U.S.-FRENCH RIVALRY: THE 'SOLANA TOAST' SKIRMISH AND OTHER (Foreign Media Reaction Daily Digest) TIFFS Despite news reports that officials on both sides of the Atlantic are trying to patch up U.S.-French ties, sorely tried by a series of quarrels over issues ranging from NATO to the choice of a new UN secretary general, a number of French commentators remained resentful of what one called "U.S. bulldozer diplomacy." Most observers in France and elsewhere were aghast at the level to which the antagonism rose last week, when back-and-forth charges erupted over whether French Foreign Minister de Charette deliberately snubbed the U.S. secretary of state by walking out shortly before NATO Secretary General Solana's toast in honor of Mr. Christopher's retirement. London's liberal Guardian concluded: "The incident seemed to reflect the gloomy state of Franco-American relations." Centrist Stuttgarter Zeitung--somewhat tongue-in-cheek--added, "We are warning our friends against waging an open war.... Maybe a duel between Jacques Chirac and Bill Clinton at dawn would be the only way out." But French editorialists failed to find even a hint of humor in the developments. RTL radio maintained, "This is a U.S. campaign against the French because it disapproves of France's recent diplomatic steps in the Middle East, in Africa, at the UN and about NATO." Regional Les Dernieres Nouvelles d' Alsace's grandiloquently asserted, "Why is there this tension?... Not because of a little snub...but because Europe is reaffirming itself and its voice is France." Les Dernieres put its finger on what many in the media were saying: That at the core of U.S.-French antagonism lies what Paris portrays as its principled attempts to curb "U.S. hegemony," and what other European critics view as a more selfish French goal. Denmark's center-right Jyllands- Posten, for instance, suggested: "It would be a shame, if Western unity was destroyed by France's unrealistic attempts to act like a superpower in competition with the U.S." Since France's leap into the Middle East peace process earlier this year and Secretary Christopher's trip to Africa, pundits have played up the rivalry as both countries tread into each other's "spheres." Last week, however, in addition to the row over the Solana toast, France suffered a defeat at the UN with the election of the U.S.-backed candidate, and saw its bid to place a European as head of NATO's southern command stymied by the U.S. refusal to hand over the Naples post. These losses sparked a lot of hand-wringing among Parisian writers. Left-of- center Liberation judged, "It is difficult and risky for an average-sized nation to act as if it were a superpower.... Chirac has lost on all fronts." Right-of- center Les Echos lamented that the UN decision was "clearly a setback for French diplomacy.... Many African countries will now draw certain conclusions: France has lost some of its importance in Africa." Others, however, remained defiant. Right-of-center Le Figaro hinted that France's demands for more European control in NATO--if not satisfied--will paralyze progress on other fronts, including the cherished project of Alliance enlargement. Nevertheless, there were voices urging compromise and cooperation. Right-of-center France Soir held, "The time has come for Bill Clinton and Jacques Chirac to put an end to the guerrilla war of the chanceries." France and the U.S., Catholic La Croix pointed out, "are an old couple which has been fighting for 49 years.... But...in crucial moments, France has never failed the U.S." This survey is based on 35 reports from 8 countries, Dec. 12-19. EDITOR: Mildred Sola Neely EUROPE FRANCE: "The War Of The Solana Toast" Michel Leclercq noted in an AFP dispatch (12/19): "In the last few months, Franco-American conflicts in matters of diplomacy, the economy and cultural issues have abounded: Iraq, the Middle East, Zaire and the Great Lakes area, the UN election, the Helms-Burton Act.... But it is over NATO that the two nations are battling, with the risk of blocking the renovation process of the Atlantic Alliance.... Dominique Moisi of the French Institute for International Relations comments: 'These tensions can be explained by the new international context which prevails since the fall of the Communist bloc: There is no longer a common enemy to force us to work together.' As the only superpower, the United States has difficulty in accepting the fact that its supremacy might be questioned." "U.S. Campaign Against The French" Michele Cotta held on RTL radio (12/19): "Paul Quiles has preferred to believe the U.S. version without checking the facts. For the Socialist Party it seems that its confidence lies with the most powerful. We can believe de Charette (when he gives his version.) This is a U.S. campaign against the French because it disapproves of France's recent diplomatic steps in the Middle East, in Africa, at the UN and about NATO.... Madeleine Albright, the Iron Lady, who is well known for her allergy to France, will be heading U.S. foreign policy. De Charette has kindly wished her luck. I think he is very generous because he is the one who will probably be needing a bulletproof vest." "Final Agreement Or Nothing" Baudoin Bollaert said in right-of-center Le Figaro (12/18): "Everyone seems to agree on one point: The final agreement (on NATO) will be global or there will be no agreement at all. In other words, it appears that the internal renovation of the Alliance, with the emergence of a `European pillar,' cannot be separated from its enlargement to the East." "France And U.S. At Odds" Jean-Claude Kiefer remarked in regional Les Dernieres Nouvelles d' Alsace (12/17): "Why is there this tension between Paris and Washington? Not because of a little snub...but because Europe is reaffirming itself and its voice is France. Why is there misunderstanding? Because of Europe's emancipation? The Euro will upset the dollar...the EU will have a joint European foreign policy. In the end, it will have its `European pillar' within NATO, because Europe wants to get rid of the label `political dwarf'." "Franco-American Differences" Francois de Rose, French ambassador to Washington, said in right-of-center Le Figaro (12/17): "The question of the Southern command is only one aspect of a larger question, which France rightly asks: that of Europe's position in an Alliance concerned today with its enlargement, its relations with Russia, the emergence of a European pillar, the question of Central and Eastern Europe's stability, the dangers of nuclear proliferation.... It is unfortunate that the tense relations between Paris and Washington might compromise the solution to questions which are urgent and certainly more important for the future of Europe." "Bulldozer Diplomacy" Jacques Malmassari concluded in right-of-center France Soir (12/17): "The time has come for Bill Clinton and Jacques Chirac to put an end to the guerrilla war of the chanceries.... It's not necessary to be an expert to see that Paris-Washington relations become tense every time French diplomacy turns somewhat aggressive.... For example, the Middle East, Africa, the UN.... The U.S. bulldozer diplomacy (over these issues) can possibly be positive in the short term, but Bill Clinton should realize that it often breaks alliances and always ruins friendships." "France-U.S.: False Quarrel" Under the headline above, right-of-center Les Echos remarked in its editorial (12/17): "The NATO defense ministers' meeting today should resolve certain issues, but will face a major stumbling bloc on NATO's reform, a direct consequence of the poor relations between Paris and Washington.... The fact that Washington and Paris overreact about matters of diplomatic protocol is indeed indicative of the acrimony characterizing their relationship. Almost everywhere, in Bosnia, the Maghreb, in Africa, in the Middle East, at the UN, France's attitude has been in conflict with America's hegemony.... With regard to NATO reforms, the conflict has become a caricature of itself.... Paris has asked that the Southern command should be given to a European. Washington has falsely but intentionally interpreted it as France's demand for the command.... One might be tempted to believe what some experts say: that Paris and Washington are using these pretexts to avoid NATO's renovation for now." "France's Piteous Retreat" Jacques Amalric wrote in left-of-center Liberation (12/16): "It is difficult and risky for an average-sized nation to act as if it were a superpower.... Chirac has lost on all fronts. Not only has Clinton managed to oust Boutros Ghali, he has also been successful in imposing his candidate.... France, isolated, had no choice but to begin a piteous retreat and concede...that Annan may after all make a good secretary general. This wonderful conjuring act barely hides our leaders' forgetfulness: In this post- Cold War era, there is only one superpower left. And if one wants to measure up, one needs some allies. It was not the case during this UN fiasco.... The time is over when France's diplomacy could find its essence in Soviet- American rivalry. Russia, faced with a burgeoning Europe, prefers by far to have a privileged dialogue with Washington, via NATO." "France Has Lost Some Of Its Importance In Africa" Stephane Dupont said in right-of-center Les Echos (12/16): "French officials were never too happy about Annan's personality.... Also, he comes from a part of Africa outside France's `sphere of influence.' His nomination is clearly a setback for French diplomacy. In spite of France's continued presence and influence in Africa...many African countries will now draw certain conclusions: France has lost some of its importance in Africa, mostly in its role within international organizations." "Should We Take This Fight Seriously?" Guillaume Goubert wondered in Catholic La Croix (12/16): "Is the 'Solana Toast' going to start a war between France and the United States? Who is telling the truth (about this incident?) It is hardly important. What is important is that the incident lead to clarifying U.S.- French relations. In the past months, subjects of friction have been numerous.... But France and the United States are an old couple which has been fighting for 49 years.... (France) has not given up addressing the world, a role which Washington does not want to share. But at the same time, in crucial moments, France has never failed the United States.... And the United States recognizes this willingly, adding that there are also advantages to having a partner with ideas and a will of its own.... This is why we should not take too seriously this period of tension. There will be others, to the delight of most commentators." "U.S.-France: The Start Of A Reconciliation" Michel Colomes commented in right-of-center weekly Le Point (12/14), "The accumulation of differences which have recently sprung up between France and the United States looks very much like grounds for a divorce. And yet, after a series of sweet and sour exchanges--with some very uncivil gestures like de Charette's snub toward Christopher--the time has come for a change in tone: In Washington and in Paris, the word is out to calm things down.... What is important, according to the optimists-- mandated?--is the great relationship between the two presidents and the closeness in their policies for the long term." "A Snub Or A Ploy?" Right-of-center France Soir held (12/13), "The United States is fit to be tied about the de Charette-Christopher incident.... This affair illustrates the state of exasperation reached recently in French-American relations.... Paris denies the incident which yesterday had both chanceries in a state of agitation.... The incident may at first appear minor, but it shows the high degree of sensitivity which exists in Franco-American relations." "What Happened?" According to Baudoin Bollaert in right-of-center Le Figaro (12/13): "Paris denies, while Washington confirms.... Did nothing happen then? It would be too simple.... It is easy to understand the reaction of a high U.S. official. But it is difficult to imagine that de Charette would have knowingly snubbed the U.S. secretary of state. The two men have had their differences, but they have always had respect for one another. A few days ago de Charette made a gift to Christopher of the year's French literary prizes.... Nothing forced him to make such a gesture." "Climate Certainly Not Favorable" In left-of-center Liberation (12/13), Jacques Amalric observed concerning the search for an African to head the UN: "This assassin's game could go on forever, with total disregard for the candidates themselves, if the choice did not have to be made by December 17.... Certain Quai d'Orsay experts are advising the Elysee to negotiate: A vote for Annan against the promise for the position of deputy secretary general. It would be surprising if Chirac were to go back on his position, especially in these times of French-U.S. confrontation in Africa, the Middle East and NATO reforms. The climate is certainly not favorable when we see Washington and Paris arguing whether or not de Charette congratulated Christopher in Brussels.... These infantile conflicts exist only on the surface.... They could deprive Africa of their candidate." "UN: France's Dilemma" Readers of right-of-center Le Figaro (12/12) saw this piece by Jean-Louis Turlin: "With its UN vote (against Annan), France is being suspected of wanting to get back at the United States.... The French do not appreciate the two votes of `discouragement' against the three francophone candidates and attributed them to Washington and London." "UN Secretary General Vote Little To Do With Candidates' Merits" Afsane Bassir Pour judged in left-of-center Le Monde (12/12): "Results of this first vote have little to do with the merits of the candidates but rather with the rivalries existing between France and the United States.... A diplomat confided: 'France's veto is not directed against the candidate; it is directed against the United States.'" "Pawns In U.S.-French Duel" In the opinion of Agnes Rotivel in Catholic La Croix (12/12): "'The complex game being played out at the UN...underscores today's crisis in Franco-American relations; a sort of psychological misunderstanding...where the slightest dispute takes on dramatic proportions,' admits one of the (UN) candidates.... A certain amount of exasperation is beginning to emerge among African candidates who do not appreciate being used as pawns in this duel between France and the United States." "NATO Postponed" Left-of-center Le Monde's Daniel Vernet maintained (12/12): "The restructuring of NATO has been postponed because of a dispute between France and the United States over the Southern command.... This has led to the adjournment of a global agreement on NATO reforms.... Jacques Chirac has committed his authority to the issue, because he feels it is symbolic of NATO's capacity for change.... In answer to Washington's excuse that Europe is not sufficiently active in the region, Paris has answered that we must get out of this vicious circle whereby Europe is kept under U.S. tutelage because it does not assume its responsibilities. On the contrary, says Paris, it is by giving Europe responsibilities that it will become committed.... Solutions to end the stalemate have been systematically rejected by both parties." "NATO: U.S. Instrument Of Influence" Rene Lamy asserted in communist l'Humanite (12/12): "America's stance over NATO's enlargement to the East can be explained by its geostrategy to conserve world leadership.... NATO should have disappeared after the end of the Cold War, but Clinton's administration is trying to use it as an instrument of influence in Eastern and Central Europe, thereby opposing West European nations in what they feel is their 'private preserve.'" GERMANY: "Rough Winds Between France, U.S." Paris correspondent Erich Bonse filed the following editorial for business Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (12/16), "U.S.-French relations are currently not under a lucky star. The governments in Washington and Paris are having a row not only about their policy in the Middle East and Africa, but also about the reform of NATO. This is why it is now the more pleasant that one conflict has been settled: the controversy about Boutros Ghali.... This French concession, however, is tantamount to a grave French defeat. The United States succeeded not only in torpedoing Boutros Ghali's re-election, but it also succeeded in isolating France on the African continent.... "For the Paris government which considers itself to be the advocate of Africa, this is the more annoying because the Washington government is now also disputing France's leadership role in Africa. Outgoing Secretary of State Warren Christopher said in October that the Dark Continent is no longer France's unique sphere of influence. Only recently, the United States asserted its view, saying that the sending of an intervention force to the trouble spot of Eastern Zaire would no longer be necessary. The Paris government considers this move and similar ones before to be an attempt to enforce U.S. hegemonic interests without showing consideration for French or European interests. The episode last week during a farewell dinner for Warren Christopher in Brussels...made clear how sensitively the Paris government reacts.... The French government denied the story, but the impression remains that a rough wind is blowing over the Atlantic." "A Clinton-Chirac Duel At Dawn Might Be Best Solution" Adrian Zielcke opined in an editorial in centrist Stuttgarter Zeitung (12/13), "Adult men obviously have nothing better to do than return to kindergarten times once in a while.... The following happened: Warren Christopher, President Clinton's loyal secretary of state, will give up his office. And of course, during the latest meeting of NATO's foreign ministers, Secretary General Solana raised his glass and proposed a toast to Warren Christopher. But at the same moment Solana raised his glass, one member of the round got up and left the room. It was France's Foreign Minister de Charette. An embarrassing quiet hovered over the room, and the cordial farewell failed. "France and the United States are keeping up a running quarrel against each other. The controversy focuses on influence in Africa, AFSOUTH, their own significance in the Middle East...and it is now being continued in the UN Security Council.... There is no doubt that Boutros Ghali's successor is to be an African...but now the Americans have dared to support an African who does not speak French. The consequence was that France used its right to veto and now the United States has vetoed the French candidate. "We are warning our friends against waging an open war: The United States, whose cultural influence the French have wanted to restrict for a long time, could send Terminator Arnold Schwarzeneggger into the fight and some other rambos, which cannot be stopped even by the force de frappe. Maybe a duel between Jacques Chirac and Bill Clinton at dawn would be the only way out." BRITAIN: "U.S. Fury At French Snub To Christopher" The conservative Daily Telegraph reported (12/13): "American officials reacted with fury yesterday to a snub of the outgoing secretary of state by the French foreign minister.... Mr. Herve de Charette is seen by many of his staff as a bumbling amateur and is reported to irritate Prime Minister Juppe, who is said to have told aides that de Charette 'is not up to the job.'" "French Diplomatic Intransigence Makes Waves Across The Atlantic" The liberal Guardian reported (12/13): "Long-simmering transatlantic resentment of France's assertive foreign policy is coming to the boil as President Chirac stands his ground in confrontations with Washington over the UN and NATO. The public bickering grew louder yesterday after reports that Foreign Minister de Charette walked out during a toast to Secretary of State Christopher in Brussels.... The incident seemed to reflect the gloomy state of Franco- American relations.... France and the United States have clashed most bitterly when one is seen as 'trespassing' on the other's traditional sphere of influence." BELGIUM: "French And Americans Do Not Speak Same Language" Maroun Labaki commented in independent Le Soir (12/13), "Angered by the fate of the Egyptian diplomat who was their favorite, the French are now opposing the appointment of Ghanaian Kofi Annan, the Americans' candidate. France solemnly demands that the secretary general speak French. This is already somewhat particular.... French is a marvelous language and we should all be proud of it. But is it reasonable to dig such trenches and to conjure up such defensive lines around our language?... Moreover, Kofi Annan speaks perfect French. That is not the issue. It is the sulkiness that marks French-American relations. It showed up at the UN and also at NATO, where French and Americans clashed this week--it happened in Brussels--with regard to the controversial Southern command of the Atlantic Organization. "An incident deserves to be mentioned in this respect. Yesterday, the influential International Herald Tribune, quoting the not less influential Washington Post, reported on its front page that French Minister of Foreign Affairs Herve de Charette insulted his American counterpart Warren Christopher to whom a friendly homage was being paid on the eve of his political retirement. "According to our American colleagues, the chief of French diplomacy stood up and left the lunch table at the moment when glasses were being raised to the health of the secretary of state.... 'Wrong!' Indignant, Herve de Charette denounced the 'maneuver' and denied everything: He was there and did not stand up. NATO also denied the incident. Questioned, a State Department official nevertheless asserted, yesterday, that the French minister 'was the only one who did not congratulate the secretary of state.' The French and the Americans do not speak the same language." DENMARK: "France's Unrealistic Attempts To Act Like A Superpower" An op-ed piece by the French correspondent of center-right Jyllands-Posten (12/16) criticized French foreign policy. In particular, the newspaper expressed annoyance concerning French attitudes toward the UN and NATO's Southern Command: "Relations between the United States and France have reached an all-time low since Jacques Chirac became president.... When Christopher was in Africa recently, the French Minister of Cooperation, Jacques Gofrain, criticized the United States for interfering in a French sphere of interest.... Frenchmen even allege that the United States sank French plans to initiate a military/humanitarian campaign in Zaire because the United States did not want to create problems for the Tutsi revolutionaries.... The French reacted violently to the American veto of Boutros- Ghali. They tried to get a francophone African elected as his successor, but the Americans won the battle. Nonetheless, Chirac scored a few points with the Arabs at the expense of the United States and Israel. "Earlier this year the French forced their way into the Middle East peace negotiations.... The French president has reintroduced his country into the military section of NATO. He did this to give the Alliance's military structure a European element. This is the reason that he has demanded that NATO's Southern Command should be given to a Frenchman.... Through his ambitious foreign policy, (Chirac) hopes to distract attention from France's many economic and social problems. It would be a shame if Western unity was destroyed by France's unrealistic attempts to act like a superpower in competition with the United States." SPAIN: "Rebirth Of Conflict Among Allies" J. Valenzuela wrote (12/12) for liberal El Pais from Washington: "This confrontation between the United States and France over Boutros Ghali's successor is the rebirth of a 'conflict among allies.' Chirac has, once again, raised the Gaullist banner of French and European autonomy (against Washington) on a series of issues ranging from the Middle East to NATO reform." AFRICA TOGO: "David And Goliath" An inside-page commentary in La Depeche (12/16), a monthly independent newspaper close to President Eyadema's Togolese People's Rally, stressed, "From Bamako to Kigali, Washington these days does not stop issuing warning signals on her true intentions in Africa. In this battle between David and Goliath, France is in a delicate position because, after 30 years of cooperation between Paris and francophone Africa, it is only misery and desolation. Whose fault is it? Africans who refuse to assume their responsibilities through work or a France, which like other foreign forces, looks out for her own interests?" LATIN AMERICA ARGENTINA: "Chirac's Unfulfilled Desire" Marina Aizen, New York-based correspondent for leading Clarin, wrote (12/14) regarding Annan's election at the UN, "There were no substantial political reasons for the battle between the United States and France, simply an unfulfilled desire of Jacques Chirac's government to prevent Washington from manipulating the fate of the UN according to its own wishes." ## For more information, please contact: U.S. Information Agency Office of Public Liaison Telephone: (202) 619-4355 12/19/96 # # # .