Keep Us Strong WikiLeaks logo

Currently released so far... 5267 / 251,287

Articles

Browse latest releases

Browse by creation date

Browse by origin

A B C D F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z

Browse by tag

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
QA
YE YM YI

Browse by classification

Community resources

courage is contagious

Viewing cable 06PARIS1720, FORMER DEFENSE MINISTER RICHARD: INSIGHTS ON EU

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Understanding cables
Every cable message consists of three parts:
  • The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
  • The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
  • The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.

Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #06PARIS1720.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06PARIS1720 2006-03-17 15:03 2011-02-10 08:08 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
Appears in these articles:
http://abonnes.lemonde.fr/documents-wikileaks/article/2011/02/09/wikileaks-les-visiteurs-de-l-ambassade_1477418_1446239.htm
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 001720 

SIPDIS 

DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/WE, DRL/IL, INR/EUC, EUR/ERA, EUR/PPD, 
AND EB 
DEPT OF COMMERCE FOR ITA 
DEPT OF LABOR FOR ILAB 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2015 
TAGS: PGOV ELAB EU FR PINR SOCI ECON MARR
SUBJECT: FORMER DEFENSE MINISTER RICHARD: INSIGHTS ON EU 
AND NATO, AND ON DOMESTIC FRENCH POLITICS 

Classified By: Ambassador Craig Stapleton for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 

SUMMARY 
------- 
1. (C) In a meeting March 9, Ambassador Stapleton and former 
defense minister Alain Richard exchanged views on the roles 
of NATO and the ESDP, on the steady continuity in France's 
defense policies under Richard's successor (current Defense 
Minister Michele Aliot-Marie), and on French domestic 
politics. On NATO-ESDP, Richard rehearsed familiar arguments 
that NATO should restrict itself to more high-end military 
operations and leave civilian-military operations to the EU. 
He deplored President Chirac's involvement in domestic 
political issues in Cote d'Ivoire and UN reliance on France 
(and the UK) in dealing with African crises. Acknowledging 
his support for former economy minister Dominique 
Strauss-Kahn in the 2007 presidential contest, Richard 
criticized Segolene Royal for lack of substance and 
discounted her support within the Socialist Party, and viewed 
former PM Jospin as lacking the necessary fire in the belly. 
By contrast, he predicted that Nicolas Sarkozy would obtain 
the governing party's nomination but asserted that the 
nervousness Sarkozy inspires in some voters could lead to the 
victory of a more reassuring candidate of the left. Richard 
criticized Chirac as anti-European in temperament. He 
lamented President Chirac's and then-Foreign Minister de 
Villepin's confrontational tactics towards the U.S. early 
2003, while also underlining his fundamental agreement with 
Chirac and Villepin's policy of keeping France on the 
sidelines with regard to regime change and its aftermath in 
Iraq. END SUMMARY. 

NATO/ESDP 
--------- 
2. (C) Opening with a review of differences between U.S., 
and French and European, views on the appropriate 
intervention roles for NATO and the EU, Richard lamented that 
NATO-EU cooperation often "seemed to resemble NATO-EU 
rivalry." Consistent with the government's current policy, 
Richard maintained that the real purpose of NATO should be 
high-end military action, not "soft" peacekeeping and/or 
humanitarian missions. He complained that the (U.S.-driven) 
direction of capability development in NATO -- contingency 
planning and force generation for "soft" missions -- was 
gradually encroaching on EU turf, where France sees the 
primary mission of the evolving European Security and Defense 
Policy (ESDP). Richard worried that NATO was "expanding" in 
such a way that it might eventually make ESDP superfluous. 

3. (C) Richard argued that ESDP is unlikely to move from 
debate to deployability unless EU member states step up to 
making the investments required to create mission-ready 
military capability. This would not happen, however, until 
EU states were given more direct responsibility for dealing 
with crises -- otherwise, they'll "just keep counting on the 
U.S. to act and take them off the hook." Richard said that 
certain changes in Europeans' operational practice could 
facilitate greater assumption of responsibility by EU states, 
for example the creation of multinational HQs to replace the 
current national HQ setup for operations in which more than 
one EU state participates, which would force EU member states 
to "burdenshare responsibility for the outcomes." 

CONTINUITY IN FRANCE'S DEFENSE POLICIES 
--------------------------------------- 
4. (C) Richard noted that the overall direction of France's 
defense and security policies had continued along the lines 
set during his own tenure as defense minister (1997 - 2002). 
Richard praised his successor, Michele Aliot-Marie for 
"staying the course" with regard to professionalization and 
ever greater readiness and deployability of France's armed 
forces. He noted the bi-partisan consensus throughout 
France's political establishment for these policies -- 
indeed, on foreign affairs and defense matters in general. 
He praised Aliot-Marie for recognizing, as he had, the need 
for senior officers to have international experience, and the 
need to keep French troops prepared to work well in 
multi-national or coalition operations. 

GREATER EU CAPABILITY DOES NOT UNDERMINE NATO 
-------------------------------------------- 
5. (C) Richard said that France is encouraging other EU 
member states to engage in similar, qualitative and 
quantitative, improvement of military capability. Richard 
believes that, though there has been considerable 
improvement, in France and in other EU states, in overall 
military capabilities (he cited Germany in particular), much 
progress could still be made. Richard underlined that such 
progress in EU states' capability would never outstrip the 
capabilities institutionalized in NATO, nor would such 
improvements "compete with NATO" in any way. In Richard's 
view -- as in the view of many French security and defense 
analysts -- the range of failed state and humanitarian crises 
likely to require responses that have a military dimension 
will in all likelihood increase in coming years, which calls 
for building as much capability as possible, whether under 
the auspices of NATO or the EU or European states 
individually. Note: Embassy DATT pointed out to Richard that 
German military capability has in fact been cut during 
recent years, and that increasing instances of operational 
deployment of German contingents gives the, erroneous, 
impression of increased capability. End Note. 

CHIRAC'S MISTAKES IN IVORY COAST 
-------------------------------- 
6. (C) Richard criticized President Chirac for breaking what 
Richard opined should be a cardinal rule for guiding 
decisions about French involvement in sub-Saharan Africa: 
never get involved in African domestic problems; intervene 
only when French strategic interests are at stake. Richard 
went on to criticize the way the international community and 
the UN (and specifically Kofi Annan) "depended on France" 
(and to a lesser degree, the UK) to take care of problems in 
Africa. Richard added that political problems in Africa "can 
almost never be solved" since agreements reached to solve 
them are, according to Richard, all to often immediately 
ignored by the parties to them. Richard welcomed increasing 
U.S. military cooperation in the region, agreeing that the 
increased numbers of U.S. military attaches and other 
programs (many emanating from EUCOM) would be good for the 
region. 

INTERNAL FRENCH POLITICS -- CENTER-LEFT PS 
------------------------------------------ 
7. (C) Richard is a member of the French Socialist Party's 
(PS) 306-member National Council which elects the members of 
the party's National Bureau and its National Secretariat 
(executive committee). A member of the party's most moderate 
faction, Richard is close both to former prime minister 
Lionel Jospin and former economy minister Dominique 
Strauss-Kahn. Richard said that the party -- at the 
instigation of party National Secretary Francois Hollande -- 
had erred in putting off selection of its 2007 presidential 
nominee until November 2006. In Richard's view, the other 
principal parties' candidates will, well before next 
November, have established themselves and their messages in 
the public eye. Richard said he suspected that Hollande put 
off the date of the PS's nomination decision for as long as 
possible in order to preserve his own chances for nomination, 
based on the calculation that other would-be nominees might 
well fall out of the race or that internecine struggles would 
allow him to emerge as a compromise. 

8. (C) Richard discounted, but did not dismiss, the chances 
of Poitou-Charentes Region President Segolene Royal of 
mounting a winning bid for the PS nomination and the 
presidency thereafter. "Because you have to wonder what is 
the substance -- the solidity -- of her popularity." Richard 
said that he doubted that Royal's current high-standing in 
opinion polls would hold, particularly through the upcoming 
season of hardball campaigning. Nonetheless Richard 
described Royal as both determined and skillfully aiming to 
use her popularity to "impose herself on the party members" 
(who will be voting for the party's nominee in November). 

9. (C) Skewering former prime minister Laurent Fabius as 
"suffering from a deficit of sincerity," Richard acknowledged 
his support for Strauss-Kahn. Richard observed that the 
upcoming party primary, among the PS's roughly 125,000 
"aging" members (nearly half of whom are also elected 
officials of one sort or another), remained a wide-open 
contest. In Richard's analysis, Royal can now count on about 
"10 to 15 percent of the votes," and "Fabius has between 20 
and 25 percent," which "leaves the 70 percent remaining" to 
be won or lost in the primary campaign, most of whom he 
claimed opposed Royal. Richard said that the campaigning 
among the party members would be long and tough, and that 
Strauss-Kahn had been, and planned to remain -- particularly 
assiduous in his courting of party members between now and 
November of this year. 

10. (C) Citing what he called "the guts factor," Richard 
wondered aloud if Jospin, as much as he might want to be 
drafted as the party nominee, really had the stomach for a 
political fight to the finish against -- in the scenario 
Richard assumed most likely -- Interior Minister Nicolas 
Sarkozy. Citing Jospin's lackluster performance as a 
candidate in 2002, and his sudden retirement in a pique 
following his unexpected defeat in the first round of the 
2002 election, Richard said he had to have doubts about 
Jospin's electability. However, Richard also added that in a 
face-off against Sarkozy, Jospin might well prove the more 
reassuring, indeed, presidential, figure, able to capitalize 
on the French electorate's fear of change, particularly 
brusque change. As Richard put it, "Sarkozy has enormous 
qualities -- but not the one of being reassuring to anybody." 
The one thing that Richard said he was sure of is that the 
PS would, in the end, unite behind the candidate who emerges 
victorious, if scarred, from the party's nomination 
competition. 

INTERNAL FRENCH POLITICS -- CENTER-RIGHT UMP 
-------------------------------------------- 
11. (C) Richard, tracking with the views of nearly every 
professional politician who has commented to us on the 
subject, stated bluntly that Villepin would not be able to 
displace Sarkozy as the nominee of the ruling, center-right 
Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party. In addition, 
Richard suggested that the "Matignon syndrome" -- the way the 
prime ministership in France chews up its incumbents and 
their popularity -- would sink any chances Villepin might 
hope he may have to run for the presidency. 

THE CENTER-LEFT CAN WIN 
----------------------- 
12. (C) Overall -- while being careful to concede this could 
be wishful thinking on his part -- Richard said that voters' 
tendency to "throw the bums out," along with their misgivings 
about Sarkozy, gave the center-left a good chance of winning 
in 2007. Richard added that "it was no longer possible to 
say one thing during the campaign and do another once 
elected" and that far-reaching change for France was 
inevitable. Richard admitted that he was at a loss as to how 
the PS could project itself and its candidate as standing for 
"safe change" if running as the party of the status quo 
against the risk of "real change" as promised and intended by 
Sarkozy. 

INSTITUTIONAL REFORM 
------------------ 
13. (C) Richard said that the French system of government 
was evolving quickly, largely due to the unintended 
consequences of shortening the presidential term to five 
years. According to Richard (and quite few other observers) 
the Fifth Republic is moving towards a garden-variety 
"presidential system." The new five-year presidential term, 
with legislative elections following immediately after the 
presidential elections, increases the likelihood of one party 
holding both the presidency and the parliamentary majority. 
Both president and parliamentary majority are likely to be 
elected on the basis of a common program, with the result 
that the president will become responsible for managing the 
government's execution of that program. 

FUTURE OF EUROPE 
---------------- 
14. (C) Richard lamented the French public's rejection of 
the proposed EU Constitutional treaty last May 29. He placed 
part of the blame on Chirac's lukewarm commitment to Europe. 
He described Villepin and Chirac as more nationalist than 
European, and went on to criticize Chirac as overly 
opportunistic, and lacking the consistency necessary for 
forging productive, long-term relationships with France's 
European partners. Richard added that Chirac had severely 
damaged his credibility with the EU's new member states when 
he rudely admonished them to "shut up," with regard to 
France's opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. 
Richard acknowledged that such French attitudes have served 
to increase nationalism in the new member states, and added 
that this nationalism, and the suspicion of Europe that goes 
with it, "particularly in conservative Poland", promise 
difficult times ahead for comity among the member states of 
the EU. 

U.S.-FRANCE RELATIONS 
--------------------- 
15. (C) Richard said that even though the French political 
establishment is prone to opposing the U.S., the French 
public remains attracted to the U.S. Like nearly all French 
political figures -- speaking to us in private on the subject 
-- Richard decried "the folly" of Chirac and then Foreign 
Minister de Villepin's grandstanding opposition to the U.S. 
and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Richard said Chirac and 
Villepin's actions may have offered a "couple of weeks of 
psychic satisfaction" to the French, but at the price of 
undermining France's influence and standing on the world 
stage. Again, like so many French political figures who 
lament the antics of Chirac and Villepin in early 2003, 
Richard also insisted that he believed the U.S. made a 
grievous strategic mistake in going into Iraq. Richard 
underscored his respect, indeed, love, for American ideals, 
and described at length his -- and his compatriots' -- 
admiration for the dynamism of America. He also complimented 
American expertise, saying that, "on any subject, you have 
the best experts -- including on Iraq." But he wondered aloud 
why the U.S. had "ignored its experts and made such a big 
mistake." The meeting ended with a discussion of the changes 
wrought by the attacks of September 11, 2002 on American 
perception of threats to U.S. security. 

COMMENT 
------- 
16. (C) Fluent in English, lucid and brimming with dry wit 
and good humor, Richard exuded self-confidence and 
competence. His genuine attachment to the U.S. was evident, 
as was his concerned perplexity with regard to why -- in 
Richard's view -- the U.S. was not better prepared for Iraq. 
Although Richard's comment about Sarkozy's inability to 
reassure voters was on the mark, it is also true that the 
Jospins and Strauss-Kahns he finds more reassuring also 
belong to his own political generation. END COMMENT. 
Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm 

Stapleton