Another Self-Inflicted Wound

The Obama administration has an uncanny ability to alienate America’s friends, most recently French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Reuters reports:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, initially dubbed Sarko the American for his pro-U.S. stance, is finding it much tougher to deal with Washington than he had anticipated and is recalibrating his policies accordingly.
Stung by perceived snubs from U.S. President Barack Obama and encouraged by the growing importance of the G20, Sarkozy is increasingly reaching out to non-aligned states in an effort to extend France’s international influence. …
These initiatives are being played out against a discordant tone in Franco-American relations. This lack of harmony does not constitute a crisis, but is nonetheless raising eyebrows.
“Sarkozy has clearly been thrown off course in his relations with America,” said Didier Billion, a senior researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS). …
Following his election in 2007, Sarkozy swiftly established a close friendship with the-then U.S. president, George W. Bush, and buried the U.S.-French row over the 2003 invasion of Iraq. When Obama took office in January, Sarkozy was still glowing from the praise he had received for his accomplished handling of the European Union presidency, and was convinced that he was the natural partner for the new U.S. leader on the world stage. …
Sarkozy’s critics say he is jealous of Obama’s high profile and hurt by public putdowns — such as the U.S. president’s refusal to dine with him during a visit to Paris last June. Officials say the disconnect is centred on real issues, such as Obama’s attitude to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which has been less hardline than Sarkozy’s hawkish stance.
“There is an annoyance about what the French see as naivety in the Obama administration,” said Bruno Tertrais, a senior research fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research.

A lot of things in foreign policy are hard, but not going out of your way to alienate allies doesn’t seem like one of them.


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