Published on Saturday, June 14, 2003 by Reuters
France Chides Washington Over 'My Way' World View
by Tim Hepher
PARIS - France's defense minister took a double swipe at the United States on Saturday, accusing her counterpart Donald Rumsfeld of American supremacism and U.S. industry of waging "economic war" on Europe.
Michele Alliot-Marie's remarks, in a newspaper interview, were the bluntest criticism of Washington by a French official since presidents Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush skirted around their differences on Iraq at a summit two weeks ago.
"The American Defense Secretary (Donald Rumsfeld) believes the United States is the only military, economic and financial power in the world. We do not share this vision," Alliot-Marie told Le Monde newspaper in the interview published on Saturday.
The suggestion of superpower arrogance comes days after Rumsfeld revisited the scene of recent bickering over France's opposition to the Iraq war by distinguishing between "old" and "new" Europe -- language which had infuriated Paris in January.
Back in January, Rumsfeld had dismissed France and Germany as "old Europe" in contrast to a "new Europe" of mostly eastern European countries more supportive of Washington. He repeated the controversial barb in Germany on Wednesday.
Alliot-Marie said military and intelligence co-operation between Paris and Washington had been unaffected by the split over Iraq. The Pentagon, however, said last month France would not be invited to a major military exercise in Nevada next year.
The fallout from the Iraq row was on stark display on Saturday as top U.S. military and aerospace figures boycotted the opening of the Paris Air Show -- a prestigious event held every two years to the noise of American flypasts.
This time, the Pentagon banned the traditional flying displays by its military pilots and scaled down its presence at the Le Bourget show in what is widely seen as a deliberate snub.
In her interview, timed to coincide with the world's largest air show, Alliot-Marie urged European firms to stand together to resist what she called an American "economic war."
"American industrialists are pursuing a logic of economic war," she said in the interview, which Le Monde daily said had been read and cleared by her office before publication.
"This attitude is not connected to the Iraq episode. Faced with this, European industry must regroup in order to be in a better position to resist," she added.
European and American planemakers traditionally battle for airline orders at the Bourget air show outside Paris, but top executives from firms like Boeing and Lockheed Martin have all decided not to attend this year.
Alliot-Marie said she was worried by what she sees as moves by U.S. investors to attempt to take control of firms involved in European defense and had ordered a study into the issue.
Economics apart, diplomats said France and the United States remained far apart on the role to be played by Washington in shaping world affairs.
France used the Group of Eight summit in Evian two weeks ago to promote a "multipolar" view of the world that Bush administration officials, including Rumsfeld, are said to view with exasperation and distrust.
Alliot-Marie's remarks reflect a widely held view in France that Washington wants to be the sole referee on the world stage. In contrast, senior U.S. officials such as national security adviser Condoleezza Rice have questioned why France wants to counterbalance U.S. power.
© 2003 Reuters Ltd