2008-01-23 14:02

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 000114



E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/22/2018

Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Josiah Rosenblatt for reaso
ns 1.4 b and d.

1.  (C) SUMMARY:  On January 16, Joseph Wood, Deputy
Assistant to the Vice President for National Security
Affairs, met with Philippe Errera, strategic affairs adviser
to FM Kouchner, and Francois Richier, strategic affairs
adviser to President Sarkozy.  Errera and Richier provided
their views on NATO, ESDP, Russia, the Iran NIE, and
President Sarkozy’s own guiding principles.  Both advisers
emphasized that French reintegration into NATO needs thorough
consideration and is unlikely to take place before 2009.
They shared their concerns about recent signals from Russia
and described the “disastrous” consequences of the Iran NIE
on international efforts.  Finally, they shared their
perspectives on the principles that underlie President
Sarkozy’s dynamic administration, including France’s desire
to be influential on the world scene while maintaining close
relations with its allies.  END SUMMARY.

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NATO Reintegration — Not Before 2009
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2.  (C) Both Richier and Errera noted that President Sarkozy
has publicly accepted the principle of French reintegration
into NATO.  Furthermore, according to Richier, he is the
first elected president in France to go on the record as
supportive of NATO.  The U.S. should not underestimate the
attitude shifts that have made reintegration politically
feasible today.  At the same time, both interlocutors
stressed that the GOF will not “rush” into a final decision
on reintegration into the military command structure.
Richier observed that the 2009 NATO summit would be a
reasonable timeframe for the announcement of a final
decision, noting the need for a thorough evaluation of the
implications of the decision.  He added that France’s defense
white paper will include a vision for French and collective
security, but that the exercise will conclude no sooner than
the end of April 2008.

3.  (C) Errera said the GOF prefers the term “normalization”
to “reintegration,” in part to underscore for domestic
political reasons that the NATO of today is not the NATO of
previous eras.  Errera said that President Sarkozy wants to
work for a “new” NATO, and that France needs to be on the
inside to work for reform.  He stressed that use of the
correct terminology should help frame the public dialogue
that is certain to ensue in France, despite the lack of
public outcry responding to Sarkozy’s initial expressions of
interest.  Richier noted that there is much ignorance in
France today about what NATO does; for example, many think
ISAF is under UN auspices.  Errera pointed out that the
defense white paper commission, which is conducting a broad
review of defense and security policy, includes people who
are skeptical of NATO.

4.  (C) Errera characterized this moment as “awkward,” given
that formal discussions about the form of French
reintegration have not yet started.  He noted that political
commitment and practical considerations had to be developed
simultaneously and incrementally, adding that the Joint
Chiefs must have a sense for where in NATO French officers
would be posted, for example, before a decision is made.
Most importantly, he said that France (including Sarkozy’s
diplomatic adviser Jean-David Levitte) wants to avoid the
same mistakes that were made in the 1990s when reintegration
was last on the table.  To avoid repeating those mistakes,
Errera said smaller, practical questions should not be
permitted to become pressure points that could block a
political decision.  Richier said that it would be a mistake
to set firm goals today on what had to be achieved before a
political decision could be made, and that the overall
direction is more important than the specifics.  He
acknowledged that there is suspicion in Europe regarding
France’s motivations, and suspicion in France regarding NATO,
that will need to be overcome.  He pointed to President
Sarkozy’s scheduled February 1 meeting with NATO SYG Jaap de
Hoop Scheffer as one important step to alleviate some

5.  (C) Errera said that generally, newer members of NATO
will view French reintegration positively, reducing their
current suspicion of France for its non-normalized NATO
membership.  On the other hand, newer members of NATO use
NATO jobs to reward their top leadership, and French

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reintegration would put a tight squeeze on command structures
and high-level posts.  High-level positions are also an issue
with Germany and the U.K.

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NATO and ESDP:  Inseparably Linked
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6.  (C) Errera stated that during France’s upcoming EU
Presidency, President Sarkozy will push hard to strengthen
European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), while working
for a revitalized NATO.  Richier called this a transatlantic
effort to strengthen European security, while noting that
billing it as an “alternative” to NATO would be both
politically and financially absurd.  Errera observed that
substantive progress on ESDP will be very difficult, partly
due to British concerns.  Richier expressed hope that
European defense budgets could increase, noting that the gap
vis–vis the U.S. is growing, but added that if budgets
cannot be increased in the short term, efficiency must be

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NATO Enlargement
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7.  (C) Adriatic 3:  Errera said that France is comfortable
in principle with each of the Adriatic 3 candidates.  In
particular, France has “no problems” with Croatian
membership.  However, Errera said Albania seems to be taking
acceptance for granted, and needs to make more of an effort
to “clean up” corruption issues.  Regarding Macedonia, Erre
said the GOM underestimates the seriousness of the name issue
for Greece and that the U.S. should not make the same
mistake.  France will not pressure Greece on this issue.
Furthermore, if Athens were to give in on the name issue, the
Greek government could fall, thus bringing in a new
government which would be responsible for — and presumably
hostile to — the NATO enlargement ratification progress.

8.  (C) Georgia and Ukraine:  Errera said that the GOF does
not want a public dispute with the U.S. on these issues
before Bucharest, adding that European allies are hedging
because Washington is not sending clear signals.  Errera
expects that new Ukrainian PM Tymoshenko will come out soon
publicly in favor of MAP for Ukraine, a step for which France
will “not have a great appetite.”  Errera said MAP is not
just one more step in closer relations, but a serious
decision in light of Article 5 commitments.  Regarding
Georgia, he said Saakashvili “pulled off the election
somehow” but still not under ideal circumstances, and that
NATO may not be ready for Article 5 guarantees to Georgia
either.  That said, the GOF has systematically made clear to
Russia that there is no Russian redline or veto regarding
Ukraine and Georgia.  In response, Wood noted that France’s
hesitation regarding Article 5 commitments implies a de facto
“sphere of influence,” because Russia is the only possible
menace to Ukraine or Georgia.

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Russia:  Negative Trends
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9.  (C) Richier characterized the current Russian regime as
revisionist, saying that Putin made much-needed improvements
to Russian infrastructure but has gone too far in seeking to
restore Russia’s grandeur at the expense of international
cooperation and development.  Among the Russian population,
many are culturally and economically oriented towards the
West, but remain politically tied to Putin.  According to
Errera, Russian judgment on important issues is worsening.
In the past, Russia has been difficult to work with, but has
ultimately made the right decisions — until recently.  As an
example, in President Sarkozy’s private meeting in Moscow
with President Putin, Putin was very hardline on Iran
(notwithstanding Russia’s exports of fuel for Bushehr), but
that in the subsequent press conference, Putin distanced
himself on this issue, to Sarkozy’s surprise and chagrin.
Errera said that in the past, Russia did not mind hurting
Iran as long as Russia was not hurt as well; now Russia seems
not to want to hurt the Iranians.

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Energy Dependence
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10.  (C) Both interlocutors noted that France’s use of
nuclear energy makes it less dependent than some other
European countries on Russian oil and gas.  That said,
Richier expressed concern that Russia is “grabbing” gas
infrastructure and supply at a time of military buildup and
strong rhetoric.  He said that it will be difficult for
Europe to agree on a common energy policy, as there is
currently no consensus, nor any great ideas, on how to solve
the problem.  Richier described Russian policies as motivated
to obtain short-term profit for individuals, rather than to
build long-term, worldwide power.  Errera observed that
dependence on Russia for energy is better than dependence on
Iran, which is the only other real option.  He said that
Sarkozy had made overtures to Algeria on gas before and
during his visit to Algiers, but that France was “stiffed.”
Nor is there any sense that there will be progress with
Algeria on gas in the near term.  Errera said that while
France seeks a commercial relationship, Algeria views energy
cooperation as complicated by history and tinged with a sense
of nationalism.

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NIE:  “The Best Christmas Gift Ahmadinejad Could Have
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11.  (C) Both interlocutors called the NIE a “disaster” that
has “substantially jeopardized” progress on Iran in the short
term and will have lasting consequences, including
eliminating France’s ability to build consensus in Europe.
French views are unchanged, but many others have been
affected, and the NIE destroyed not just the momentum of the
international community but also what little leverage France
and the international community had on less radical Iranian
elements.  Errera noted that the timing of the release of the
NIE was especially bad, with EU Political Directors having
been poised for a new UNSC resolution just before the NIE
release.  He said at the IISS Manama Dialogue in December,
speculation was rampant about why the current U.S.
administration did not better manage the report’s fallout by
postponing its release or changing the characterization of
Iran’s enrichment activities as exclusively civil.

12.  (C) Both interlocutors said quick passage of a new UNSC
resolution, although likely to be a weak, is key.  Richier
said that Iran has no incentive to negotiate and that the
international community’s most effective mechanism has been
creating a financially difficult operating environment for
Iran.  If the perception declines in the financial community
that investment in Iran is dangerous, this will change.
Errera noted the EU might be able to go farther than the
Security Council will, perhaps with Gulf countries and/or the
G7, to pressure Iran on continued uranium enrichment by
raising the price for doing so.

13.  (C) Errera also said that an intelligence team from the
French DGSE traveled to the U.S. recently to meet with their
U.S. counterparts regarding the NIE, and was disappointed
that the information shared was “even less” than has been
reported in the press.  This reception did not help the
perception shared by some in the GOF that France has not been
treated as a full partner by the U.S., despite working
side-by-side and fielding criticism following the NIE

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Sarkozy’s Governing Philosophy
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14.  (C) Errera said that two clear priorities underlie
Sarkozy’s administration.  The first is realigning French
presence with French objectives, and reestablishing French
influence where it had been diminished (for example, within
the EU, by giving momentum to the simplified EU treaty).
Errera said France will maintain its influence in Africa but
seeks to rebalance its overseas investments, for example by
creating a military base in the UAE.  Errera said that France
annot say Iran is a key threat without investing more in the
Gulf and that the Iranians will “get the message.”  He noted
that the new base in the UAE will be the first French
military installation not in a former colony.  Secondly,
Errera said that Sarkozy believes in the concept of “the
West,” making him the first non-Gaullist French president not
to consider France an exclusively independent actor.  This

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identification provides Sarkozy a clear course for steering
French policy even on difficult questions like dealing with
Libyan President Qadhafi.

15.  (C) Richier suggested that Sarkozy’s core conviction is
that France must be pulled into the 21st century.  He said
Sarkozy likes to use the metaphor of a person who exercises
for the first time in a while — many muscles may be sore
afterwards, but the exercise has done them good.  Richier
said he sees new energy in French diplomacy, focused on
bringing diversity and reconciliation to the global stage.
Sarkozy wishes to encourage countries to accept the diversity
(ethnic, religious, etc.) within their own societies, as
tolerance for others is key to democracy.  Sarkozy also
recognizes a need for reconciliation and believes the effort
to correct the course of a “bad guy” is worthwhile (COMMENT:
In public Sarkozy has defended his outreach to Qadhafi and
Hugo Chavez along these lines.)  According to Richier,
Sarkozy believes the short-term costs of talking to rogue
actors by using carrots and helping them move forward are
less than the long-term costs of inaction.  However, he also
recognizes the importance of not creating gaps between the
U.S. and Europe in reaching out to “bad guys,” marking a
departure from previous French governments.  Finally, Richier
noted that “relations with Islam” and climate change were two
immediate priorities of President Sarkozy’s that would
nevertheless remain on the French agenda.

Please visit Paris’ Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm


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