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France: Factors Shaping Foreign Policy, andIssues in U.S.-French RelationsPaul BelkinAnalyst in European AffairsApril 14, 2011Congressional Research Service7-5700www.crs.govRL32464CRS Report for CongressPrepared for Members and Committees of Congress

France: Factors Shaping Foreign Policy, and Issues in U.S.-French RelationsSummaryThe factors that shape French foreign policy have changed since the end of the Cold War. Theperspectives of France and the United States have diverged in some cases. More core interestsremain similar. Both countries’ governments have embraced the opportunity to build stability inEurope through an expanded European Union (EU) and NATO. Each has recognized thatterrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are the most important threats totheir security today.Several factors shape French foreign policy. France has a self-identity that calls for efforts tospread French values and views, many rooted in democracy and human rights. France prefers toengage international issues in a multilateral framework, above all through the European Union.European efforts to form an EU security policy potentially independent of NATO emerged in thiscontext. However, more recently, policymakers in France, Europe and the United States havecome to view a stronger European defense arm as a complement to rather than a substitute forNATO.From the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States through the Iraq war of 2003 untiltoday, France has pressed the United States to confront emerging crises within a multilateralframework. France normally wishes to “legitimize” actions ranging from economic sanctions tomilitary action in the United Nations.The election of Nicolas Sarkozy to the French presidency in May 2007 appears to havecontributed to improved U.S.-French relations. Sarkozy has taken a more practical approach toissues in U.S.-French relations than his predecessor, Jacques Chirac. Perhaps most notably, inApril 2009, Sarkozy announced France’s full reintegration into NATO’s military commandstructure, more than 40 years after former President Charles de Gaulle withdrew his country fromthe integrated command structure and ordered U.S. military personnel to leave the country.Sarkozy is a traditional Gaullist in his desire to see France play a major role in the world. At thesame time, he asserts that France should exert its power through the European Union, and thatParis must play a leading role in shaping the EU’s foreign and security policy. He deemphasizesFrance’s traditionally strong role in sub-Saharan Africa, and has sought to shift France’s foreignpolicy focus toward the Middle East.Trade and investment ties between the United States and France are extensive, and provide eachgovernment a large stake in the vitality and openness of their respective economies. Throughtrade in goods and services, and, most importantly, through foreign direct investment, theeconomies of France and the United States have become increasingly integrated.Other areas of complementarity include the ongoing NATO missions in Afghanistan and Libya,peace operations in the Balkans, the Middle East Peace Process and efforts to counter the Iraniannuclear program, and the fight against terrorism—all challenges where France has played acentral role. A major split occurred over Iraq, however, with many countries either supporting orindependently sharing French ideas of greater international involvement.Congressional Research Service

France: Factors Shaping Foreign Policy, and Issues in U.S.-French RelationsContentsIntroduction .1Current Domestic Context.3Religion and the State: Laïcité and the debate over the role of Islam in French society.5Factors Shaping French Foreign Policy .7A Global Perspective.7Multilateralism.8The European Union .9Evolving Security and Defense Policy. 10The 2008 White Paper on Defense and National Security . 11France in NATO. 12European Security and Defense Policy: CSDP. 14Selected Issues in U.S.-French Relations . 15The NATO Mission in Afghanistan. 15Military Operations in Libya . 17The Iranian Nuclear Program . 19Countering Terrorism . 19Economic and Trade Relations . 21ContactsAuthor Contact Information . 22Acknowledgments . 22Congressional Research Service

France: Factors Shaping Foreign Policy, and Issues in U.S.-French RelationsIntroductionThe end of the Cold War altered the U.S.-French relationship. Before the collapse of the SovietUnion, the United States, France, and their NATO allies viewed the USSR as the principal threatto security. France was known for its independent streak in policy-making, both with its Europeancounterparts and the United States, notably under President Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s.Nonetheless, there was cohesion throughout the alliance at such moments as the Berlin crisis of1961, the Cuban missile crisis the following year, and the debate over basing “Euromissiles” inthe 1980s.Several factors shape French foreign policy that may be of interest during the 112th Congress.After several years during which Jacques Chirac contested elements of George W. BushAdministration policy, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has sought to improve bilateralrelations.1 Sarkozy has pursued what he considers a more practical policy than his Gaullistpredecessors, such as Chirac and President de Gaulle himself, who anchored elements of theirnationalism by defining France as a country that selectively stood against U.S. influence in theworld. By contrast, Sarkozy has expressed an acceptance of, and even admiration for, U.S. globalleadership. He lauds American culture, has vacationed in the United States, and contends thatEuropean security must have a U.S. component.Nonetheless, differences between the United States and France in the approach to foreign policyare likely to persist. France has a self-identity that calls for efforts to spread French values andviews, many rooted in democracy and human rights. France prefers to engage most internationalissues in a multilateral framework, above all through the European Union (EU). France is also ahighly secular society, a characteristic that influences views on the state’s relation to religion.Since the conclusion of the Cold War, the perspectives of France and the United States havediverged in some cases. Most core interests remain similar. Both countries’ governments haveembraced the opportunity to build stability in Europe through an expanded EU and NATO. Eachhas accepted the need to ensure that Russia remain constructively engaged in European affairs.Each has also recognized that terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction arethe most important threats today.Post-Cold War developments have brought new challenges, which have affected the U.S.-Frenchbilateral relationship. German unification and the entry of central European states into the EU andNATO may have shifted the continent’s balance of political and economic power away from theFrench-German “engine” and towards central and eastern Europe. While French-Germaninitiatives remain of great importance in Europe, German perspectives are increasingly eastward;and, in some eyes, central European states feel closer strategically and politically to the UnitedStates than they do to France. Nonetheless, France remains a key player in European affairs andfew initiatives can succeed without its support and participation.The United States, a global superpower since the Second World War, has remained deeplyinvolved in European affairs. In the view of some Europeans, however, by the mid-1990s,Washington appeared to be slowly disengaging from Europe, while wanting at the same time to1Jacques Chirac was president of France from 1995-2007.Congressional Research Service1

France: Factors Shaping Foreign Policy, and Issues in U.S.-French Relationsmaintain leadership on the continent.2 French and German efforts to form an EU security policypotentially independent of NATO and the United States emerged and evolved in this period. TheEuropeans based this policy in part on the belief that the United States had growing prioritiesbeyond Europe, and in part because Americans and Europeans were choosing different means toprotect their interests. The U.S. decision to go into Afghanistan in October 2001 with initiallyminimal allied assistance was one example of this trend; the U.S. war against Iraq, with overtopposition from France and several other allies, was another.During the George W. Bush Administration, France, with other European allies, pressed theUnited States to confront emerging crises within a multilateral framework. Terrorism andproliferation are threats that cross borders, and often involve non-state actors. France, wherepossible, normally attempts to engage elements of the international community in responding tosuch threats, and to “legitimize” actions ranging from economic sanctions to political censure tomilitary action at the United Nations. Past French Presidents have promoted a view of a“multipolar” world, with the EU and other institutions representing poles that encourageeconomic development, political stability, and policies at times at odds with the United States.While Jacques Chirac was president, Bush Administration officials reacted with hostility to suchefforts, charging that “multipolar” is a euphemism for organizing opposition to U.S. initiatives.The election of President Obama was welcomed in France, and strong popular support for Obamasuggests that many in France view the Obama Administration as having distanced itself from theperceived unilateralism of the Bush Administration.In the aftermath of the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq, some U.S. observers characterizedFrance as an antagonist. In 2004, the previous French ambassador reportedly charged that someU.S. officials deliberately spread “lies and disinformation” about French policies in order toundercut Paris.3 Occasional mutual antagonism was already evident during the first years of theFifth Republic (1958-present), when President de Gaulle sometimes offered singular views oninternational affairs, often at odds with Washington and other allies, and in 1966 withdrew Francefrom the military structures of NATO. In the 1960s, France began to develop its own nucleardeterrent force. As alluded to earlier, Sarkozy has made a concerted effort to draw France closerto the United States and distance himself and the country from past disputes with the UnitedStates. Most notably, in April 2009, Sarkozy announced France’s full reintegration into NATO’smilitary command structure as part of a broader realignment and modernization of Frenchsecurity and defense policy.French assertiveness is generally seen in a different light in Europe. In the past, France has beencredited for driving the European integration project; Paris played a major role, for example, inthe conception and implementation of the EU’s Economic Monetary Union (EMU). That said,some in Europe, including Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, have reportedly been frustratedby what they consider Sarkozy’s tendency to pursue EU-wide initiatives without first consultingother European leaders.Traditional French assertiveness accounts in some ways for France punching above its weight onthe international scene. France is a country of medium size with relatively modest resources. Yet2Anand Menon, France, NATO and the Limits of Independence, 1981-1997: The Politics of Ambivalence (New York,St. Martin’s Press, 2000), p. 69-71.3“U.S. French ‘Marriage’ Edgy but Still There.,” Rocky Mountain News, (interview with Ambassador Jean-DavidLevitte), April 15, 2004.Congressional Research Service2

France: Factors Shaping Foreign Policy, and Issues in U.S.-French Relationsit has consistently played a leadership role, for example, in establishing EMU, forging a commonEuropean foreign, security, and defense policy (CFSP and CSDP), and in orchestrating oppositionto the U.S.-led Iraq war. Most recently, in early 2011, France, along with the United Kingdom(UK), led the diplomatic effort at the United Nations to impose an arms embargo and economicsanctions on the regime of Muammar Qadhafi in Libya and to gain international approval of amilitary mission to protect Li