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courage is contagious

Viewing cable 08PARIS114, SARKOZY, KOUCHNER ADVISERS ON NATO, RUSSIA, IRAN,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08PARIS114 2008-01-23 14:02 2010-11-29 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
VZCZCXRO9064
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHFL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHFR #0114/01 0231453
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 231453Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1745
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHKV/AMEMBASSY KYIV PRIORITY 0534
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 6031
RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI PRIORITY 0484
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 000114 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/22/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR NATO FR RU IR GG UP AG
SUBJECT: SARKOZY, KOUCHNER ADVISERS ON NATO, RUSSIA, IRAN, 
AND SARKOZY 
 
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. 
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
NATO Reintegration -- Not Before 2009 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
 
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 
concerns. 
 
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 
 
PARIS 00000114  002 OF 004 
 
 
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. 
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
NATO and ESDP:  Inseparably Linked 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
 
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 
increased. 
 
- - - - - - - - - 
NATO Enlargement 
- - - - - - - - - 
 
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, Errera 
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. 
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Russia:  Negative Trends 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - 
 
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. 
 
- - - - - - - - - 
Energy Dependence 
- - - - - - - - - 
 
 
PARIS 00000114  003 OF 004 
 
 
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. 
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
- 
NIE:  "The Best Christmas Gift Ahmadinejad Could Have 
Imagined" 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
- 
 
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 
release. 
 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Sarkozy's Governing Philosophy 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
 
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 
cannot 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 
 
PARIS 00000114  004 OF 004 
 
 
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 
 
 
PEKALA