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G-20 Summit: Merkel and Sarkozy Challenge Obama

Wall Street Journal:

President Barack Obama had more success with former Cold War combatants than with some European allies as the Group of 20 summit of world leaders began, starting new talks on arms and trade with Russia and China but facing a challenge from France and Germany over economic leadership. Mr. Obama began by conceding U.S. culpability in starting the global financial crisis, but also called on Europe and others to do more to end it, in an opening news conference with the summit host, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel answered just hours later with a combative appearance of their own, demanding fast and strict international regulation of the world financial system; Mr. Sarkozy called it "nonnegotiable.

Sarkozy pilots Middle East cease-fire talks, fills US power vacuum

Israel’s land invasion continues with the Jewish state showing little sign it is ready to negotiate a truce.  While Hamas has indicated it is prepared to begin negotiations, Israel does not intend to sit at the table with Hamas in any future negotiations, reports Haaretz:
Israel will instead seek separate agreements with moderate Arab states, with the Palestinian Authority and with the international community.

"The international community will initiate the agreements and will impose it on Hamas," [a Haaretz] source said. "The agreements will be with both the PA and Egypt and then if Hamas will not agree it will pay the price, mostly by even greater [diplomatic] isolation."
Despite disallowing signals from Israel about the prospects of their short-term success, the ever-ambitious Sarkozy is taking advantage of the US power vacuum to assume diplomatic leadership in the talks, hoping to capitalize on France’s controversially reinvigorated ties with Syria, Time reports:   
Continue reading "Sarkozy pilots Middle East cease-fire talks, fills US power vacuum"

European Disunion

This is a guest blog post by Pat Patterson:

Kenneth R. Weinstein, the CEO of the Hudson Institute, wrote a recent article in The Weekly Standard which argues that the divisions within the EU are greater and institutionalized than the more publicized division between the EU and the US.

Many of the policies, most recently instigated by France, have been resisted because they are seen as solely in French national interest and in most cases are the antithesis of the interests of the EU bureaucracy and Germany: "But suspicions linger in Berlin and elsewhere that Sarkozy's true goal in forming the [Mediterranean] Union was to expand France's sphere of influence at Germany's expense."

Continue reading "European Disunion"

Has Sarkozy Met US Expectations?

When Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president one year ago today, the US media was full of praise for him and expected a big improvement in transatlantic relations.

Sarkozy's pro-American rhetoric was very much appreciated, because it was a big contrast to Gerhard Schroeder's US critical election campaigns. With Schroeder replaced by Angela Merkel and Chirac now replaced by Sarkozy, many Americans were looking forward to a new era in transatlantic relations led by a younger generation of pro-American leaders in Europe.

I did not buy all this hype, but have been very critical of Sarkozy (and to a lesser extent of Merkel) and concluded in November that we are witnessing Better Transatlantic Relations in Style, but not in Substance. Kyle has been frustrated by Sarkozy as well: Sarkozy Makes Premature, Unnecessary, Familiar Statement on Kosovo.

In the last few months, however, President Sarkozy announced some policy changes that indicate more support for US interests, so perhaps I should reconsider my position on Sarko. Gaelle Fisher has written a very balanced analysis on the question "Has Sarkozy truly improved the state of transatlantic relations and earned his reputation as the most pro-American president France has ever had?" She presents three arguments in favor and three against in a pro & con feature on Atlantic Community: Sarkozy l' Américain? Here is a snippet:

Sarkozy has agreed to increase France's contribution to the war effort in Afghanistan by adding 1500 to 1700 to the existing French contingent of 1600, sending combat troops to the East, and providing military arsenal. Yet the main new element of French military cooperation with the United States is Sarkozy's commitment to reintegrating France into NATO's military wing.

Or is that Trojan horse?

On Sarko's first anniversary in power, the French are very critical of his domestic policies (and his style), but I wonder what Americans think of his foreign policy. Has he met your expectations? Has he repaired the damage in transatlantic relations as expected by many in the US media? Whether you are an American or not, I appreciate your comments here and on Atlantic Community.