President Barack Obama was among the first to congragulate Francois Hollande, but what will Washington and America at large make of the man they call Mr Normal?
Seasoned international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, ABC’s Global Affairs Anchor, spoke with euronews’ Nial O’Reilly.
euronews: Christiane thanks for being with us, US-French relations improved under Sarkozy. Will the White House by wary of Hollande, who’s something of an unknown quantity and, let’s not forget, a Socialist?
Amanpour: The US and the French had a very strained relationship for most of the presidency of George W Bush for about eight years and that was mostly because of the war in Iraq. When President Sarkozy was elected, things became much more normal (if you like) between France and the United States. In fact, I was in the room when President Sarkozy hosted then candidate Obama back in the summer of 2008. So now Americans are used to better, more cooperative relations with the French and the French leadership and clearly the’yre hoping that continues under President Hollande.
euronews: Robust foreign policy was one area were Sarkozy won praise from the Americans, particularly over the lead role that France took in Libya. Hollande has already signalled he’ll withdraw French troops from Afghanistan earlier than planned, do you think the White House will fear a return to tensions with France over foreign policy?
Amanpour: Well, I think the very key issues they (hope)…the soon-to-be inaugurated President Hollande will maintain the French line…whether it’s on Iran, whether it’s on Syria. Suffice to say that is what the US will look at. I think it’s not unexpected that the troops will come out of Afghanistan. Even the US, whether they say it or not, are on a accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan and the official line is that all foreign troops will be out by the end of 2014.
euronews: As European sovereign debt continues to drag on American economic recovery, how concerned will the US be by Hollande’s anti-austerity policies?
Amanpour: Governments have been toppled because of the economic crisis and the medicine they feel is hurting the patient rather than helping the patient. Will there be a sort of softerning around the edges of this austerity? Will there be more pro-growth? I think that’s the big question. Don’t forget America’s biggest trading partner is the European Union and the cold winds that blow from Europe affect the economy here. And President Obama is heading into an election, the last thing he wants to see is more bad economic news.
euronews: Well, that’s the view from the White House. What of the American people? They are, of course, pre-occupied with their own presidential race – but are there still strong feelings about France? It seems we’ve come a long way from the days of renaming French fries, ‘freedom fries’ – how would characterise feelings about France now in America, and will this election change anything?
Amanpour: I think on a purely human, personal level amongst the people of the United States, they are pleased that the relationship has been normalised over the last 7 years, 5 years and they want to see that it continues. President Sarkozy, I must say, was very bold, and with Britain led the NATO operation into Libya – this was not a US initiative – America in that famous and infelicitous phrase ‘led from behind’, but of course the Americans are tired of war, so they’re going to be very cautious. They don’t want to see another French president or any other leader start new wars, they don’t want America to be dragged into new wars. So we’re going to wait and see how it all plays out.
euronews: Christiane Amanpour in New York, with a very interesting perspective from America, as always, thank you very much.