Power, Principles and Procedures : Reinterpreting French foreign policy towards the USA (2001-2003)

Working Paper, NUPI

French foreign policy towards the US is often understood as particularly confrontational and based on traditional power politics, or a wish to re-establish “la grandeur de la France”. This article aims at investigating the validity of this widely held view. It further seeks to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the French positions by studying the arguments used by the French political leadership and the implications of the Iraq conflict for bilateral cooperation at lower levels. This study questions the common assumption of IR theory that national identities and/or interests are fixed and independent of structural factors such as international norms and values. It also questions the value of focusing exclusively on diplomatic or “top-level” bilateral relations, without looking at “low-level” or practical bilateral cooperation and/or conflicts.