Cable sobre la inquietud estadounidense por la política exterior de Sarkozy

En diciembre de 2009 la embajada de EE UU en París analiza la compleja personalidad del presidente francés y su ambición en la escena internacional

Date:2009-12-04 11:49:00
Source:Embassy Paris
Dunno:09PARIS1521 09PARIS1588 09PARIS1589
DE RUEHFR #1638/01 3381149
P 041149Z DEC 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 001638



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/04/2019

REF: A. PARIS 1588
B. PARIS 1589
C. PARIS 1521

Classified By: Ambassador Charles Rivkin for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (C/NF) Summary. At the mid-point of his five-year term,
French President Sarkozy continues to be the
dominant, virtually unchallenged, political force in France.
Slowed in domestic reform efforts by entrenched
interests and the world-wide financial crisis, Sarkozy is
increasingly focused on successfully leveraging France's
foreign policy influence on the global stage. Ambitious and
action-oriented, Sarkozy doesn't hesitate to break
traditional French policies and reach out to new partners,
from Saudi Arabia and Syria to India and Brazil. His
impatience for results and desire to seize the initiative --
with or without the support of international partners
and his own advisors -- challenges us to channel his
impulsive proposals into constructive directions with an eye
long-term results. Sarkozy himself is firmly convinced of
the need for a strong transatlantic partnership and he has
long desired to be THE major partner to the U.S. in Europe,
whether on climate change and non-proliferation or Iran and
the Middle East. Our effort to secure increased French
contributions in Afghanistan offers an interesting
perspective on the centralization of key decision-making
powers in the French President and how to best work with
Sarkozy as a valued, and valuable, partner. With
high-profile events like the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
prep-com next spring, and Sarkozy preparing to lead France's
chairmanship of the G-8/G-20 in 2011, we believe we can best
secure our interests across a broad front through continued
close consultations with our French partners (including, and
perhaps especially, at the highest levels), with an eye to
leveraging Sarkozy's strong political standing, desire for
action, and willingness to make difficult decisions into
force multipliers for our foreign policy interests. End


2. (C/NF) Sarkozy's domestic standing is virtually
unchallenged despite lagging opinion polls which place his
personal approval ratings at 39 percent. His center-right
UMP party controls both houses of parliament, and
opposition leaders in France have spent the past two years
fighting among themselves rather than mounting any
serious political challenge to the incumbent president.
Sarkozy's policy of "openness" in appointing opposition
politicians to high-profile positions has contributed to the
leadership drain on the left. IMF President Dominique
Strauss-Kahn and FM Kouchner are just two examples of this
successful political ploy. Despite this political security
-- or perhaps because of it -- there is some internal
grumbling about Sarkozy's high-handed style within his own
party, revealed by the recent attempt to name his 23-year old
son Jean Sarkozy, who is still an undergraduate
student, to a position at the head of Paris's most
prestigious business development commission. A brilliant
political tactician, Sarkozy is raising the profile of the
March 2010 regional elections to rally his base and steal
voters from the far right as part of a ramp-up to his
re-election bid in 2012. While this makes him more
sensitive to the near-term domestic political impact of
certain foreign policy issues (like Afghanistan), his
domestic stature remains fundamentally secure, freeing him to
focus on his goal of leveraging French power in Europe and


3. (C/NF) The net result of Sarkozy's dominance of the
domestic political scene is that he is also one of the most
secure leaders in Europe, with no awkward coalition partner
or imminent presidential elections to distract or hinder him.
Sarkozy occasionally recognizes that to be heard on the
world stage -- whether on strategic questions or the global
financial crisis -- France's voice is amplified when speaking
in concert with others. Sarkozy has worked
hard to successfully parlay an initially awkward personal
relationship with German Chancellor Merkel into a smoothly

PARIS 00001638 002 OF 004

coordinated tandem that drives much of European policy.
Likewise, he will frequently pair with Merkel and UK PM
Brown to add needed clout to messages in Brussels and
Washington. Sarkozy's ability to leverage his (and
France's) voice on the world stage by building on strategic
partnerships is one of his greatest strengths; one of his
greatest weaknesses, however, may be his impatience and
penchant to launch proposals with insufficient consultation
with other major players.

4. (C/NF) Sarkozy's most visible successes to date are
largely in the foreign affairs domain, with his greatest
achievements within Europe. He championed the Lisbon treaty
in his first months in office, helping to end the
stalemate over reform of EU institutions. This was succeeded
by his leadership of the rotating EU presidency
in the second half of 2008, which included the creation of
the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the launch of the
EU's counter-piracy operation, and his negotiation of a
cease-fire after the Russian invasion of Georgia.
Characteristically, he didn't hesitate to disregard European
sensitivities by attempting to retain the lead on
specific portfolios where he doubted the Czech ability to
provide the necessary follow-on EU lead after Prague took
over the rotating presidency in January 2009. On security
issues, Sarkozy is equally bold. He personally authorized
additional French troops for Afghanistan at the 2008
Bucharest NATO summit and this year he fought to bring France
back into NATO's integrated military command, reversing more
than 40 years of bipartisan French policy, in spite of strong
skepticism within his own party and intense opposition from


5. (C/NF) In a departure from previous French leaders,
Sarkozy has also devoted a great deal of effort to reaching
out bilaterally to countries like Israel, Saudi Arabia and
Syria, recognizing that they are major players in the
Middle East where French ambitions have been frustrated.
French officials are convinced that Sarkozy's outreach to
Syria has made Syrian President al Asad a more productive
partner in resolving Middle East issues (although they are
hard-pressed to provide concrete examples of a change).
Sarkozy fully recognizes the growing role played by
emerging powers like Brazil (he has meet with Brazilian
President Lula nine times in the past two years) and India
(whose troops he invited to star in the July 14, 2009
military parade). He lobbied successfully for the G-20
meeting in Washington to address the global financial crisis,
and he supports an expanded UN Security Council, which earns
additional popularity among rising powers. The Elysee has
also looked to Brazil as a partner in climate change
negotiations and a buyer of French defense equipment --
including potentially the first overseas sale of the Rafale
fighter aircraft. All of these outreach efforts stem from
genuine convictions as well as an eye to the image of France
at the center of a global network of influential leaders.

6. (C/NF) Sarkozy is most prone to disappoint when, in his
impatience for action, he effectively "gets ahead" of other
key players and his own advisors. Sarkozy is firmly
convinced that the most intractable diplomatic problems can
only be solved by getting leaders together in person to cut
through bureaucratic red tape and make bold decisions --
hence his predilection for proposing summits. He has little
patience for the incremental steps of diplomacy and
once he latches onto an idea he is loath to let it go.
Impatient for progress in the Middle East, he has sought
ways to make France a player, first through creation of the
UfM and second by championing a summit, either in the guise
of the UfM or now through other partners (such as the U.S.,
the Quartet, etc) to achieve his goals. In another
example, his surprise announcement last June in support of a
new treaty on European security architecture took many
allies, and his own staff, by surprise. Although that debate
has been channelled into the OSCE Corfu process for
the present, Sarkozy is already chafing at what he considers
lack of progress on this strategic issue and is
continuously tasking his staff to come up with new proposals
to address the impasse of CFE, improve the
partnership with Russia, and provide other ideas to overcome
blocked initiatives.

PARIS 00001638 003 OF 004


7. (C/NF) Sarkozy has few restraints -- political, personal
or ideological -- to act as a brake on his global
ambitions. Domestically, he rewards party leaders prepared
to adopt his policies and marginalizes any opponents with a
diverse view. Several "favored" cabinet ministers with high
profiles early in his administration -- including Rama
Yade and Rachida Dati -- were subsequently bumped into
secondary jobs after having disagreed with Sarkozy. On the
other hand, State Secretary for European Affairs, Pierre
Lellouche, willingly muzzled his long-term outspoken
support for Turkish Accession to the EU in exchange for his
current post. While Diplomatic Advisor (NSA-equivalent)
Jean-David Levitte remains a key player, with an extensive
background in diplomacy and a calming personality, other
advisors like Secretary General Claude Gueant are playing an
increasingly public role. Despite having Sarkozy's ear
to various degrees, few appear to exercise any significant
degree of influence over the activist president.

8. (C/NF) Sarkozy's own advisors likewise demonstrate little
independence and appear to have little effect on
curbing the hyperactive president, even when he is at his
most mercurial. Elysee contacts have reported to us the
great lengths they will go to avoid disagreeing with him or
provoking his displeasure -- even recently reportedly
re-routing the President's plane to avoid his seeing the
Eiffel Tower lit up in Turkey's colors on the visit of PM
Erdogan (a decision made by the Paris city hall). After two
years in office, many seasoned key Elysee staff are leaving
for prestigious onward assignments as a reward for their hard
work, raising questions as to whether new faces will be any
more willQg to point out when the emperor is less than fully


9. (C/NF) When he was elected in 2007, Sarkozy was among the
first French leaders to openly embrace the United
States, despite a U.S. administration very unpopular in
Europe at the time. This was due to Sarkozy's conviction
that France can accomplish more in cooperation with, rather
than opposition to, the United States. When then-Senator
and presidential candidate Obama came to France in July 2008,
Sarkozy cleared his schedule to meet with him and
further broke his own protocol rules and held a joint press
conference (a privilege normally reserved exclusively for
visiting heads of state). Sarkozy is prepared to be the
U.S.'s key partner in Europe and is hoping for intense
regular contact with President Obama (which enhances
Sarkozy's domestic stature and therefore directly increases
his ability to make hard decisions). French journalists are
pointing out with increasing frequency that Sarkozy has not
paid a White House call on President Obama, and French
officials are beginning to express concern over this
lack of high-level visits and other regular consultations.
Journalists and officials alike are expressing the concern
that France, and Europe as a whole, may be of less strategic
importance to the United States today (a view that, all
things being equal, does not enhance their incentives to work
closely with us).

10. (C/NF) On strategic questions, Paris is frequently
willing to back U.S. positions, even in the face of general
European reluctance. Paris has welcomed U.S. efforts to
"re-set" relations with Russia and has consistently
emphasized developing a common approach with Washington
toward Moscow. On Iran, Presidents Sarkozy remains
personally engaged and is willing to work intensely within
Europe (both institutionally in the EU and through efforts to
persuade individual countries to adopt national measures).
On non-proliferation and disarmament issues, the GOF has
urged regular consultations in the run up to the 2010 NPT
Review Conference and launch of discussions on a FMCT treaty.
The most important thing for French officials and Sarkozy
himself is to feel like they are part oQthe decision-making
process and not simply called in to ratify decisions after
they have been made in Washington.


PARIS 00001638 004 OF 004


11. (C/NF) Our effort to secure increased French
contributions to Afghanistan underlines how much
decision-making power is vested in the French president and
how best we can work with him to achieve desired results.
Last year, on our request, President Sarkozy went against all
of his political and military advisors to deploy a
French OMLT to assist the Dutch forces in Uruzgan, a critical
reinforcement of a key ally. It was also Sarkozy
alone who made the decision to deploy an additional 700
troops at last year's Bucharest summit -- at the time of
the announcement, even key staff were still unsure what the
final decision would be. This year, in intense exchanges
with all the major French players including FM Kouchner,
NSA-equivalent Levitte and French CHOD Georgelin, each one
expressed support for U.S. policy but were doubtful about
additional French financial or military resources, frequently
citing Sarkozy's earlier statement of "no additional troops."

12. (C/NF) However, following a direct conversation with
President Obama, President Sarkozy dropped the formerly firm
"no" position and moved forward more quickly and proactively
than we envisioned, opening the door to military
reinforcements "in time" and promising increased financial
and training assistance. Although the specifics
are not yet provided, the personal outreach to President
Sarkozy made the difference between getting a cautious
bureaucratic response and a genuine commitment from a key
ally when we needed it. The French press led their reports
noting Sarkozy was the first foreign leader on Obama's call
sheet, thereby increasing the pressure on Sarkozy to respond


13. (C/NF) Comment: As one of Europe's most politically
secure leaders at the head of a country with significant
ability to contribute more to global problem-solving across a
broad front, from Afghanistan to climate change, economic
stabilization, Iran, and the Middle East Peace Process,
Sarkozy represents a key actor in the fulfillment of our
shared policy goals. We will not always see eye-to-eye, and
differences on key issues (such as non-proliferation and
disarmament, which are seen as critical to French national
interests) are looming. However, though enhanced
consultation (including, and perhaps especially, at the
highest levels), I believe we can address these differences,
minimize unhelpful proposals and foster increased
collaboration to better leverage French interests to fulfill
ours. France is a like-minded country with a major economy
and the second-largest deployed military and diplomatic
forces in the world. By striking the right note in our
bilateral relationship, we can leverage Sarkozy's
strengths, including his willingness to take a stand on
unpopular issues, to be a major contributor to U.S. goals.
We must also recognize that Sarkozy has an extraordinary
degree of decision-making power which is vested in him
alone as the French president. In my opinion it will
necessitQe periodic PreQntial intervention to reassure
Sarkozy of our commitment as an ally and partner and, in many
cases, to close the deal. Sarkozy will remain a power
to be reckoned with in France and a significant driver of
Europe for the foreseeable future. It is clearly in our
interest to work hard to channel his energy and initiatives
into a constructive form of cooperation that enhances our
ability to solve global issues together. End comment.
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