French President Nicolas Sarkozy came to the US with a visit on March 29. He gave a speech at Columbia University in New York where, unexpectedly for many, he criticized American policy.
The French leader began his keynote address stressing the important role of the US in the global financial crisis: “A few hundred irresponsible hotheads did mad things on the stock market, with derivatives, with other people’s money. Do you think we can defend capitalism … when there is so much injustice? I don’t think so because it is impossible to defend.” He added that the US should work together with Europe to create a new model of the world development that would help to avoid similar crisis in the future.
The French President turned to political criticism as well. He said the United States "should reflect about what it means to be the world's No. 1 power.""The world needs an open America, a generous America, an America that shows the way, an America that listens," he said.
Sarkozy does not like that the US often makes unilateral decisions concerning many on the planet. Saying “there is no single country in the 21st century that can run the world alone,” he urged the United States to join Europe in “inventing the rules for the economy of tomorrow.”
Never before was Sarkozy so critical of the United States. In France he is believed to be an adamant pro-American politician. During his election campaign in 2007, Sarkozy named strengthening of the relations with the US a priority of his foreign policy. He demonstrated his intentions on many occasions, for example, when he made France more actively involved in NATO for the first time since 1966.
This country, as no other country, is strongly opposed to getting close with the US. The French traditionally considered Anglo-Saxon countries their strongest competitors in the struggle for global influence. France is still trying to play the role of the world gendarme sending its troops to resolve conflicts in its former African colonies. The French have created and tested their own nuclear weapons just in spite of the US.
France ’s foreign territories (Reunion, Guadalupe, Martinique, French Guinea, New Caledonia, and French Polynesia) are spread all over the world. People living in these areas are French citizens. These territories house large military bases. France still remains a powerful state, and absolute following of the US is against the interests of the French elite. Sarcozy cannot disregard that.
“Do not overestimate Sarkozy’s Americanism. Although he was called “Atlanticist” and “Sarko-American” before his presidency, he was never called the “American lap dog” like Tony Blair. Never,” says Sergey Fyodorov, an expert of the Institute for European Studies, in his interview with Pravda.ru.
As for the statements that earned Sarkozy the nickname “Atlanticist,” he made them to eliminate misunderstanding with the Americans in a wide range of world policy issues. He intended to develop the relationship and be the US ally. At the same time, he was minding the national interests of France that has never been an American dependant.
It is not surprising that Sarkozy criticized the US. Mostly, he criticized their economic policy. He criticizes the US that “committed a suicide” while chasing profits. He calls them to abandon the rules of financial regulation that led to the crisis and choose new approaches.
Here we can see serious differences. France expresses virtually an all-Europe idea of limited state regulation of the market, while American financial experts believe in liberal approach assuming a free, self-regulating market. Now, under pressure from other countries, Americans may have to reconsider this approach. They will not be able to ignore the European Union.
The US will not be able to force its financial regulations system on the rest of the world. And it has to do with more than just France. Many countries are trying to change the existing system, including China and Russia.
We cannot ignore the fact that France is trying to speak to the US as an equal partner. Of course, it does not make Washington happy. But Paris can afford it. It can do it because the French economy is one of the largest in the world and is one of the top strongest world economies. During the crisis, it even managed to outrun the US closest satellite, Great Britain.
The two countries have no significant differences in terms of foreign policy. There are certain difficulties, mostly, concerning sharing the raw material market that is not that large and limitless. There is certain competition in the area of control and utilization of this market. Most likely, it is a competition between transnational corporations rather than countries. The French have approximately 40 such corporations and they compete with similar American structures.
Currently, the modern economic development partially neutralized national competition. At the same time, both Washington and Paris conduct their activity considering economic interests of their companies.
On the other hand, there is a certain “ideological” competition. Both France and the US compete as messianic nations. While Washington propagates the ideas of democracy, Paris promotes its old revolutionary slogans of liberty, equality and fraternity.