Sarkozy speaks his mind in Moscow

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MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev) - The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has repeated one of the most notable achievements of his Russian counterpart.

During his two-day visit to Moscow he gained from the Russian President what Vladimir Putin once gained from US President George W. Bush - the privilege to speak his mind without damaging personal relations.

The French president said: "France wants to understand you. I appreciate the strength of your convictions. I think we can understand each other, because I also have convictions."

He also said: "Friendship is when people tell each other what they think."

The two presidents did not expect to feel any sympathy for each other, let alone become friends. Yet their meeting was bound to be a success, else it would have been postponed "by mutual agreement."

Relations between France and Russia are multifaceted, complex and extensive, combining many elements and events involving a huge number of people.

One of the most eye-catching diplomatic gestures during Sarkozy's visit was an invitation to Russia's next president (whoever that may be) to the launch of a European satellite on Russian rocket at the Kourou spaceport in French Guyana in 2008.

He also said that French investors would like to buy into Russian energy giant Gazprom.

French business is making inroads into Russia's pharmaceutical and cosmetic sectors, and the two countries plan to join forces in designing new cargo versions of French Airbus.

These events belie the thesis that Sarkozy has torn up the foreign policy of his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, by strengthening ties with the United States, advocating independence for Kosovo, and adopting a stronger stance on the Iranian nuclear issue.

Some say that his policy has pulled France away from Moscow, and that Russia, deprived of German and French sympathies, has suffered a blow in a crucial sphere of foreign policy.

Here is what I would say to that: Like France and Germany under their previous presidents, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder, Moscow has never steered an anti-American policy. However, several years ago the three states, along with many other countries, did their best to contain the United States' destructive military plans, fuelled by an illusion of its own omnipotence.

This is a new world, and it is dealing with a new America. The weakened giant, having now lost its illusions, no longer needs to be contained, but assisted to its new place in global politics. Nor is the international community still concerned with protecting the world from Washington, and Washington from itself. Of far more importance are the potential actions of other, new, powers currently surging into the lead.

Therefore, Sarkozy's idea that the Americans need a helping hand is not preposterous. He and Putin agree on that, and informed sources report that the Moscow talks showed they would not quarrel over Iran.

Instead, France, which initially accepted Bush's invitation to join the psychological attack against Tehran, has now decided to stand back and see how Russia fares with Iran. Sarkozy wants to hear what Putin has to say following his up-coming visit to Tehran.

As for Kosovo, we should take a closer look at the situation in France, the rest of Europe, and also in Russia.

Kosovo, a Caine's mark on Europe, has shown that although Europe geographically stretches to the Urals, politically it is divided into Europe and Russia - and "never the twain shall meet."

You can see this by analyzing the changes in Russia's supposedly pro-Western leader, Putin, who has formulated not a pro-European, but a perfectly independent Russian policy.

In the 1990s, the European community closed its eyes to the silent occupation of Serbian territory by well-armed groups. When it saw that it could not deal with the problem single-handed, it appealed for the United States to send in its bombers. That made a strong impression on both politically aware and ignorant Russians.

Europe then was like Poland under the Kaczynski brothers - scandalous, arrogant and unpleasant, but not dangerous.

Europe has ceased the aggressive marketing of its superior values and morals, but this is about all that has changed. Apart from Kosovo, it will have to do much more to win back Russians' respect.

Moscow does not expect much from the new French president. It is enough for her that his personal style is similar to that of Putin - he can speak his mind to his friends and partners, and expects them to do the same.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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