With France under new Socialist leadership, changes are to be expected in how it conducts diplomacy. France is a nuclear power and so has a permanent seat with a veto right in the United Nations Security Council. France is also in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and therefore a considerable player internationally. The country’s traditional distribution of policy portfolios reserves foreign policy for the president.
France’s shift to the left with the election of François Hollande to the Elysée after 17 years under conservative presidencies propels him onto the international scene almost straight away. The G8 meet in Washington less than two weeks from now, and then there is a NATO summit in Chicago.
How will France position itself with its major partners the US and Russia? To look at this, euronews spoke with political analyst and American specialist Nicole Bacharan in Paris and Russian journalist Vadim Glusker there.
Fabien Farge, euronews: Ms Bacharan, how is the François Hollande victory being seen in the US?
Nicole Bacharan: They’re a bit worried. Average Americans aren’t really interested in the French election, but obviously the government and the powerful and the chief Democrats and Republicans follow it very closely. They are paying particular attention to anything that could make the euro zone crisis worse. The US depends on the euro zone and China, as much as we depend on them. So, they’re rather worried.
euronews: Is it the same in Russia, Vadim Glusker?
Vadim Glusker: There’s someone new in the Elysée, an unknown. We have to adapt. But I don’t think relations will change much, because, as much for Russia as France, business often counts the most. Even politics often depends on economic interests.
euronews: Ms Bacharan, 2012 is a big election year in France, Russia and the United States. What change could this bring about with this trio?
Bacharan: I think the French election confirms that no outgoing prime minister or president in the euro zone can manage to get himself re-elected. Therefore, I think Barack Obama must be taking notes for his own campaign. The second thing is, in the euro zone again, we see the extremes gaining ground, especially in France with the extreme left, but also, perhaps most of all, the extreme right. Unfortunately, there’s a very strong international movement. In the US, there is also a form of extreme right. I believe we’re heading for a very unstable world, and a Europe really in difficulty, between Russia and the US, in a game that’s fairly hard to predict, I must admit.
euronews: Are we to expect a lot of changes in Washington compared with Sarkozy’s time?
Bacharan: I don’t really think so, geostrategically. The NATO summit will be a first test. Hollande said during his campaign that he didn’t approve of France’s return to the integrated military command structure – that he would re-assess that. Most probably nothing will happen, because the country can’t be going in and out of NATO that way every election.
euronews: There’s something of a Washington-Paris axis over the Syria problem, and we could say Moscow standing opposite. How might this turn out?
Bacharan: Will François Hollande carry more weight than Nicolas Sarkozy in convincing Russia and China to punish Syria? Frankly, that doesn’t look very likely. It’s true that Sarkozy was punished by most of the voters mainly because of the economy, as you said. But we can’t say he lacked energy or the force of conviction in pursuing international questions. So it’s hard for us to imagine that President Hollande will have more clout in United Nations negotiations, with Russia and China refusing to sanction Syria.
euronews: Mr Glusker, is that your opinion too?
Glusker: We mustn’t forget one thing, and that is that Sarkozy did foreign policy all on his own. That’s very important. He obviously had advisors, but he took the decisions, for example on Libya. That decision was his own. Hollande’s methods and strategy are completely different. We should say it will be more collective thinking.