The Strange Letter That Has France Asking, ‘Use Me?’

On Monday, France’s Le Monde newspaper published a letter that has left many amused — and others utterly confused. Investigators found the handwritten, undated letter, allegedly from current IMF chief Christine Lagarde to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during a search of Lagarde’s Paris apartment in March, and it’s now been leaked to the press. ...

Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images
Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images
Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images

On Monday, France's Le Monde newspaper published a letter that has left many amused -- and others utterly confused. Investigators found the handwritten, undated letter, allegedly from current IMF chief Christine Lagarde to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during a search of Lagarde's Paris apartment in March, and it's now been leaked to the press.

France 24 posted a translation of the note, which Le Monde has dubbed "La lettre d'allégeance":

Dear Nicolas, very briefly and respectfully,

On Monday, France’s Le Monde newspaper published a letter that has left many amused — and others utterly confused. Investigators found the handwritten, undated letter, allegedly from current IMF chief Christine Lagarde to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during a search of Lagarde’s Paris apartment in March, and it’s now been leaked to the press.

France 24 posted a translation of the note, which Le Monde has dubbed "La lettre d’allégeance":

Dear Nicolas, very briefly and respectfully,

1) I am by your side to serve you and serve your plans for France.

2) I tried my best and might have failed occasionally. I implore your forgiveness.

3) I have no personal political ambitions and I have no desire to become a servile status seeker, like many of the people around you whose loyalty is recent and short-lived.

4) Use me for as long as it suits you and suits your plans and casting call.

5) If you decide to use me, I need you as a guide and a supporter: without a guide, I may be ineffective and without your support I may lack credibility. With my great admiration,

Christine L.

The backstory here is pretty complicated. The authorities searching Lagarde’s apartment were investigating her involvement in a 2008 settlement paid to Bernard Tapie, the former head of Adidas, while Lagarde served as France’s finance minister under Sarkozy. Tapie accused the state-owned bank Crédit Lyonnais of defrauding him and Lagarde recommended the case go to arbitration, where Tapie was awarded more than $500 million. Critics have charged that the award was too generous and likely resulted from Tapie’s close relationship with Sarkozy’s government, while Lagarde has denied any wrongdoing.

The five-point letter has revived interest in the controversial case and left many in France scratching their heads. Slate‘s French edition took the historical route, going back to the Middle Ages and questioning whether the letter should be interpreted as an oath of allegiance or as a pledge from a vassal.

Le Huffington Post, for its part, compiled a list of funny French Twitter responses, including one person who compared the letter to something a 13-year-old girl would write to Justin Bieber. One tweet noted it was lucky the letter wasn’t intended for former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who has been embroiled in several sex scandals.

Traditional media outlets aren’t sitting this one out either. The news magazine L’Express is asking readers to imagine how Sarkozy might respond to Lagarde’s letter They’ll publish the best submissions on Friday — and they’re asking readers to avoid any vulgar language, s’il vous plaît.

<p> Lydia Tomkiw is a freelance journalist and graduate student at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. </p>

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.