Elsewhere, Sarkozy’s record is little better. His courtship of India, conducted with great pomp and circumstance, has resulted in few concrete gains. In Brazil, his heavy-handed interference torpedoed what had seemed like a done deal for the first foreign sale of the French-built Rafale fighter jet. Relations with China have been prickly, and his global summitry has often highlighted the limits of France’s influence rather than its power.
If there is any consolation for Sarkozy, it is that the hapless Hollande is unconvincing in the guise of a global leader. Hollande emerged from the Socialist Party’s primary with impressive poll numbers, but saddled with a saggy image and a party campaign platform that lacks credibility. His first foreign policy declaration was to promise to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, despite a consensus among France’s coalition partners to remain through 2014. His second was to promise, in the immediate aftermath of the EU’s last-chance summit in late-December, to renegotiate the resulting “fiscal union” deal that, though flawed, came at a time when many wondered whether the euro would survive the holidays. Both declarations, though defensible on the merits, showed something of a tin ear for diplomacy.