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France: Factors Shaping Foreign Policy, and Issues in U.S.-French Relations

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Congressional rept.

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The factors that shape French foreign policy have changed since the end of the Cold War. The perspectives of France and the United States have diverged in some cases. More core interests remain similar. Both countries governments have embraced the opportunity to build stability in Europe through an expanded European Union and NATO. Each has recognized that terrorism and the proliferation of WMD are the most important threats to their security today. Several factors shape French foreign policy. France has a self-identity that calls for efforts to spread French values and views, many rooted in democracy and human rights. France prefers to engage international issues in a multilateral framework, above all through the European Union. European efforts to form an EU security policy potentially independent of NATO emerged in this context. From the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States through the Iraq war of 2003 until today, France has pressed the United States to confront emerging crises within a multilateral framework. France normally wishes to legitimize actions ranging from economic sanctions to political censure to military action in the United Nations. Bush Administration officials have at times reacted with hostility to such efforts, charging that French efforts to ensure multipolarity in the world are a euphemism for organizing opposition to U.S. initiatives. Trade and investment ties between the United States and France are extensive. Through trade in goods and services, and, most importantly, through foreign direct investment, the economies of France and the United States have become increasingly integrated. Other areas of complementarity include the Balkans peace operations, the stabilization of Afghanistan, and the fight against terrorism. A major split occurred over Iraq, however, with many countries either supporting or independently sharing French ideas of greater international involvement.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Psychology

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