La Vigie Nr 198 : Rearming Germany | Lorgnette : an end to Al Qaeda | Reading notes

Letter from La Vigie, 3rd August 2022

Rearming Germany

The Federal Chancellor’s intention to make the German army the first in Europe raises historical, material and human challenges for Germany. However, this view is incomplete, because deterrence, the construction of a European army and its articulation with national armies are implicitly included in the German announcement. This should give rise to new strategic considerations.

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Lorgnette: an end to Al Qaeda

On 31 July, an American drone killed Ayman al Zawahiri in Afghanistan. This Egyptian doctor is of interest. As a young man, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and was fascinated by Sayyd Qutb, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who was executed by Nasser in 1966 and was a proponent of radical Islam. Thus, Zawahiri made the connection between this radical current stemming from the Brotherhood and what would become Al Qaeda.

At the end of the 1980s, after a few years in prison, he went to Pakistan and joined forces with O. bin Laden, with whom he became his personal physician and founded Al Qaeda. They broke with the Brotherhood and theorised a global Islamic struggle. After bin Laden’s death in 2011, he took over the leadership of the movement even though he lacked the charisma of his predecessor.

The American strike symbolically closes a cycle: that of the misnamed ‘war on terror’ which has influenced all the strategic thinking of the last twenty years. It comes at a time when the Taliban reign in Kabul and the United States is engaged in other challenges: support for Ukraine and confrontation with China. This poor record does not mean that jihadism has succeeded: indeed, it is still with us.

Reading notes

For your holiday reading, we suggest the following books:

  • Le traquenard (Boustani et Seznec)
  • Risques et dérives de la vie religieuse (de Lassus)
  • Le travail invisible (Gomez)
  • Aimer l’armée, une passion à partager (Bentegeat)
  • Traité de stratégie (Coutau-Bégarie)
  • Pourquoi la dissuasion (Roche)
  • La houle s’en allait au levant (Finaz)
  • Opération poker (Maigret)
  • Les voies de la puissance (Ancel)
  • Les guerres de religion (miquel)
  • Les abeilles grises (Kourkov)
  • Un général des généraux (Boucq et Juncker)

To read them, click here

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La Vigie Nr 197 : European security 2022 : to the results | The Chinese question | Lorgnette : Heatwave

Letter from La Vigie, 20th July 2022

European Security 2022: to the results

At the results in mid-2022, the war in Ukraine appears as a major hitch in the trajectory of European security 30 years after the Cold War: a suffering Ukraine, a raw front line in the heart of a continent that is freezing, a postponed European reunification, a Russia that is turning its back on Europe and engaging in new Asian cooperative horizons. France, which cannot be satisfied with this, must retain its freedom of thought and proposal in the face of this strategic discontinuity. This war is first and foremost a question of European security, to be dealt with first and foremost among Europeans. Can we still force Russia to accept a more cooperative framework of cohabitation in Europe through a real and better coordinated strategic containment? It is by answering this question that France will be able to revise its military posture and avoid the anachronistic trap of a massive capability grooming.

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The Chinese question

China is experiencing a sudden economic slowdown, due in large part to a brutal zero-covid policy. This is undermining a system based on successful growth. It affects Beijing’s international posture: less towards the near abroad than the implementation of its global policy. These economic challenges pose political problems that will be at the heart of the next CCP Congress this autumn.

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Lorgnette: Heatwave

What does the recent heatwave in France and Europe tell us? First of all, the reality of climate change, now measurable by everyone, at the level of human experience. The novelty of the current episode lies in its brutality, which makes it a radical departure from the climatic variations that the earth has experienced in the past, which extended over hundreds and thousands of years. The cause is most certainly also human.

It should also be noted that it coincides with the development of globalisation in the 1980s: the emergence of the Third World and the transformation of numerous countries into manufacturing workshops has led to production, trade and consumption. The heat wave is the counterpart of our prosperity. And if China is responsible for 30% of the planet’s greenhouse gases, it is because it produces for the Western consumer.

Symbolically, this heatwave also reflects the political and economic disruption of the world. Wars and conflicts are still raging (Ukraine, Yemen, Sahel) and popular riots are on the rise (Sri Lanka, Panama). Everywhere, the planet is experiencing a heat wave.

This is worrying.

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La Vigie Nr 196 : NATO: Renaissance or mere respite? | The drone-cannon couple | Lorgnette: Supreme division

Letter from La Vigie, 6 July 2022

NATO: Renaissance or mere respite?

The Atlantic Alliance summit held in Madrid at the end of June showed a renewed unity of the Allies after three difficult years. The war in Ukraine has simplified the common approach, which has resulted in a new concept, the accession of two new members and a strengthened defensive posture. However, structural differences remain and the proclaimed renaissance may be no more than a respite.

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The drone-cannon couple

The recent conflicts in the Caucasus and Ukraine have revealed the complementarity of the drone and the artillery gun. However, this tactical innovation, which is based on known and potentially cheap components, raises new questions. How are our armies preparing for these new threats? Is it still possible to extend the drone’s field of action? Is autonomous production of each component of this couple possible?

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Lorgnette: Supreme division

The recent decision of the US Supreme Court has already caused a lot of ink to flow. The Vigil will not comment on the legality of this court decision, let alone the substance of the problem.

On the other hand, it must be noted that it reinforces de facto the creeping division of the country. We in LV have long signalled the end of the ‘consensus on consensus’ in American politics. Until now, institutions have always triumphed over partisanship. However, it was a close call on 6 January 2020 when, unlike 6 February 1934 in France, the crowd entered Parliament.

Another institution with recognised legitimacy, the Supreme Court, is reviving a debate that shows no signs of abating. By referring the decision to the local constitutions, it justifies in advance the local decisions that will be taken on the outcome of the elections. All that is needed is for them to be close (all indications are that they will be) and the coup that almost took place will this time be legalised.

American disunity threatens and this should worry us, much more than all the strategic shifts of the moment, even if they are particularly numerous.

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La Vigie Nr 195: Hopes and fears in Norway | At the gun show | Lorgnette: Colombian hope

Letter from La Vigie, dated 22 June 2022

Hopes and fears in Norway

Norway is undoubtedly a European country, even if it is not a member of the EU. An ally in NATO, this relatively close country is in fact largely unknown in France. This is a pity, because Norway’s strategic posture is actually very close to France’s, namely to cultivate a certain independence in the midst of our alliance system. It would be in our mutual interest to move closer to that.

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At the gun show

The Eurosatory land armaments show saw a sharp increase in participation, both in quantity and quality. The war in Ukraine has focused attention on guns and drones, implicitly raising the question of how to manage the third dimension. President Macron’s speech announcing a “war economy” opens up a number of debates on the eve of a new legislature.

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Lorgnette: Colombian hope

The result of the presidential elections in Colombia is unprecedented: the candidate G. Petro is from the left, which is unusual in this country, where the elites have always succeeded in appointing right-wing presidents who take a hard line in the fight against drug traffickers or the countless guerrilla groups in the Amazon jungle. The newly elected president is himself a former guerrilla… His vice-president, F. Márquez, has an African immigrant background, a first in this South American country.

This choice is radically new in this country beset by many difficulties and, as in Chile (LV 185), this duo crystallises all the hopes of so many “Nadies”, the “people”, the “Nemo”… all the poor, marginalised, left behind. Will the left-wing presidential duo live up to expectations? The risk is that the expectations are a bit unrealistic, in the short and medium term.

Having said that, let’s salute the democratic manoeuvre that remains hopeful in spite of everything: the people have the freedom to choose and express their will. The vote does carry a message. A message of hope.

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La Vigie Nr 194 : India is on its way | Conceptual wavering | Lorgnette : God save the Queen

Letter from La Vigie, dated 8 June 2022

India is on its way

India is attracting little interest, even though its rank among nations is growing steadily. Its strategy remains marked by its cumbersome neighbours (Pakistan, China), but its tradition of non-alignment makes it resistant to American neo-imperial embroilment. This is an opportunity for France, which is in good agreement with this South Asian power, an agreement that goes beyond signed contracts.

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Conceptual wavering

From strategic compass to strategic concept, there is a general wavering as the war in Ukraine seems to be stalling. It is the moment of the first assessments among the Europeans who are divided on the way to go. It is perhaps also the time for France to question its defence posture, to take its time to find out how to integrate the lessons of the strategic surprises coming from Moscow and Kiev.

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Lorgnette: God save the Queen

The Queen of England has just celebrated her jubilee, the 70th anniversary of her reign. The longevity is understandably surprising, but not as surprising as the popular fervour that has surrounded these celebrations. A silent sovereign, the Queen nevertheless won the support of her subjects thanks to her remarkable demeanour and reserve: who was not impressed by her brief three-minute statement at the time of the Covid pandemic, calling on her compatriots to hold on? It was a change from the lengthy speeches made by other leaders.

Source

Yet it is not this exemplary role played by an exceptional personality over these 70 years that counts. It is the tribute to the last human being who came close to the political management of the Second World War. It is true that she had no decision-making power at the time, but she already had the awareness of a national mobilisation to resist the enemy.

This memory is still prominent in contemporary England, which cannot be understood if we ignore the pride of having resisted with sweat, blood and tears. Elizabeth II is also a witness to that moment, to that sacred union of the British people. May God keep you!

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La Vigie Nr 193 : Technologising armies | What is the outcome of the war? | Lorgnette: Taiwan’s defence

Leter from La Vigie, dated 25th May 2022

Technologising armies

The technologisation of modern armies, which is supposed to give them a significant advantage over their enemies, is showing signs of running out of steam with the Ukraine campaign. Already threatened by the asymmetric response of improvised devices, these armies are also facing a strain on their basic components. Supplies and their delivery no longer seem to be secure in a conflict with global repercussions.

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What is the outcome of the war?

Traditionally, wars were concluded with peace treaties because the enemy was not demonised. Since the 20th century, the enemy is often portrayed as an evil that must be annihilated: it therefore seems difficult to deal with him. However, war most often requires an end to be reached, and this is achieved through negotiations: one must know how to end a war.

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Lorgnette: Taiwan’s defence

In response to a question about the US military commitment in the event of a Chinese attack on Taiwan, US President J. Biden said on Monday: “Yes, that is what we are committed to”. This statement is a departure from the usual ambiguity: since the Taiwan Relation Act of 1979, Washington had always left uncertainty as to the nature of its support for Taipei but also its respect for the Chinese doctrine of “one China”.

Is this a new outing to which J. Biden has become accustomed, using words and expressions that are often undiplomatic? In any case, his administration was keen to correct the president’s remarks. Several interpretations are possible: there is a difference of opinion between the President and his administration, or following Ukraine the President wants to assure his allies of the solidity of his support or, even more subtle, to be ambiguous in the exit of ambiguity towards China.

One last hypothesis is not mentioned but is worrying: J. Biden is allowing himself to speak without consulting his entourage, a criticism that was long made of his predecessor. This would be worrying.

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La Vigie Nr 192 : Intensity, symmetry, threshold, model | Turkish balancing act | Lorgnette: United Ireland ?

Letter from La Vigie dated 11 May 2022

Intensity, symmetry, threshold, model

From a theoretical point of view, what does the war in Ukraine tell us? Many talk about high intensity. It is more a question of symmetry, which leads to threshold effects but also to technological mixes of old weapons and new objects. A fine diagnosis must be made that questions our armed forces model.

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Turkish balancing act

The Turkish regime is trying by all means to stay in power, but the economy has been cruelly hurting the man in the street for the past year, and the Ukrainian crisis has only reduced the margins of manoeuvre, making the diplomatic position vis-à-vis Russia delicate. As Erdogan strives to improve foreign relations, the only way out should be an increased presence in Libya, where hydrocarbons represent a lifeline for Turkey, away from Russia and Iran.

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Lorgnette: United Ireland?

The Brexit (LV 135) has raised the question of the future of the United Kingdom (LV 105) since its adoption. If many thought that the disintegration of the kingdom would come from Scotland (LV 71), the recent elections in Northern Ireland indicate a second possible cause. Indeed, the nationalist party Sinn fein (in favour of reunification with Ireland) won (27 seats out of 90) while its unionist opponent, the DUP, obtained only 25 seats. Sinn fein will therefore form the government, with the DUP appointing a deputy prime minister according to the Good Friday Agreement (1988). Negotiations were going to be tough.

The result of the elections is primarily due to social causes, inflation and the division of the DUP following the Brexit agreements which ratified a complicated agreement for Northern Ireland, a “protocol” governing customs provisions (it provides for free movement with the Republic of Ireland but controls with Great Britain). So it is the European question that is posed to London, once again. The fact remains that this vote opens the way, if things continue, to a referendum for unification in a few years’ time.

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La Vigie Nr 191 : LV 191: Finnish Model | War, Crime and Punishment | Lorgnette: Jacques Perrin

Letter from La Vigie dated April 27th 20221

Finnish Model

The war in Ukraine has prompted interest in Finland: this neighbouring country of Russia first resisted it during a war, preserved its independence throughout the Cold War, developed admirably at the end of the latter, joined the EU and is preparing to join the Alliance. Can this be a model for Ukraine?

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War, crime and punishment

With varying degrees of success, lawyers have always tried to build a body of law to limit the damage and suffering caused by wars. Can the current complex body of law, although not accepted by all states, be useful in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine?

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Lorgnette: Jacques Perrin

Jacques Perrin was a man of the cinema: one thinks of Cinema Paradiso, the marvellous L’empire du milieu du sud on Indochina and of course Microcosmos. But the strategist will remember above all his military films: 317th Section will remain one of the best war films ever made, which shows the life of a lieutenant at the head of his section in Indochina. L’honneur d’un capitaine shows the same challenges, this time at the level of a unit commander during the Algerian war. Two films made under the direction of Pierre Schoendorffer. La légion saute sur Kolwesi is more anecdotal.

This reality of war, at the level of the man, is obviously fascinating and anyone who has commanded men will find himself in it. The setting of these difficult conflicts deserved something more political: the unforgettable Crabe-tambour, with J. Rochefort and J. Dufilho, will delicately give a glimpse of the political dimensions of the war, never far from the command. Between the carnal and human thickness of the field and the more blind and indifferent objective of politics, it is the whole complex dimension of war that has been rendered.

Thank you, Mr. Perrin, for having shown it so simply. Rest in peace.

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La Vigie Nr 190 : Western positions | Ukraine between the Atlantic and the Urals | Lorgnette : Various riots

Letter from La Vigie dated 13 April 2022

Western positions

Behind the apparent reunification of the West in response to the conflict in Ukraine, differences are emerging between those who feel they have won in the affair, those who feel they have lost, those who are sticking to their traditional positions and those who are changing very quickly. So the current impression of unity is likely to fade in time.

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Ukraine between the Atlantic and the Urals

Here is an update at D+47 on the genesis, surprise, fog and current strategic dialectic of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is now crystallising over the Donbass and Crimea.

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Lorgnette: various riots

Various riots have taken place in recent days around the world, with worrying motives.

In Sri Lanka, the economic crisis is worsening: it has arisen from the collapse of tourism following the pandemic but also from the drop in remittances from the diaspora. As a result, the supply of medicines was interrupted and the country sank.

In Peru, the sudden increase in fuel prices triggered the clashes that left six people dead. The rejection of a corrupt political power is also to be taken into account and reminds us of what happened in Chile (LV 185). However, the trigger remains the higher price of oil due to the conflict in Ukraine.

Finally, in China, a sudden rise in Covid contamination led the authorities to impose strict confinements, particularly in Shanghai, one of the country’s largest cities. The lack of supply led to surprisingly localized riots.

These examples and their various causes show that the economic situation is fragile after two years of the pandemic and that further shocks, such as sanctions, will likely have political consequences. This is obviously very worrying.

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La Vigie Nr 189 : European strategy in disarray | De-globalisation? | Lorgnette: Spain and Sahara

Letter from La Vigie dated 16 March 2022

European strategy in disarray

The European Union’s new strategic compass claims to be ambitious. In reality, the ambition is not very great and, above all, the needle of the compass is unfortunately stuck: it only points to the West.

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De-globalisation?

The war in Ukraine is having a deleterious effect at the global level: Europe seems to have fallen into the ways of the past, the United States remains ambiguous, the emerging countries look at the crisis with mistrust, while China is benefiting. A de-globalisation is underway which marks the marginalisation of Europe.

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Lorgnette: Spain and Sahara

Spain had remained neutral since it abandoned its settlement in the former Spanish Sahara. Morocco then launched the Green March and conquered the territory, provoking the ire of Algiers. Last week, the Spanish government came out of its reserve and recognised “‘the Moroccan autonomy initiative’ as the most solid basis for ending the dispute, in contrast to the Saharawi demand for a referendum on self-determination.

There are several reasons for this reversal: on the one hand, the migratory pressure in Ceuta and Melilla, the two Spanish enclaves. As long as Madrid wants to keep control of them, it must agree with Rabat to subcontract migration control to it. On the other hand, Spain’s allies (France, Germany, but also the United States) are on this line. Finally, Spain is geographically closer to Morocco than to Algeria, even if the latter provides (used to provide?) gas.)

It is therefore a bold choice made by Madrid, which nevertheless surprises by the timing of its announcement. One last point: Algiers’ anger marks Algeria’s loss of international influence, a process that has been underway for a long time and is still growing.

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La Vigie Nr 188 : A difficult awakening | Attrition in Ukraine | Lorgnette : Economic backlash

Letter from La Vigie dated 16 March 2022

Difficult awakening from a long strategic sleep

Ukraine is the revelation of the strategic sleep of the Euro-Atlantic world seeing a threat suddenly appearing on its doorstep. The outsourcing of defence, the primacy of economic factors, the prevalence of national interest: these are all reasons for this abstention. Does the EU still have a heart for strategy after years of lethargy?

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Attrition in Ukraine

The armed conflict in Ukraine is in its third week of fighting. The strategist observes it from multiple angles: first of all, from a military strategy point of view, with several focuses: the course of operations on the ground, aspects of information warfare, the fate of populations or vital infrastructures. He also broadens his view to other aspects, diplomatic or geopolitical, whether they concern Russia, Europe, America or the rest of the world.

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Lorgnette: economic backlash

The economic sanctions are already causing a chain reaction that we do not yet fully understand. They are occurring in an economic context that was already convalescing from the pandemic from which we had not yet fully recovered. Now, the sanctions against Russia are hitting us and many countries around the world as a backlash.

First and foremost, the hydrocarbon market (oil and gas) is permanently affected. No supplier can replace Russia in the short or medium term, contrary to what some hope. The decisions taken in favour of electricity and against nuclear power are a clear obstacle here. In addition to this rise in costs, the fall in the euro is aggravating inflation.

The situation for cereals (wheat, maize, sunflower, nitrogen fertilisers) is even more worrying, as the sanctions affect Russia, while Ukraine can no longer export (and will soon be unable to sow). Many countries in Africa and Asia are likely to experience a violent food crisis, not to mention our farmers. It is not only Russia that will be affected by the sanctions.

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La Vigie Nr 187 : East from West | War in Ukraine | Nuclear factor (Free reading)

Letter from La Vigie dated 2 March 2022

East from West

Europe did not define its eastern border because it did not reunify at the end of the Soviet era. Little by little, the new Russia has been sidelined by Europe and the Ukrainian issue has become the cause of Moscow’s recent power grab to demilitarise Kiev. For its part, Kemalist Turkey, which was oriented towards Europe, has given way to a frerist Turkey, which is deployed all over the margins of Europe, Western Asia and Africa. Turkey and Russia are competitors of a European Union that no longer knows how to think about its East, which is also the East of the West.

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War in Ukraine

The war between Russia and Ukraine is attracting a lot of attention. It is appropriate to briefly review its causes, both distant and immediate, and the factors that led V. Putin personally to decide to start it, the goals in the war and the possible aims of the war, and finally the global reactions, both from the Atlantic Alliance and from third countries, especially China.

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Lorgnette: The Nuclear Factor

This crisis obviously has a nuclear dimension. Indeed, the Russian aggression in Ukraine is a conventional war fought in an disymmetric framework (Ukraine cannot win on the ground). It is a change from the asymmetric conflicts we have known for the past two decades, which operated below a certain intensity threshold. In this case, that threshold has been crossed. But it does not only operate in the land, air and sea domains: the other domains of multi-milieu and multi-field operations (M2MC, FR equivalent to MDO) are also open: space, cyber, electromagnetic, cognitive…

In so doing, this conflict raises the question of another threshold, the one that overhangs it and separates it from the nuclear domain. Indeed, physical aggression calls for the mechanics of escalation. This is why V. Putin quickly set this limit by threatening reprisals for any attempt to counter his offensive militarily. The French Foreign Minister replied that the Alliance was also a nuclear alliance. This is a reminder of the rhetoric that defines the grammar of deterrence. It is another sign of a return to a new Cold War in Europe.

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Crédit photo :Ministère de la défense d’Ukraine