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Europe Revolts Against Russian Sanctions

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 26.05.2016

From ministerial offices to barricades on the streets, Europe is in open revolt against anti-Russian sanctions which have cost workers and businesses millions of jobs and earnings. Granted, the contentious issues are wider than anti-Russian sanctions. However, the latter are entwined with growing popular discontent across the EU.

Germany’s vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel is among the latest high-profile politicians to have come out against the sanctions stand-off between the European Union and Russia.

At stake is not just a crisis in the economy, of which the anti-Russian sanctions are symptomatic. It is further manifesting in a political crisis that is challenging the very legitimacy of EU governments and the bloc’s institutional existence. The issue is not so much about merely trying to normalize EU-Russian relations. But rather more about preserving the EU from an existential public backlash against anti-democratic and discredited authorities.

Gabriel, who also serves as Germany’s economy minister, said that relations between the EU and Moscow must be quickly normalized. And he called for the lifting of sanctions that have been imposed since early 2014 as a result of the dubious Ukraine conflict. The EU followed Washington’s policy of slapping sanctions on Russia after accusing Moscow of «annexing» Crimea and interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs. The charges against Russia are tenuous at best and are far removed from the mundane pressing concerns of ordinary EU citizens, who are being made to bear a heavy economic price for a stand-off that seems unduly politicized, if not wholly unwarranted.

Russia responded to the sweeping sanctions by implementing counter-measures banning exports from the EU and the US. The stand-off has hit the European economies hardest, with the Austrian Institute of Economic Research estimating that the trade war will cost the EU over €100 billion in business and up to 2.5 million in jobs. By contrast, the US has scarcely felt a pinch from the trade impasse.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy with the largest trade links to Russia, has suffered most from the sanctions rift. Up to 30,000 German businesses are invested in Russia, amounting to as many as half a million jobs in danger and €30 billion in lost revenues, according to the Austrian Institute of Economic Research.

In one German state alone, Saxony-Anhalt, the local economy minister Jorg Felgner says that exports to Russia have been slashed by 40 per cent, with the loss of €200 million to his state. Felgner is among the growing chorus of EU voices who are calling for the anti-Russian sanctions to be lifted when the EU convenes in July to decide on whether to extend its embargo or not.

The EU has been reviewing its sanctions policy on Russia every six months since 2014. To extend the measures, a unanimous decision is required among all 28 member states. It looks increasingly unlikely that the EU will maintain its hitherto unanimity. It can be safely assumed that if Brussels were to end the sanctions, then Moscow will respond in kind to promptly resume normal trade with the bloc.

In addition to the country’s vice chancellor, Germany’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has also expressed disquiet with the ongoing EU-Russian tensions stemming from the sanctions. Steinmeier noted that «resistance to anti-Russian sanctions is growing across the EU».

He also reiterated dismay over a fundamental contradiction in EU policy objectives. «How can we expect Russia’s help in solving the Syrian crisis while at the same time imposing economic sanctions on Russia?» asked Steinmeier.

It’s not just Germany that is growing leery with the deterioration in relations with Russia. Hungary and Italy, which have also strong historic trade ties with Russia, are increasingly opposed to the EU’s policy towards Moscow, according to a recent Newsweek report.

Added to the maligned mix is Greece. The country’s six-year economic crisis has been greatly exacerbated by the loss of a once-bustling agricultural export business to Russia. The country’s finance minister Dimitrios Mardas attributed major losses specifically to the anti-Russian sanctions, which have piled on fiscal deficits to the teetering Greek economy. Greece is no isolated problem. It threatens to undermine the whole EU from its chronic bankruptcy.

In France, the National Assembly’s Lower House voted last week by 55 to 44 votes to end the EU sanctions on Russia. The vote is non-binding on the government of President Francois Hollande. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the growing popular opposition to what is widely seen as a self-defeating policy of trade antagonism with Russia.

The cancellation last year by the Hollande government of the Mistral dual helicopter-ship contract with Moscow epitomizes the self-inflicted pain on French workers. The cancellation – cajoled by Washington – cost the French government revenues of over €1.5 billion and has put thousands of shipyard jobs at risk. Paris claims to have since directed the ships’ order to Egypt, but that remains doubtful.

The economic losses from anti-Russian sanctions have rebounded severely on French farmers too. Dairy, meat, vegetable and fruit exports to the once lucrative Russian market have been pummeled. Hollande recently vowed to release €500 million in state aid to placate angry farmers. The absurdity is not lost on the French agricultural sector that such state handouts would not be necessary if the Hollande government hadn’t sabotaged Russian markets in the first place by following US hostility towards Moscow, as in the case of the Mistral fiasco.

France’s economic problems, as with the rest of Europe, are not entirely related to the downturn in relations with Russia. But there seems little doubt that the issues intersect and are compounded. And the public knows that.

Hollande – the most unpopular French president since the Second World War – is ramming through draconian labor reforms. The president and his truculent prime minister Manuel Valls claim that the retrenchment of workers’ rights will boost the economy and reduce France’s soaring unemployment rate of 10 per cent nationally and 25 per among French youth.

In opposition to the French government’s deeply unpopular assault on workers’ rights, the country is to observe nationwide strikes this week. The protests have been going on now for several months and seem set to escalate, as Hollande’s administration digs its heels in and refuses to relent.

Among students and farmers joining France’s nationwide strike are workers in the transport sectors of road haulage, rail, shipping and airports. With exports to Russia slashed due to the French government-backing of EU sanctions, the transport sectors are among the hardest hit. The Hollande government’s attempt to force through labor cuts, purportedly to reinvigorate the economy, is seen as it trying to offload responsibility for economic woes on to workers and businesses. If Hollande did not pick a fight with Russia – at Washington’s goading – then the country’s economy wouldn’t be under such duress.

Across Europe, the popular revolt against economic austerity is bound up with the EU’s self-defeating sanctions on Russia. And it is leading to a crisis of authority among EU governments who are held with increasing disdain by their citizens. More enlightened political leaders like Germany’s vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are obviously aware of the geopolitical connection that citizens are making.

As Europe’s economic crisis deepens, the policy of anti-Russian sanctions is tantamount to the EU cutting off its nose to spite its face. The growing public disaffection is also fueling the electoral rise of anti-EU political parties in Germany, France, Britain, Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and other member states.

Mainstream EU parties like the ruling coalition government in Berlin realize that the EU’s trade war with Russia is simply becoming untenable. It is an ideologically driven and dubious antagonism that the EU can ill-afford. That policy speaks to EU citizens of a political leadership that is losing legitimacy from its fundamentally wrongheaded and anti-democratic governance. As well as from slavish pandering to American hegemonic ambitions.

Brussels, in following Washington’s hostility to Moscow, is inflicting further economic pain on the bloc’s 500 million citizens. Something has to give way if Europe is not to implode, or explode, from popular fury. Normalizing relations with Russia is not the whole solution to Europe’s economic and political crises. But such a move would certainly alleviate. And is long overdue.

EU governments are thus facing a stark choice. Are they to continue on the path of destruction at Washington’s reckless behest, or can they find an independent policy of pursuing mutual relations with Russia? Undoing the crass anti-Russian sanctions is taking on an urgency – before such a policy leads to the undoing of the EU itself.

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moscow must stop supporting Syrian President Assad: Hollande

Press TV – February 19, 2016

French President François Hollande says Moscow must stop supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as the West rejects a Russian-drafted UN resolution aimed at halting Turkey’s military actions in northern Syria.

“Russia will not succeed by unilaterally backing Bashar al-Assad. It’s not possible, we all see it. Because there will be no results on the ground, there won’t be negotiations and there will always be war,” Hollande told France Inter radio on Friday.

He added that “there must be pressure on Moscow” so that it helps to resume Syria peace talks.

The latest round of talks between the Syrian government and the Saudi-backed opposition — known as the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) — which was being held in the Swiss city of Geneva, was suspended on February 3 after the opposition refused to attend the sessions. The next round was slated for February 25; however, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said on Friday that the resumption of the talks on the planned date is not realistic.

On February 12, the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) agreed in the German city of Munich to seek a nationwide ceasefire in Syria beginning in a week’s time. It also decided to accelerate and expand humanitarian aid deliveries to the country. According to the ISSG statement, the truce in Syria does not include areas held by groups designated as terrorist organizations by the UN Security Council, including Daesh and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.

Russia began its air campaign in Syria on September 30, 2015 at the request of the Damascus government. The air raids have expedited the advances of Syrian forces against foreign-backed militants operating in the country.

‘Risk of Turkey-Russia war’

Regarding Ankara’s escalating involvement in the Syrian crisis, the French president said it was creating a risk of war between Turkey and Russia.

Ankara has been targeting the positions of fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its umbrella group Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria for nearly a week in an attempt to stop Kurdish forces from reaching the Syrian border with Turkey, while Syrian forces have been making steady gains.

Turkey is also among the few countries insisting that the only way to stop the war in Syria is to deploy ground forces in the Arab country’s northern regions.

“Turkey is involved in Syria… There, there is a risk of war,” Hollande told France Inter radio. “That is why the Security Council is meeting,” Hollande noted.
Soldiers carry ammunition as Turkish artillery fire from the border city of Kilis toward northern Syria, February 15, 2016. (AP)

Russia-drafted resolution

The Security Council held an emergency meeting on Friday afternoon at Moscow’s request to discuss Syrian-related developments, including the Russian-drafted resolution calling on the council to express “its grave alarm at the reports of military buildup and preparatory activities aimed at launching foreign ground intervention into the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

It also called on countries to “refrain from provocative rhetoric and inflammatory statements inciting further violence and interference into internal affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

The draft was, however, rejected by the representatives of France, the US and Britain at the meeting.

“Russia must understand that its unconditional support to Bashar al-Assad is a dead end, and a dead end that could be extremely dangerous,” French Ambassador to the UN François Delattre said ahead of the meeting.

“We are facing a dangerous military escalation that could easily get out of control and lead us to uncharted territory,” he added.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said Russia is “trying to distract the world” with the draft resolution, calling on Moscow to focus on implementing a UN resolution agreed by the 15-member council in December last year that endorsed an international road map for a Syria peace process.

The resolution, adopted on December 18, called for a nationwide ceasefire in Syria and the formation of a “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian” government within six months and UN-supervised “free and fair elections” within 18 months.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to a new report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.

February 19, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Paris Attacks – À quoi bon?

By Christopher Bollyn | November 17, 2015

Hollande_and_David_Rothschild

HOLLANDE AND THE ROTHSCHILD BANKSTERS – François Hollande, seen here with David de Rothschild, appointed a Rothschild banker to manage the French ministry of economy in 2014. What does that say about Hollande’s loyalty?

“An act of war was committed by a terrorist army, DAESH [ISIS], a jihadist army, against France… An act of war prepared, planned, from outside, with outside complicity which an investigation will establish.” – French President François Hollande, November 14, 2015

“We need to work to find a political solution. Bashar al-Assad is not the solution, he is the problem.” – French President François Hollande, October 23, 2015

“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way”. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Friday the 13th terror attacks in Paris seem to have accomplished exactly what they were meant to.  They have seemingly given the French and the U.S. the right to attack “without mercy” ISIS forces in Syria. While the strikes are supposedly aimed at ISIS, the country taking the pounding is Syria.

There are basically two ways to view the terror attacks in Paris: they were, either, as French President François Hollande says, “an act of war… committed by a terrorist army, DAESH, a jihadist army,” – or they were something else.

The accepted view, promoted by the controlled media and accepted by world leaders, is that they were, exactly as Hollande says, “an act of war” carried out by DAESH (a.k.a. ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State). Based on this interpretation, U.S. A-10 Warthogs and French fighter jets have started bombing DAESH targets in Syria.

À quoi bon?

This raises the obvious question, what’s the point? Why would any militia carry out an outrageous terror atrocity against a very powerful nation that is well prepared, willing, and ready to wage war against it as a response?

This is a situation strikingly similar to 9-11, in which the predecessor of DAESH, Al Qaida, supposedly attacked the United States, opening the door for the pre-planned invasion of Afghanistan. How convenient.

We should ask: Do these so-called Islamic groups have a desire to commit mass suicide? With the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle approaching Syria and with American A-10 Warthogs poised on the border ready for destroy anything on the ground, why would any Islamic group give such powerful forces a carte blanche reason to attack?

Is this not just a little too neat?

If you agree that this is too neat, there is the alternative view to be considered. That is that the Paris attacks are something other than what they appear to be and that the desired outcome was achieved by using a fraudulent input. That is to say that the terror attacks in Paris were, in fact, controlled and carried out by a hidden hand that used deception to produce the desired outcome. We are, after all, living in an era of massive deception.

Who might that be?

Given the fact that the fraudulent “War on Terror” is an Israeli construct dating back to the 1970s, the first suspect would have to be Israeli intelligence.

Why would they do that?

To advance the Israeli strategy known as the “War on Terror” – and destroy Syria in the process.

How would they do it?

By creating a cell of extremists who are cultivated and prepared to carry out such acts of violence.

Are there any indications that this is the case?

The fact that the Bataclan theatre was Israeli-owned until September 11, 2015, is one rather obvious clue. There are many others, such as the degree of knowledge held by the planners. For example, how did the terrorists know that the French president would be at the football game? And why did French SWAT teams wait for more than two hours to take action at the theatre?

Is Hollande part of the deception?

He could be, but I would tend to doubt it. Hollande is simply “in the pocket” of the Rothschild family and proved it by waging war in Mali on behalf of the Rothschilds and their gold interests in that poor African nation. In August 2014, Hollande appointed Emmanuel Macron, a Rothschild investment banker to head the French Ministry of Economy.

Hollande is a Rothschild puppet who does what his masters want. At this point they want him to attack Syria.

Hollande_and_Eric_Rothschild

ROTHSCHILD PUPPET – François Hollande, seen here with Eric de Rothschild, serves the Rothschild family – not the Republic of France.

How does this affect the situation in Syria?

The Paris attacks bring France into the Syrian conflict, although their military actions in Syria are neither legal nor approved by the government of Syria. This increases the weight of the anti-Assad coalition vis-à-vis the Russians, who have been asked to intervene in Syria and are fighting in support of the Assad government.

Sources and Recommended Reading:

“Bashar al-Assad is Problem, Not Solution in Syria: French President Francois Hollande,” NDTV.com, October 23, 2015
http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/bashar-al-assad-is-problem-not-solution-in-syria-frances-francois-hollande-says-1235630

“Hollande replaces critic of austerity with Rothschild banker,” EurActiv.com, Reuters, August 27, 2014
www.euractiv.com/sections/euro-finance/hollande-replaces-critic-austerity-rothschild-banker-308004

“Mali – France Fights for Rothschild Gold,” by Christopher Bollyn, January 19, 2013
www.bollyn.com/mali-france-fights-for-rothschild-gold/

November 19, 2015 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Ukraine is pretext for US lobby to go on with sanctions against Russia’

RT | January 30, 2015

Anti-Russian sanctions are imposed as a hard neo-conservative lobby in America puts pressure on some European countries to go along with these sanctions, and to persuade other countries to do the same, journalist Neil Clark, told RT.

RT: The EU has extended individual sanctions but refrained from new economic restrictions. Why haven’t they gone further do you think?

Neil Clark: Well, it’s interesting, isn’t it? I think this reveals to us the split that there is within the EU. Because what we’ve got really, we’ve got the hard-line countries led unfortunately by Britain, countries like Poland, Lithuania and some others who really want an extension of sanctions. And then we’ve got the more realistic members, the countries that actually want to see these sanctions lifted. Of course, we remember just three weeks ago Francois Hollande, the French President, said that the EU hoped that sanctions would soon be lifted. And of course that would have caused a lot of horror among the anti-Russian camp. So I think what we saw [on Thursday] is the evidence of a real split. We haven’t had these measures that some people wanted, for example some of the more anti-Russian elements have been calling for Russia to be banned from the SWIFT banking system. And what we’ve seen is an extension of the existing sanctions so I think that this reflects the split within the EU at the moment.

RT: Russia’s been under American and European sanctions since last March. How much has it helped resolve the Ukrainian crisis?

NC: Well I think it’s very important to realize…Ukraine is really a pretext for these sanctions. What we’ve got is an anti-Russian lobby, a neo-conservative lobby in America which has for years wanted to sanction Russia. You go back to 2003 and you got neocons calling for Russia to be sanctioned. …This campaign for Russia to be sanctioned stepped up after the events in Syria in 2013 when Russia blocked a war against Syria…And then the Ukrainian situation kicked off as it were.

So I think it’s very important to realize it really that it has really nothing to do with the situation in Ukraine. These sanctions are being imposed, I’m afraid, because of a hard anti-Russian lobby in America and pressure’s been put on certain European countries that are very close to America to go along with these sanctions and to persuade other countries to go along with these sanctions.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that when we talk about Ukraine the offenses launched by the Ukrainian government forces coincided with visits of high-ranking US officials. And I think that there would have been quite a lot of concern among this anti-Russian lobby in Washington when Francois Hollande did say three weeks ago that he would like to see sanctions lifted.And then what happens? American officials go to Ukraine and we get another offensive against the people in the East. Then the fighting there is used as a pretext for continuing on with the sanctions.

RT: There have been calls for the West to arm the Ukrainian army. Is that on the cards?

NC: It all really depends on what happens in Europe. It is actually crucial at the moment. We saw last night that vote at the Council of Europe – just how divided it was: 35 to 34. So I think there are certain countries in Europe… Poland has been called the 51st state of America, Poland is following the American line, and Britain unfortunately is. But there are other countries, Austria for example, who don’t really want to go down this road, who want to have a return to proper working relations with Russia, because Europe needs Russia. Europe needs a good working economic relationship with Russia. So it’s all a battle going on within the European Union now as to which fraction will actually prevail… So I think the hawks would love to see hard weaponry going to Ukraine, would love to see this conflict continue. But the more sensible countries in Europe want to see an end to it and get back to normal relations with Russia which is in Europe’s interest.

RT: On Wednesday two Russian bombers were detected flying over the Channel which provoked an outcry in the British media as they supposedly ‘disrupted UK aviation’, though these bombers didn’t violate other countries’ borders. What do you think about this situation?

NC: Well I think it’s very interesting, isn’t it, that this big news story happened when the EU was discussing the issue of sanctions with Russia. And I think it happened before, when we had…this debate about whether to extent or deepen sanctions, increase sanctions on Russia…And headlines that come up, you know “Russian bombers over the Channel”, but then we found out that it wasn’t exactly as it was first reported. So I think that in this anti-Russian climate we‘ve got to be careful when we look at the news headlines. There is an agenda going on, there is anti-Russian lobby in the West unfortunately which wants to keep this going and to keep more excuses and pretexts for the sanctions on Russia. So I think we have got to keep cool heads and you know look at bigger context of the stories and it seems quite interesting that every time we are getting these discussions about sanctions on Russia, that this sort of incidents seem to occur.

READ MORE:

UK fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian bombers

EU foreign ministers extend sanctions against Russian officials, E. Ukraine rebels

EU Parliament wants to keep Russia sanctions, set ‘benchmarks’ for lifting them

Follow Neil Clark on Twitter

January 31, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sarkozy and Hollande on Middle East: La Même Chose

By Patrick Galey | Al Akhbar |  May 5, 2012

When the frontrunners in France’s presidential race took their seats on Thursday evening for a final televised debate, they did so with battle lines firmly entrenched.

Incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande had spent the previous month on a vitriolic campaign trail exposing deep rifts among the French electorate over the economy, immigration, and nuclear energy.

But the most significant player in Sunday’s election, which most opinion polls predict will go down to the wire, was not even in the studio.

Both Hollande and Sarkozy are mindful that the 6.4 million who voted for Marine Le Pen of the far right National front will have a large bearing on the outcome of Sunday’s run-off. That’s why they have sought to echo Le Pen’s strident anti-immigration rhetoric which reached out to disenchanted voters and hardliners alike.

Hollande vowed to cut economic migration at a time when France is feeling the pinch from the eurozone’s financial turmoil. Sarkozy went one step further, referencing Le Pen by name and claiming only he had the experience and gumption to put a meaningful cap on immigration’s pall over France by cutting the number of people entering the country in half.

Judy Dempsey, a senior associate at Carnegie Europe, said although immigration was being touted as a domestic stand from both candidates, using the issue as a sweetener to attract far-right voters could have an adverse effect on France internationally.

“Immigration is foreign policy and when they speak about immigration now in France it’s fortress Europe,” she said. “[Hollande and Sarkozy] don’t see immigration in a positive sense and it sends completely the wrong signal to the younger generation and the emerging business community in the Middle East.”

It was not until the final minutes of Thursday’s debate that the issue of foreign policy was raised. Here, both candidates demurred.

Sarkozy was quick to point out how he took the lead as France led the way in a number of international decisions while in office.

France’s president has often sought to paint himself as a highly experienced operator in the realm of global diplomacy. As well as inheriting French involvement in NATO’s Afghanistan mission, Sarkozy oversaw the stationing of French troops in the Middle East and Africa, largely in a peacekeeping capacity.

He played a prominent role in meditation between Tbilisi and Moscow in 2008 when the fight over Abkhazia and South Ossetia threatened to boil over into all out war.

And last year, Sarkozy’s France spearheaded NATO’s campaign for military intervention in Libya.

Sarkozy avoided mentioning Libya in Thursday’s debate after embarrassing allegations that his 2007 presidential campaign had received an offer of funding from Tripoli. Sarkozy is seeking legal action over the claim, but thought better of opening that particular can of worms in the closing moments of a potentially election-changing televised appearance.

Hollande’s public statements indicate striking Middle Eastern policy similarities to the current government. Like Sarkozy, Hollande has declared that an Iranian nuclear missile would be unacceptable for Europe. Like Sarkozy, Hollande has called for a two-state solution in Palestine while trumpeting Israeli security as a key French concern.

The Socialist leader has been necessarily vague over French foreign policy. He currently lacks a dedicated adviser for overseas affairs. Instead of laying out detailed plans for France’s global relations, the Socialist challenger has made a point of criticizing Sarkozy in this regard.

Looking ahead to the next term in office, Hollande has struck a remarkably similar tone to the current government.

Sarkozy and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe have been among the most hawkish European officials to address the Syrian crisis, closing the French Embassy in Damascus and calling multiple times for President Bashar Assad to leave office. Sarkozy has issued incessant calls for a full ceasefire in Syria, and has somewhat ominously compared the restive city of Homs to Benghazi, Libya’s erstwhile rebel stronghold.

Hollande, for his part, declared last month that he would support military intervention in Syria, “if done within a [United Nations] framework.” Juppe has offered words to the same effect in recent weeks.

According to Thomas Klau, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, both Sarkozy and Hollande will wait and see what happens in Syria before veering from the French course of public criticism of the Damascus government.

“The current government and Juppe have been very active on the Syria dossier and doing all they could to get Russia to move its stance,” Klau told Al-Akhbar. “I wouldn’t expect the French policy to be different under Hollande. Much of his policy will be determined by events on the ground and the success – or the lack of it – from the [U.N./Arab League Envoy Kofi] Annan’s mediation effort.”

Dempsey added that Hollande had raised the prospect of military intervention in Syria “because he can say it without the responsibility” of having to go through with it. As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, France still has some global clout, but not nearly enough to convince Russia or China to bless any advance on Syria. Both candidates know and accept this, and continuity in the French approach to Damascus is more likely than meaningful change.

In a similar way, with Paris’ pro-Israel lobby as influential among the Socialists as they are in Sarkozy’s UMP party, Hollande, should he win, is unlikely to depart from France’s current line on Palestine.

In spite of a few diplomatic gaffes, including branding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a liar,” Sarkozy has spent much of the last five years offering support to Israeli officials. Hollande, with influential pro-Israeli figures such as Dominique Strauss-Kahn having the ear of many Parisian socialists, will have a hard time departing from such engagement.

“Nicolas Sarkozy was personally convinced that the national interest of Israel was very close to French national interest,” Klau said. “With Francois Hollande, his attitude isn’t very significant. Neither of them place themselves in the Arabist tradition of French foreign policy, which has lost relevance anyway.”

So if foreign policy has provided so few soundbites in the French presidential election, it is because both candidates are largely in assent.

That is not to say Sarkozy and Hollande agree on every foreign policy area.

Hollande used Thursday’s debate to repeat a campaign promise that, if elected, he would withdraw all French troops serving with NATO from Afghanistan by the end of 2012 – a full year ahead of a planned pullout, and much to the chagrin of Sarkozy. The French president has said he’d prefer not to renege on the current withdrawal timetable agreed with NATO.

In recent months, Sarkozy has faced the wrath of Turkey, one of France’s major trading partners, by pursuing legislation that would make it illegal to deny the Armenian Genocide. Amid opprobrium from Ankara, the president has pushed ahead with the controversial bill, which critics have denounced as a cynical attempt to get France’s estimated 400,000 ethnic Armenians on his side ahead of elections.

Sarkozy has made no secret of his objection to Turkey applying for EU membership, and fallout over the genocide bill is just the latest of a series of spats with Ankara during his time in office. Hollande also indicated he would oppose Turkish EU accession if elected, but, significantly for officials in Ankara, he has not ruled out future negotiations.

“Sarkozy is openly hostile to the notion that Turkey should join the EU, whereas the Socialist position is that that door should remain open,” said Klau.

France’s poor diplomatic ties with Ankara can be counted as a black mark against Sarkozy’s foreign policy initiatives, something Hollande should seek to take advantage of, according to Dempsey.

“Sarkozy had something near contempt for Turkey and there is no love lost between Ankara and Paris,” she said. “This would change slowly under Hollande. It’s time France considered [engagement with Turkey] as its long-term strategic interest but that is one thing that Hollande might be able to change if he wins.”

With France mired in discontent over domestic issues, it is no surprise that neither Hollande nor Sarkozy has been overly willing to share their opinions on global affairs.

But whoever inherits control of one of NATO’s largest troop contributing countries will need to keep plans in place.

May 5, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sarkozy and Hollande on Middle East: La Même Chose