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Wikileaks, Sarkozy and France’s reaction

In this week’s Bonjour Paris, I write about the Wikileaks scandal and the reaction in France. Excerpts below. Click on original story for links.

France has not surprisingly reacted strongly to the leaks, and many French media sites have profiled the story. This site describes, among other things, how the cables match up with different geographic locations, especially given the fact that the vast majority of the 251,287 cables are not yet available.

President Nicolas Sarkozy was described by some American diplomats as “susceptible and authoritarian”, a view many of his countrymen hold but that is revealing to find in the inner circles of American statesmanship. But of course, these messages were not intended to be read all over the world by non-diplomats, and the U.S. is far from the only country with sensitive, potentially offensive, information in its inner diplomatic cables.

Sarkozy was also profiled as “the most pro-American” president in France since WWII, and in 2006 before he took office, he had suggested that France could possibly send in forces to Iraq to help their American counterparts. This gesture was well appreciated by the Bush Administration, even if it did not come to fruition. U.S. diplomats also characterize Sarkozy as the “most influential leader in Europe” who is a “brilliant, impatient, undiplomatic, unpredictable, charming, innovative pragmatic.” American authorities were also interested in Sarkozy’s Jewish heritage and how that could affect France’s Middle East policy (it is traditionally pro-Arab). But he is also described in a bad light as “impulsive and frenetic.” Now France is “scrambling” to avoid its own scandal similar to Wikileaks.

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