In what many are calling Nicholas Sarkozy’s first serious foreign policy speech, the new French president had some strong words for Russia, accusing them of using their oil and gas assets with “brutality” to achieve political leverage abroad:
“Russia is imposing its return on the world scene by playing its assets, notably oil and gas, with a certain brutality. … When you are a great power, you should not use brutality.“
But has Sarkozy really “aligned himself” with critics of Putinist Russia? Isn’t this the same president who is suspected of making a secret pact to help Total to become the first foreign company invited by Russia to develop the Shtokman Field? In any case, the Russia comment was just a footnote to a much longer speech aimed at reasserting the influence of the European Union (See “Rambo in the Elysée“). Sarkozy sought to distance himself not only from Russia, but also China and the United States. This independence, whether it is only a perception or not, will allow for a greater range of action and policy responses vis-à-vis Moscow, which is certainly a positive indication for the future, and an enormous improvement over his predecessor.