The new French president, François Hollande, outlined his vision of international relations and foreign policy for his country on the occasion of the twentieth conference of French ambassadors. His speech was highly anticipated because he had never expressed himself on these issues, his experience being limited to the Socialist Party leadership and internal affairs.

Unexpectedly, he presented a synthesis of two currents within his party: on the one hand, the pro-US opportunists surrounding the former Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and, on the other, the totally Atlantist and Zionist ideologues around the current finance minister, Pierre Moscovici.

Since the two groups do not share the same analysis, synthesis is reduced to a few points of consensus: the logic of blocs has vanished with the Soviet Union: the world has become unstable and needs to be regulated by international institutions; the Arab springs (with an "s") confirm that the momentum of history is oriented toward the spread of the Western political model. Therefore, French influence can develop in two ways. First, by playing in all circumstances the role of mediator, Paris can use its flexibility to host international institutions despite the refusal of the Russians and Chinese to play the game according to the rules laid down by the United States. Then Paris can count on the Francophonie [1] to enjoy a natural sphere of influence.

The foreign policy of François Hollande is already obsolete even though his mandate is only beginning. It does not take into account the decline of the United States, the rise of Russia and China or the reorganization of international relations. It only contemplates adjustments with China, Japan and Turkey. It assumes that international institutions emerging from the balance of power at the end of the Second World War will survive and adapt spontaneously to the new paradigm. Finally, France hopes to exercize influence without a significant military force thanks to the Francophonie and intends, for reasons of economy, to share its defense budget with the United Kingdom.

In the same vein, the President reorganized the embassies so that economic goals could be assigned to them. In this way, he shared responsibilities between the two currents of the Socialist Party, respectively installed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Economy. This is not a guarantee of consistency.

At his inauguration, François Hollande situated his five-year term under the auspices of Jules Ferry (1832-1893), a historical figure of French socialism. Ferry’s work can only be understood as an attempt by the bourgeoisie to escape its historical responsibilities (the liberation of Alsace-Moselle occupied and annexed by the Germans) by engaging in colonial expansion adorned with good sentiment. Not surprisingly, President Holland conforms to Ferry’s model. [2] After justifying his intention to do nothing to free his country from US tutelage, he unveiled his ambitions for Mali and Syria.

While specifying that the old days of French imperialism in Africa are over, he announced that Paris had sought a mandate from ECOWAS [3] to intervene militarily in Mali. This legal screen is hardly convincing: the organization is headed by Alassane Ouattara, whom the French army elevated to power in Ivory Coast last year. However, it does not appear that this expedition was prepared seriously, or that François Hollande has assessed its impact knowing that there are some 80 thousand Malians living in France.

Pressed by his opposition to show initiative with regard to Syria, François Hollande announced that Paris will recognize a provisional government once it is formed, that he is striving to bring Bashar al-Assad to the International Criminal Court and that France is preparing to rebuild the country. The military option was finally discarded, Syria having twice as many combat aircraft as France with better trained pilots, as noted by the former Air Force Chief of Staff, General Jean Fleury.

François Hollande’s initiative was not coordinated with his overlord. The same day, the spokesperson for the Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, swept these proposals aside. The United States has no intention of allowing Paris to concoct on its own a provisional government chosen from the Syrian National Council (puppet of France and Qatar). The U.S. therefore required the participation of the National Coordination Board (independent), the Council for the Syrian Revolution (created by Saudi Arabia), and the Free Syrian Army (organized by Turkey on behalf of NATO) .

Nor does Washington intend to entrust the French with the administration of Syria "the day after Bashar". Especially since François Hollande spoke of the Syrian territories (with an “s” in reference to the three religious states (Alawite, Druze and Christian) that France had once created inside Syria. They were represented by three stars on the flag of the French mandate ... recently become that of the "revolution." The chiefs of staff of the U.S. have in mind a different breakdown of the country, within the framework of a "remodeling of the Greater Middle East."

Ultimately, as in Libya, French dreams will not weigh heavily in the longstanding plans prepared by U.S. strategists. There is still no real French diplomatic strategy.

Roger Lagassé
Information Clearing House (USA)

[1Organisation de La Francophonie: community of people and countries using the French language

[2France According to François Hollande”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Michele Stoddard, Voltaire Network, 4 August 2012.

[3Economic Community Of West African States