Obama, Sarkozy in Strasbourg, France

So this has been a very productive conversation. I look forward to further productive conversations this evening and tomorrow, surrounding NATO’s mission. And I’m confident that when the United States and France are acting in concert, that the prospects for peace and prosperity around the world are strengthened.

With that, why don’t we take a couple of questions. Do you want to go first?

PRESIDENT SARKOZY: Of course, I wish to welcome Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Kouchner.

Q (As translated.) Mr. President explained to the French that the return of France to the military and to greater structures of NATO would be offset by enhanced European defense. Have you got guarantees from President Obama, for instance, on the emergence of a planning, autonomous planning unit?

PRESIDENT SARKOZY: Well, you know, I’ve always been convinced that France and the United States belong to the same family. You know, we’re in Strasbourg here. I am enamored of history and I say to the French, never forget what American democracy did for us. On the 6th of June next the two of us will be walking on the Normandy landing beaches in order to pay tribute to those young Americans who died — fought and died for us, who our children are the same age as they were.

Now, I don’t need this kind of ruffle with President Obama. I trust him. I don’t need guarantees. I trust him. I trust his word. And I trust his intelligence. He doesn’t need me in order to understand that a strong Europe — a strong Europe of defense is the best guarantee for the USA. President Obama’s America doesn’t want weak allies. They want strong allies who face up to their responsibilities. And we’ve been discussing this for a long time.

But this hasn’t been a negotiation, a bargaining round. We have a shared vision of the world. We don’t want to impose our values on anybody. But we don’t want anybody, anywhere in the world to prevent us from believing in our principles.

And a word to the French. It’s extraordinary, you know, for years now we’ve been sending soldiers to fight under the NATO flag — and yet we have not had anyone participating in those committees that actually laid down the strategy. Now, I want it to be — I’ve shouldered the responsibility of my choices. NATO has been around for 60 years. And if there is peace and peace has prevailed, it is no coincidence — it is because we have worked together with our allies, and the first and foremost being the United States, who know perfectly well that France and other allies — this Europe of defense, it will comprise allies and friends, longstanding strong allies and friends.

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