Mr. Sarkozy’s announcement that Paris will increase the French contingent in Afghanistan by as much as a thousand men followed by the posing of preconditions for an eventual French return to NATO’s command structure, essentially the putting in place of a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). President Bush’s reply that he would welcome the establishment of the ESDP has also been closely scripted by French and American officials who have worked on this issue for the past several months. “Much will then depend on Washington’s moves over the next six month period,” Le Monde commented.
The main obstacle to this cosying up between Paris and Washington could, paradoxically, come from London. Prime Minister Gordon Brown will not actively support a new ESDP until and unless the British Parliament ratifies the new European (Lisbon) treaty. For Mr. Sarkozy to attain his objectives he will also need the support of the next occupant of the White House — an imponderable for the moment. The new President has taken a risk at home, since much of the political establishment is wedded to the notion of an independent French foreign and defence policy and is hostile to any hint of subservience to the U.S.
In France itself, there is a degree of hostility to the notion of “surrendering independence” to Washington, which is unlikely to share its leadership of NATO. Several members of Mr. Sarkozy’s own UMP party have reacted unkindly to what they see as the betrayal of General de Gaulle’s legacy. The socialists have described Mr. Sarkozy’s views as an “alignment” with Washington. Their opposition to his “Atlanticist turnaround” is shared by the communists and the far- left. Even centrist leader Francois Bayrou is dead set against a return to the military command quit by General de Gaulle. Mr. Sarkozy will have a difficult time convincing the Gaullist members of his party that the time has come for France to ally with Washington.
Guy Tessier, a conservative MP said: “Right now France can make its voice heard. We can tell the Americans what we think. We will lose that independence and become subservient to Washington. What we need is a better organised European defence policy.”
In Mr. Bayrou’s view too, a return to the command structure would mean “alignment” with Washington and loss of French “independence,” while socialist leader Pierre Moscovici said he saw “no interest at all for France in such a move”.
The prospect of France returning to NATO’s military command after more than four decades of estrangement is changing the power equations within the Alliance. Mr. Sarkozy’s move comes at a time when Britain’s armed forces are overstretched and Mr. Brown is keen on reducing overseas commitments. Germany’s “grand coalition” is hobbled by public opposition to any combat role.
Quoting European and American diplomats, The New York Times reported: “Washington is leaning discreetly on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to cooperate with the French integration initiative, which U.S. policymakers no longer regard as a threat to NATO. The issue is sensitive in Britain, where Eurosceptics remain fiercely opposed to any idea of a ‘European army’.”
London boasts of a “special relationship” with Washington, but the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair became deeply unpopular at home for joining the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and Mr. Brown has taken a much lower profile in foreign affairs. NATO diplomats said Mr. Sarkozy has privately set a target date of 2009, as long as he gets the necessary political cover, notably from Britain, for enhanced European defence integration so he can argue that NATO is being transformed and “rebalanced”.
The French leader is expected to illustrate his value to the Alliance by announcing in Bucharest the despatch of some 1,000 extra combat troops to reinforce NATO in Afghanistan.
The idea of reintegrating NATO’s command structure is not a new one in France. President Chirac tried to push through such an agreement with Washington but gave up when the U.S. refused to budge on French requests for a top level command post within NATO. Mr. Sarkozy could come up against the same reticence, except that this time around he is playing a better hand. Washington desperately needs more help in Afghanistan and a beefing up of the French contingent could be a quid pro quo for a softening of the U.S. stand on NATO’s structure.
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