In June 2000, France's foreign minister, Hubert Vedrine, published Les cartes de la France a l'heure de la mondialisation to address questions about French diplomacy. His interviewer was Dominique Moisi, editor of Politique etrangere and deputy director of the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales -- France's equivalents of Foreign Affairs and the Council on Foreign Relations, respectively. The statements of Vedrine, who had also been the secretary-general of the French presidency under Francois Mitterrand, are interesting for two reasons: first, they project light on some very controversial policies; and second, they reveal a style of intelligent foreign policy analysis and lucid detachment that is rare among heads of state and academics today. This is one of the reasons why the reader is often reminded of Henry Kissinger. Moisi's questions are probing, and he never hesitates to indicate the disagreements between himself and Vedrine. Thanks to Moisi's polite provocations, the foreign minister's cool discourse often heats up.
The American edition, admirably translated by Philip Gordon, goes even further than the French version. It includes a fresh discussion of events since last year, such as the European Union (EU) summit in Nice last December; Vedrine defends rather convincingly France's conduct at the summit, which came under wide criticism. The American version also contains a spirited (if oblique) reply to Tony Judt's vinegary review of the French edition in The New York Review of Books last April.
The book does not offer a detailed analysis of French diplomacy per se. Rather, it assesses France's situation and objectives in a world in which the state's importance as a global actor has diminished. Two concerns dominate the book: the continuity of French foreign policy and the United States' weight in world affairs. Following the principles drawn up more than 40 years ago by Charles de Gaulle, France continues to insist on the role of a major international actor. Indeed, both the left and the right agree on this ambition, which has made political cooperation between President Jacques Chirac,
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