Leaked diplomatic memos from the U.S. ambassador in Paris cast French President Nicolas Sarkozy as "hyperactive" and impulsive, an authoritarian leader surrounded by aides who don't dare challenge him.
The once-secret memos, published online Tuesday by WikiLeaks, offer a candid look at how the United States views the leadership skills of the man whose country currently heads the Group of 20 developed and emerging economies, and which also will run the Group of 8 industrialized powers starting in January.
The cables by U.S. Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin — though poking fun at Sarkozy's personality in sometimes undiplomatic language — also describe France under Sarkozy as "unabashedly pro-American" and describe him as a crucial partner willing to break with tradition and innovate.
Yet Sarkozy doesn't always follow up on big ideas, one December 2009 memo sent to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said.
"His impatience for results and desire to seize the initiative — with or without the support of international partners and his own advisers — challenges us to channel his impulsive proposals into constructive directions with an eye to long-term results," the ambassador wrote.
Sarkozy's aides avoid provoking him — last year, they reportedly even rerouted his plane so he wouldn't see the Eiffel Tower lit up in the colors of Turkey's flag, the memo said. Sarkozy opposes Turkey's bid to join the European Union.
Sarkozy's aides "demonstrate little independence and appear to have little effect on curbing the hyperactive president, even when he is at his most mercurial," the memo said.
At the time the cable was written, there was turnover among Sarkozy's staff, "raising questions as to whether new faces will be any more willing to point out when the emperor is less than fully dressed," the memo said.
In response to the leaks, Paul Patin, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Paris, said: "President Sarkozy has proved time and time again that he is a true friend of the U.S. France is one of our closest allies, and our partnership has only gotten stronger during his presidency."
France has joined the U.S. in expressing outrage about whistle-blower WikiLeaks, which obtained more than 250,000 leaked American diplomatic files from missions around the world.
French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told Europe-1 radio Wednesday that the leaks were "totally irresponsible." Sarkozy's office declined to comment on specifics of the leaks.