(By Monisha Bansal, CNSNews.com) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday and spoke of strengthening ties between the U.S. and France. While some hailed the foreign policy shift, others said it is more symbolic than substantive.

“I wish to re-conquer the heart of America, and I wish to re-conquer the heart of America in a lasting fashion,” said Sarkozy, a member of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, who was elected in May. “I’ve come to say one simple thing: France and the United States are allies, have been allies, and will continue to be allies, and have been so forever.”

“In the space of just a few months, Sarkozy has performed one of the most stunning foreign policy reversals of recent years,” said Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“The dramatic shift in French strategic thinking since Sarkozy came to power significantly improves the prospects for a more constructive transatlantic relationship over the next few years,” he added.

“The new French president should be given great credit for bravely challenging decades of deep-seated French anti-Americanism, which has frequently poisoned relations between Paris and Washington, reaching its peak during the presidency of Jacques Chirac,” Sarkozy’s predecessor, Gardiner added.

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), told Cybercast News Service, “President Sarkozy has shown a fondness for America and a new eagerness to work more closely with our country, and we hope that will bolster relations between the two nations.”

Smith noted that Sarkozy is “leading efforts in his home country to revamp their punishing tax system to boost new job creation and entrepreneurship, as well as take on the country’s failed welfare state to reward work and initiative.”

“These are goals all Americans can support and are an example for other countries that have previously rejected anything that resembles a more free market approach on key national policies,” he said.

Boehner also said in a statement that Sarkozy’s “commitment to fighting and defeating the global terrorist threat” will further strengthen relations.

In particular, Sarkozy and his foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, have taken a harder line on Iran’s nuclear ambitions than previous administrations, saying that “the prospect of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons is unacceptable for France.”

The Iranian people “deserve better than the toughened sanctions and growing isolation to which their leaders condemn it,” Sarkozy said. “We must persuade Iran to choose cooperation, dialogue and openness. And no one must doubt our determination.”

Gardiner said, “Sarkozy’s bold tack showed him to be a powerful world player and a leader with whom Washington can do business.”

But Katie Laatikainen, an associate professor of political science at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y., said, “The apparent warming in U.S.-French relations is more symbolic than substantive so far.”

“Sarkozy’s embrace of the United States is an attempt to regain a place in the sun for French diplomacy,” she told Cybercast News Service. “The French have identified and seized an opportunity – courtesy of the frostiness of the Brown government in the UK – to mend fences with the U.S. after the fallout of 2003.”

Laatikainen added that while the French president has extended a hand to the Bush administration, the gesture is not partisan and he is just seeking to “maintain a preeminent role for France in world affairs. It will not matter whether the White House is occupied by Democrats or Republicans – Sarkozy’s goal is to elevate the French profile in international affairs, not to undergird American ambitions,” she said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) invited Sarkozy to speak before Congress.

Gardiner, however, questioned how long Sarkozy’s pro-American stance will last.

“Arrayed against him is a powerful coalition of vested interests, from the communist-dominated trade unions to the entrenched elites who rule the civil service. His pragmatic pro-American approach may not outlast his administration or even always win out while he remains in power.”

All original CNSNews.com material, copyright 1998-2007 Cybercast News Service. Reprinted here with permission from CNSNews. Visit the website at CNSNews.com.


1.  a) Who is Nicolas Sarkozy?
b)  What did Mr. Sarkozy speak about when he addressed Congress this week?

2.  a) Who is Nile Gardiner?
b)  How does Mr. Gardiner view the change Mr. Sarkozy has made in French foreign policy toward the U.S.? Be specific.

3.  a) According to U.S. Rep. John Boehner’s spokesman Kevin Smith, what domestic policies are being implemented in France by Mr. Sarkozy?
b)  What will further strengthen U.S.-French relations, according to Rep. Boehner?

4.  What position has Mr. Sarkozy and French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner taken on Iran’s nuclear weapons program?

5.  To what does political science professor Katie Laatikainen attribute Mr. Sarkozy’s attempt to establish a strong partnership with the U.S.?

6.  Why does Mr. Gardiner question how long Mr. Sarkozy’s pro-American stance will last?

7. Watch a joint press conference with Presidents Bush and Sarkozy at Mount Vernon at whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/11/20071107-5.html#

Watch speeches by Presidents Bush and Sarkozy at a White House dinner at whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/11/20071106-14.html

What do you think of President Sarkozy’s attempts to strengthen ties with the U.S.?


Read about French media reaction to Nicolas Sarkozy’s trip to the U.S. here.

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