Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Le Poodle

France's President, Nicolas Sarkozy, is in the US for his first official visit since taking office. He's previously had an informal chat with President Bush over hamburgers while on holiday earlier in the year, but this is the first proper trip he's made. He gets the rare (in the Bush era) honour of a state dinner and a speech to Congress, although he is travelling stag.

This, and the subsequent visit by Germany's Chancellor Merkel to the US, marks a significant change in relations between the US and Europe. Now that Tony Blair's gone, Mr Bush needs friends in Europe to help him confront Iran over its nuclear programme. It's poisonous for Gordon Brown to associate himself with the White House in the way his predecessor did, so it's no surprise Mr Bush needs to look beyond Downing Street for friends. Although there's no reason why Sarkozy should kowtow to him, especially as he's only got a year left in office, the fact he wasn't President during the bitter spats over Iraq at least means he's willing to talk.

The relationship between France and the US is a strange one. French people, despite a common misconception, do generally enjoy American culture. Line dancing is popular, as is McDonalds. But by merely showing an interest in establishing a better relationship with the White House, President Sarkozy is already being caricatured in the French press as Mr Bush's new poodle. He's already shown plenty during his brief time in office to show he's not a man to shy away from doing something, even if it'll make him look bad. Perhaps Le Poodle is something Nicolas Sarkozy is quite happy to be.

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