Barack Obama has declared that France is America’s greatest ally, undermining Britain’s special relationship with the U.S. The President risked offending British troops in Afghanistan by saying that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is a ‘stronger friend’ than David Cameron.
The remarks, during a White House appearance with Mr Sarkozy, will reinforce the widely-held view in British diplomatic circles that Obama has less interest in the Special Relationship than any other recent American leader.
Obama said: ‘We don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people.’
The comments follow a pattern of coldness towards the UK. When Gordon Brown was prime minister, Obama snubbed his requests for meetings in the U.S.
He also denounced Britain during his inauguration speech.
The UK has lost nearly 350 troops in the war against the Taliban – seven times as many as France.
And there are more than 10,000 British soldiers serving in Helmand province, compared with just 3,850 Frenchmen.Mr Obama’s stance was swiftly condemned in Westminster.
Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former commander of the Sherwood Foresters regiment, said: ‘I’m getting a bit fed up with the American President using terms like “best ally” so loosely.
‘It’s Britain that has had more than 300 servicemen killed in Afghanistan, not France.
‘That to my mind is a lot more powerful than any political gesture making.’
The remarks also angered conservatives in Washington.
Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre For Freedom at the Heritage Foundation think-tank, said: ‘Quite what the French have done to merit this kind of high praise from the U.S. President is difficult to fathom.
‘And if the White House means what it says this represents an extraordinary sea change in foreign policy.’Dr Gardiner, a former aide to Lady Thatcher, added: ‘To suggest that Paris and not London is Washington’s strongest partner is simply ludicrous.
‘Such a remark is not only factually wrong but insulting to Britain, not least coming just a few years after the French knifed Washington in the back over the war in Iraq.’