Since independence in 1960, maintaining an atmosphere of cooperation between France and the government of the CAR has been the key foreign policy objective. It is without doubt the single most important political and economic relationship for the CAR. The new government will require continued French assistance and financial support for reform to succeed. However, it is also true that due to its landlocked position on the continent and the economic and political practicalities which follow, the CAR has actively attempted to foster close relations with its neighbors. Former president Kolingba summed up this two-pronged focus of foreign policy in a 1986 speech: "Our foreign policy is based on good relations with our neighbors and particularly favored by a linkage to France as the understanding between our two countries is total."
The French view the CAR's location as central to maintaining a presence in sub-Saharan Africa, reflected in the continued presence of French troops, and as a venue for maintaining French culture and language in the developing world. The 3,000 French expatriates who live in the CAR are more often than not technical advisors or aid workers who draw salaries from various French aid programs. Moreover, the French view their continued presence in the CAR as both a buffer against Libyan expansion in Chad (another former French colony) and an area of its former empire it wants to protect against encroachment by another power. Patassé has benefitted politically from this relationship both in terms of his ability to remain in opposition to the government while living in France during the 1960s and by the application of French pressure to the former regime to hold multi-party elections and accept the results.
Despite the historic relationship, France has been increasingly reluctant to continue direct support of the CAR government without some hope of improvement in its financial condition in the foreseeable future. This has led to growing pressure from the international community, particularly the IMF, the World Bank, and the UN Development Program (UNDP), in attempts to reform the public structure of the CAR economy, with an emphasis on privatization and market prices for its commodities.
The unrest in CAR from 2001–2002 caused the United States to close its embassy and warn U.S. citizens against travel there. Western governments are increasingly wary of the large Libyan presence in CAR, as they say the troops harass citizens and seem to be there only to protect the president.