France and Germany Dispute American Influence

Will the union of France and Germany become a counterbalance to the United States?

The problems in the relations between the United States of America on the one hand, and France and Germany on the other hand, keep growing bigger and bigger every day. The Iraqi issue became a formal reason of the given conflict. However, the opposition between the USA and Germany and France started long ago.

The point of the conflict is not about Iraq only. The political ambition of Germany and France is a lot bigger than the framework, which Washington wants it to fit in. The USA is intoxicated with the role of a superpower. It is an open secret that a superpower can not share its influence and power with anyone else. As soon as a rival comes into the picture, the struggle for the preservation of influence (or extension, if possible) starts immediately. The sooner you identify a danger, the easier you cope with it.

American law-makers seriously consider an opportunity to institute sanctions against Germany and France. As a matter of fact, this is not a big surprise indeed. This would be rather a logical step to make after all those insulting statements that the sides have released for each other lately. In addition to that, commercial wars occur at times between the United States,  Germany and France as well. However, they are not that frequent as they used to be in the 1980s. Until recently, the USA has not used any trade sanctions against its allies for political reasons. At least, Washington has never done it the way it is doing it now. Nowadays, Americans do not conceal the fact that possible sanctions are connected with Germany and France’s stand on the Iraqi issue. However, it does not mean that the United States will manage to infringe upon the interests of its European opponents. Restricting the volume of imported mineral water in France is an absolutely different matter against recommending American aviation companies not to take part in the French Le Bourget airshow. The managers of American companies realize it a lot better than politicians: the consequences of such sanctions against France and Germany might cost a lot to the USA.

Joel L. Johnson, the head of the international issues department of the US Aerospace Industries Association, said in his interview to the Financial Times that American companies would most likely come to Le Bourget airshow in Paris. As he said, the Le Bourget airshow is the most important public undertaking in the industry. Joel Johnson added that there would be only Eurofighter, Mirage and Airbus jets exhibited otherwise: "That's not sticking your finger in French eyes. That's sticking fingers in our own eyes" – he said.

However, US House of Representatives member, New Jersey's James Saxton, who suggested American companies should bypass the biennial air show, thinks otherwise. Saxton believes that certain branches of the American industry will probably suffer from that. Although, “from an American perspective, those concerns are overridden by the dangers posed by terrorism and the obstacles the Chirac government is placing in the way of the war on terrorism,” Saxton said.

To all appearances, things got really heated, if American law-makers do not really care about the future of the hightech industry, which does not experience its best times at present anyway. Anything goes for the sake of a principle, so to speak. It is curious that France gets a lot more criticism on the part of American officials than Germany does. Probably, there are two ways to explain that. First of all, Germany’s presence in the American economy is a lot bigger against France’s (DaimlerChrysler corporation says a lot about it). Second of all, the German government is currently headed with social democrats. The latter are in the opposition to the rightist movement, which makes the German government closer to America’s Republicans. The rightist forces of Germany – the most influential party is the Christian and Democratic Union – support the idea of an army operation in Iraq. Yet, the French government is of the rightist character, presided over by the rightist president. As a matter of fact, the right parties of France have had problems with the USA before for their peculiar viewpoint regarding the role of their country in the international policy. France’s pull out from NATO military organization during Charle de Gaulle's presidency is a good example to prove it.

All those complicated relations are actually a background for France and Germany’s attempts to set up some sort of an influential center in Europe. That center would not be completely dependant on the American point of view about this or that issue. There are rather large Muslim diasporas both in France and in Germany. The governments of the two countries are afraid of the outburst of their anger, if Paris and Berlin back up the military operation in Iraq. Yet, it is not that relevant. Needless to mention  that the German and the French governments have to take the Muslim opinion into their consideration. On the other hand, it is not the decisive factor to reject the necessity of the war in the Gulf. It is more about the complicated combination of various interests – political, economic and social ones. The Iraqi crisis might push France and Germany to unite into a certain unified state. At the same time, the crisis might also become a good test for the viability of such an establishment. If France and Germany eventually unite (although it does not seem so at the moment), the United States of America will lose a considerable part of its influence on the European affairs. If the USA does not have Europe’s support (at least of several influential European countries), the American superpower issue will become really doubtful indeed. Europe depends on the USA the same way that the USA depends on Europe, no matter what Washington might say about it. At the end of the day, there are lots of other problems in the words besides Iraq. If the USA has to face all those other problems alone, the story will have a very sad ending.

Oleg Artyukov

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

Author`s name Olga Savka