I Say NATO, You Say No NATO

Will France call the whole thing off?

Issue: May-June 2008

"NATO NOSTRA." NATO is ours. That could be the new motto of President Sarkozy. For him, NATO is no longer something "alien," "Anglo-Saxon" or "American" as it was for his predecessors. On the contrary. "That Atlantic Alliance," he told his ambassadors in August 2007, "it must be remembered, is ours: we founded it, we are today one of the principal contributors to it."

For many in Washington, such statements are music to the ears. When the former French president Jacques Chirac left office in May 2007, some people in the White House and on Capitol Hill breathed private sighs of relief. Chirac had become one of the main obstacles to the normalization of the Franco-American relationship, even if this was not openly admitted. Did the incoming French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, not have the nickname "Sarko l'Américain"? The question, however, is whether Sarkozy's admiration for America will result in a real and enduring change in French foreign policy vis-à-vis the United States-and in turn reinvigorate the transatlantic relationship. The proof of Sarkozy's transatlantic engagement, for many, will be if he keeps his promise to reintegrate France into the military organization of NATO, which France left after a decision by Charles de Gaulle in 1966.1

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