Stop backing the wrong horse in France

Bush, McCain, Obama, and Rice are the awesome foursome of Washington as far as foreign visitors are concerned. It’s a sign of the esteem in which the French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is held that he got to meet all four of them on his recent trip to the United States, giving his statesman credentials a ...

607092_NicolasSarkozy5.jpg
607092_NicolasSarkozy5.jpg

Bush, McCain, Obama, and Rice are the awesome foursome of Washington as far as foreign visitors are concerned. It's a sign of the esteem in which the French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is held that he got to meet all four of them on his recent trip to the United States, giving his statesman credentials a boost before the French presidential election in 2007.

It's unsurprising that D.C. loves Sarko. How many other French politicians respond it "flatters me" when asked if he's annoyed to be called a friend of America? Or tell Americans, "I want you to know that in this fight, the French are your friends, and the French are at your side"? And happily confess that, "French parents dream of sending their child to an American university"?

In short, Sarko—the child of Hungarian immigrants—is the closest thing that this old European country has to a new European. Despite all this, the Washington establishment is wrong to place their hopes in him. Why? Because the single most important thing that France can do for the United States is to help get Turkey admitted into the European Union.

Bush, McCain, Obama, and Rice are the awesome foursome of Washington as far as foreign visitors are concerned. It’s a sign of the esteem in which the French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is held that he got to meet all four of them on his recent trip to the United States, giving his statesman credentials a boost before the French presidential election in 2007.

It’s unsurprising that D.C. loves Sarko. How many other French politicians respond it “flatters me” when asked if he’s annoyed to be called a friend of America? Or tell Americans, “I want you to know that in this fight, the French are your friends, and the French are at your side“? And happily confess that, “French parents dream of sending their child to an American university”?

In short, Sarko—the child of Hungarian immigrants—is the closest thing that this old European country has to a new European. Despite all this, the Washington establishment is wrong to place their hopes in him. Why? Because the single most important thing that France can do for the United States is to help get Turkey admitted into the European Union.

Turkish membership in the EU would firm up its commitment to the West. It would be, as Bush has said, a “crucial advance in relations between the Muslim world and the West” and help “expose the ‘clash of civilizations’ as a passing myth of history.” On the Turkish question, Sarko is far worse than even Jacques Chirac. Chirac accepted in principle that Turkey could join the EU. But Sarkozy wants membership talks stopped immediately and

Turkey never to become a full member.

The good news for the United States is that Sarko’s likely opponent, Ségolène Royal, doesn’t subscribe to this hard-line view. Speaking in Brussels, she chided her opponent, “I understand the worries of Europeans, but simplistic reactions like ‘We must reject Turkey’ will only bring forward disastrous results.” Admittedly, Royal is not exactly racing to put down the welcome mat for the Turks, but at least she’s not slamming the door in their faces either. Washington should take a look at this French Socialist: It might be pleasantly surprised by what it sees.

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.