President Bush heralded a â€śnew era of transatlantic unityâ€ť when he arrived in France yesterday, with the location of his speech as significant as its content. By choosing Paris for what White House officials described as â€śthe centrepieceâ€ť of his week-long farewell trip to Europe, Mr Bush sought to put the seal on a dramatic transformation in relations with France since President
Sarkozy was elected last year.
Britain, which for so long has acted as a sometimes rickety bridge across the Atlantic, no longer has such strategic diplomatic importance. President Bush is spending two nights in Paris, but only one in London tomorrow â€” when he will have a private dinner with Gordon Brown after seeing the Queen. Much of his trip to Britain will be devoted to the relatively parochial issue of Northern Ireland before he heads home.
While the Prime Minister has shied away from being seen as too close to the American President â€” the British Embassy in Washington, for instance, operating under strict orders to maintain a low profile â€” the French President has quite deliberately donned the mantle once worn by Tony Blair, defiantly â€” even triumphantly â€” talking up his love for all things American. Yesterday a US diplomat called Mr Sarkozy the â€śaxis on which our relations with Europe will turnâ€ť, adding that his â€śpenchant for action rather than reflectionâ€ť suited Mr Bushâ€™s own temperament.
Laura Bush told reporters on Air Force One yesterday that she appreciated the warmth that Mr Sarkozy displayed towards her country â€” â€śI think all Americans doâ€ť. She then told how the US Ambassador in Paris had slipped into the back row of a meeting recently and heard Mr Sarkozy say some â€śvery pro-American thingsâ€ť that were not â€śfor his benefit â€” he didnâ€™t think Sarkozy knew he was thereâ€ť...
Is France America's new best friend? - Times Online