Fabio Liberti, a Paris-based expert on defense and European issues, says he thinks the meeting between Cameron and Hollande should go well despite their disagreements, because the French president has made his positions known and has no interest in being combative.
“He is starting his presidency with already quite a few tensions so I don’t think he wants to add more to it, if you will,” says Mr. Liberti, a research director at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations. “Today the French-British relationship isn’t the most urgent issue, so I don’t see him being aggressive with David Cameron.”
Cameron also has softened his tone this week amid the deepening Greek crisis, offering some praise for Hollande's initiatives and aligning himself a bit more with pro-growth camps.
"Even with the election of a Socialist president in France, he's actually said 'how am I going to stimulate the economy, I'm not going to do it through extra public spending, because actually we've got to cut back on that,'" Cameron told ITV1's television's Daybreak show. The prime minister also noted that Hollande's target for balancing the budget by 2017 outpaced that of the UK.
With Afghanistan a central issue at the NATO summit, Hollande's pledge to withdraw 3,400 remaining French troops by the end of 2012, even though the NATO deadline for ending combat operations is late 2014, is also a point of concern. Cameron is expected to ask Hollande, who has made public that he considers France’s mission in Afghanistan to be completed, to reconsider his position when they meet today.
Liberti says the problems that a French early pullout of Afghanistan could pose shouldn’t be overestimated because he says it simply won’t happen. Liberti says he believes the French military won’t have enough time to leave Afghanistan by year's end.