RFERL wrote in 2008:

By throwing his weight behind Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's calls for an OSCE summit in 2009 to discuss a new "security architecture" for Europe, Sarkozy ignored the misgivings of many EU members and fostered the impression that the bloc stands divided from NATO. [...]

Injecting his opinion of sovereign Polish and Czech decisions to host components of a U.S. missile-defense shield that is fiercely opposed by Moscow, the French president predicted security in Europe would be rendered "more remote." [...]

The author of the piece, Vincent Jauvert, marveled at the magnitude of the shift in Sarkozy's views. Ahead of his election as French president in May 2007, Sarkozy had denounced Moscow's "silence on the 200,000 dead in Chechnya," saying he would "rather shake the hand of Bush than that of Putin."

Whether Sarkozy's U-turn was inspired by opportunism, reflective of a calculation of French national interest, or engineered by high-powered advisers with ethnic Russian backgrounds -- as "Le Nouvel Observateur" hinted in its piece -- doesn't ultimately matter. The French leader appears intent on carving out a de facto lead role for himself and France in the EU-Russia relationship that would outlast France's six-month EU Presidency, which ends on December 31.

Of course, one should assume too much as what the cause and what the effect, e.g. Sarkozy could have decided beforehand to lie/deceive (cough, cough) about his intentions during the election, and then surrounded himself with advisers who agreed with his foreign policy objective of a rapprochement with Russia. But anyhow, who were those "high-powered advisers with ethnic Russian backgrounds" that Sarkozy allegedly surrounded himself with?

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    Could be simply a racist slur - there are plenty French with "Russian background" that are considered authentically French, ever since 1917 - like Serge Gainsbourg or Charles Aznavour... even Marie Curie was born in the Russian Empire. Feb 19 at 7:19
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    This is doubly weird because a person of Russian descent in France would rarely be a fan of Putin.
    – alamar
    Feb 19 at 9:24
  • @RogerV.: People sometimes bring Madeleine Albright's ethnicity/life-experiences as part of the explanation for [her support of] NATO expansion, so it's not always just that simple. I don't have any clue whom the quoted bit alludes to here, so it could be completely ludicrous as you [and almar] have suggested. Feb 19 at 10:28

1 Answer 1


It seems that the article by Le Nouvel Observateur is called « Sarko le Russe » - a reference to the Sarkozy's earlier nickname « Sarko l'americain ». For some reasons I cannot find the original article on the Le Nouvel Observateur web site, even though it is cited here with the date specified (13 November 2008). However, I found what seems to be the copy of this article reported by the Russian prime minister office. The relevant passage is (and google translate):

Au contraire. Les nouveaux responsables de la politique étrangère française connaissent de longue date leurs homologues russes et les apprécient. Quand Kouchner représentait l'ONU au Kosovo, Sergueï Lavrov, son alter ego à Moscou, était ambassadeur aux Nations unies. Les deux hommes se tutoient depuis des années. De même, Levitte, dont le père était russe, retrouve son ami Sergueï Prikhodko, le sherpa de Poutine (et désormais de Medvedev). Où ? A la place exacte où il l'avait quitté en 2000, quand lui-même était déjà à l'Elysée, conseiller diplomatique de... Chirac. «Diplomator» était aussi le collègue de Lavrov à l'ONU, au moment où la France et la Russie faisaient bloc contre l'Amérique et sa guerre en Irak. Tout cela crée des liens, des liens particulièrement forts.
Ce n'est pas tout. Matignon est désormais dirigé par des partisans de rapports très étroits avec Moscou. Au premier rang desquels François Fillon, lui-même (en avril dernier, il sera le premier responsable occidental à justifier publiquement le refus des candidatures de la Géorgie et de l'Ukraine à l'Otan par la nécessité de ménager Moscou) . Deux des plus proches conseillers du Premier ministre, Jean de Boishue et Igor Mitrofanoff, parlent admirablement la langue de Pouchkine et se rendent régulièrement, depuis longtemps, à Moscou. De Boishue y était déjà avec Pompidou...

On the contrary. The new heads of French foreign policy have known their Russian counterparts for a long time and appreciate them. When Kouchner represented the UN in Kosovo, Sergei Lavrov, his alter ego in Moscow, was ambassador to the United Nations. The two men have been familiar with each other for years. Likewise, Levitte, whose father was Russian, finds his friend Sergei Prikhodko, Putin's (and now Medvedev's) sherpa. Or ? In the exact place where he left in 2000, when he himself was already at the Elysée, diplomatic advisor to... Chirac. “Diplomator” was also Lavrov's colleague at the UN, at a time when France and Russia united against America and its war in Iraq. All this creates links, particularly strong links.
That's not all. Matignon is now led by supporters of very close relations with Moscow. First and foremost, François Fillon himself (last April, he will be the first Western official to publicly justify the refusal of Georgia and Ukraine's applications to NATO by the need to spare Moscow). Two of the Prime Minister's closest advisors, Jean de Boishue and Igor Mitrofanoff, speak Pushkin's language admirably and have been visiting Moscow regularly for a long time. De Boishue was already there with Pompidou...

According to their French Wikipedia page, Jean de Boishue has a Russian mother, whereas Igor Mitrofanof likely has Russian ancestors on his father's side, as his last name suggests.

Appealing to ethnic origins as an evidence of being pro-Russian is rather bad taste (thinking of Niki Haley, Camala Harris and Barack Obama), as all these people were born and grew up in France. Furthermore, the article partially negates its own argument by bringing up Vladimir Boukovski - a Russian dissident exchanged in 1976 for the Chilean communist leader Luis Corvalan - as the archetypal anti-Putin figure.


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