PARIS If it had been up to the French people, John Kerry would have been elected the next president of the United States by a wide margin. But as officials and political observers here came to terms Wednesday with another four years of George W. Bush in the White House, many said that, ironically, France could come out stronger.
Ever since President Jacques Chirac became one of the most vocal opponents of the American-led war in Iraq and threatened to veto an invasion in the United Nations Security Council, relations not only between the United States and France, but between Bush and Chirac themselves, have been deeply strained. And yet, a Kerry victory might have put the French leader in an uncomfortable bind if Paris’s preferred candidate had requested support in Iraq after the election.
In the world’s other pressing conflicts, from the stalled Middle Eastern peace process to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Chirac is likely to find that a second Bush administration, hampered by a ballooning deficit and an overstretched military, is eager for a more conciliatory discourse with its traditional allies in Europe, including France.
“Chirac is in an enviable position in a strategic sense,” said FranÃ§ois Heisbourg, director of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research. “For him a Bush victory comes in quite handy. He will make as much hay of this as he can for his European agenda.”0