Chirac Tells Bush to Mind his Own Business

Telegraph — Chirac tells Bush to keep his nose out

President Jacques Chirac shattered the carefully contrived show of transatlantic amity at the Nato summit yesterday when he made an unprecedented attack on President George W Bush for meddling in the European Union’s business by supporting Turkey’s membership.

Mr Chirac is known for his sharp tongue but, even during the most bitter disputes last year over his opposition to war in Iraq, he never hurled personal abuse at Mr Bush. However, yesterday the French president lost any such reserve when he told Mr Bush that EU affairs were none of his business. Stung by Mr Bush’s call for the EU to give Turkey a firm date for accession, Mr Chirac responded: “He not only went too far but he has gone into a domain which is not his own. He has nothing to say on this subject. It is as if I were to tell the United States how it should conduct its relations with Mexico.”

Other than the fact that France is a used-to-be military and economic power with illusions of past grandeur and the U.S. is the World’s Sole Remaining Superpower, yes.

The comments will rank alongside his other recent broadsides: his rebuke to Tony Blair in October 2002, when he called the Prime Minister “very rude”, and his patronising response in February 2003 to eastern European candidate countries that supported America’s policy in Iraq, telling them they had “missed a good chance to keep quiet”.

Sometimes, I wish we’d let the Germans keep France.

UPDATE: AP — Bush Defies Chirac, Says Turkey Merits EU Place

President Bush said on Tuesday that Turkey belongs in the European Union and that Europe is “not the exclusive club of a single religion” in what amounted to a rejection of French President Jacques Chirac. In remarks prepared for delivery at a Istanbul university, Bush refused to back down in the face of Chirac’s criticism on Monday that Bush had no business urging the EU to set a date for Turkey to start entry talks into the union. “America believes that as a European power, Turkey belongs in the European Union,” Bush said.

Bush is to use the speech to try to mend relations between Muslims and Americans left tattered relations by the Iraq war. “We must strengthen the ties and trust and good will between ourselves and the peoples of the Middle East,” he said. Bush held up Turkey as an example of a Muslim democracy and said its entry to the EU would be “a crucial advance in relations between the Muslim world and the West, because you are part of both.” “Including Turkey in the EU would prove that Europe is not the exclusive club of a single religion, and it would expose the ‘clash of civilizations’ as a passing myth of history,” Bush said.

I’m not sure that it’s a myth. The jihadist forces we’re up against are unlikely to take Westernized Turkey seriously as a “Muslim” state. On the other hand, it makes sense to integrate Turkey into Western institutions to continue its move into modernity and away from fundamentalist Islam.

In related news:

AP — France Blocks U.S. on Elite Force for Afghanistan

France has blocked a U.S. bid to deploy NATO’s new strike force to safeguard Afghanistan’s elections, stoking tension between the two allies that fell out over the Iraq war, diplomats said Tuesday. “France, and to a lesser extent others such as Spain, are suspicious about using the NATO Response Force (NRF),” said one envoy at the alliance summit in Istanbul. “It says the force is not ready for this kind of environment and should not be used simply as a sticking plaster for troop shortages on routine operations.”

France’s opposition to a proposal that could help resolve NATO’s problems finding troops to make the September polls safe exasperated Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who pushed the idea hard at a meeting of allied defense ministers. A senior U.S. official said Rumsfeld had suggested that the alliance could sometimes use its Defense Planning Committee — on which France has no seat because it is not part of NATO’s integrated military structure — to authorize an NRF deployment.


One European official said the U.S.-French tussle was more about procedure. Paris is concerned that sending the NRF to Afghanistan could set a precedent for using it as a “toolbox” whenever NATO has problems pooling forces for an operation. “France worries … (this) would lead to an automatism jeopardizing the principle that a political decision must be taken before NATO commits to operations such as election protection in Afghanistan,” the official said.

In this case, France may be right. It’s unclear from the story why this force would be deployedfor a non-emergency, non-elite mission. Military alliances have to operate on consensus.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Chirac honestly doesn’t think it’s OK for “powers at the center” to tell each other what to do. He has no such qualms, however, about the big boys telling less wealthy states how to conduct themselves, as I’ve documented here.

  2. DC Loser says:

    How very German of you to say that….If your sentiments are correct and France is a has been then why are we so insistent on having them bail our asses out in Afghanistan AND Iraq, not to mention that unfinished business in Kosovo and Bosnia. Nobody’s perfect but we’re not exactly not covered in the shit we made ourselves. Chirac does have a point about meddling in other people’s affairs. We can talk about Turkey and NATO all we want since we’re in NATO. However, we are not in the EU so that’s none of our business. Monroe Doctrine sort of works both ways.

  3. James Joyner says:

    I don’t think anyone is expecting France to bail us out. How could they? We’re looking for two things:

    1) an “international” face, means support from the UN or NATO institutionally. That would be mostly cosmetic; from a purely military standpoint, the US is the UN and NATO, in that both would be meaningless without us.

    2) More “boots on the ground.” That’s just a matter of warm bodies. One doesn’t need to be a world power to provide those.

    The U.S. obviously has a stage interest in what goes on in Europe. We’ve provided the lion’s share of Europe’s defense for 60-odd years. Plus, we’re the only world power. Very little international action of consequence happens in Europe (Bosnia, Kosovo, etc.), Africa, or Latin America without our involvement.

  4. DC Loser says:

    I don’t know what you mean by “cosmetic,” but Non-US NATO has 6500 currently in Afghanistan which is about 30% of the total in country. And it’ll be up to 10,000 for the September elections. Not exactly a cosmetic presence I’d say. If we had to pull out 10,000 from Iraq to replace those troops it’ll be a big hurt.

  5. Fausta says:

    Jacques got plenty of reason to worry what Sarkozy would say to all this — while Jacques’s away, Sarko’s already saying that full economic ties with Iraq will be restored immediately. Ii wouldn’t be surprised if Sarko’s got plans for Turkey, too.

  6. DC Loser says:

    The issue of Turkish membership in EU is much more complicated than making Turkey a European country. You have all of the issues such as the Greek-Turkish dispute, Cyprus, worries about the assimilation of Muslim population in Europe coupled with free migration on the table with Turkish EU membership. Also, does the Turkish economy at this point even qualify it for EU membership? I don’t know the answer, but I would suspect that’s it’s a NO at this point.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Sure. I’m not sure that, on balance, admitting Turkey makes sense. Certainly, pre War on Terrorists, I’d have thought not. But that’s a separate argument from whether the President of the US is entitled to weigh in on the matter.

  8. TM Lutas says:

    The EU has a higher population than the US. The fact that they are supplying 30% of the forces in Afghanistan when they have more people to draw from is not a sign of European seriousness regarding their alliance commitments. At the same time, 30% is not cosmetic so why not split the difference and call it childish and irresponsible, hmm?

    Ultimately, the muslims who declare Osama bin Laden and his Muslim Brotherhood allies to be apostates (with all the baggage that carries among muslims) are going to end up deserving EU entry. Unfortunately, the ranks of those muslims are rather thin on the ground at the moment.

  9. Lorne says:

    Let’s get it straight. The U.S. is the world’s only military superpower, not the only economic superpower, and we cannot survive without the products and services that come into the U.S. from France, which isn’t the only European country with which we face a sharp trade deficit. We fell right into Europe’s trap — under Reagan, Bush I and now W, they allowed us to become the world’s police department while they strengthened their economies and relationships with each other.

    We will be much stronger once Bush and the other oil-loving hawks are gone.

  10. Atm says:

    I’m pretty sure we can survive without goods and services from France. Germany, on the other hand, is more problematic. And if you are going to blame Reagan, 41, and 43 you should apportion more blame to Clinton, who was president during much of the time when European forces were being cut. Moreover he committed forces on multiple occasions to deal with European problems.

  11. Lorne says:

    Fair point, atm, regarding Clinton. Perhaps if he had the support of Congress, he might’ve been able to prevent the massacres in the former Yugoslavia. But then again, the Right doesn’t believe in using the military for anything but its own gain. Regarding France’s imports, we’re not talking about wine here. Check out the U.S. sales of pharmaceuticals discovered and developed by the French. It’s remarkable.

  12. John Doe says:

    Elite units benefit from real world experience.