La Vigie Nr 180 : Air and space environments: displaying power | FR CHOD strategic vision | Spain : party of the void

Letter from La Vigie, November 24, 2021

Air and space environments: displaying power

Air power implies mastering technology, which has led to certain excesses in the thinking of the air and space community that are now being questioned. The need for a return to deployable mass and the contribution of drones seems to be a method for achieving this. But the Franco-German projects (SCAF) are uncertain. Finally, the air environment has logically extended to space which is becoming a demanding environment where challenges abound.

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FR CHOD Strategic Vision

The public launch of the new Chief of Defence Staff’s strategic vision is a good opportunity to give the military a voice to specify their contribution to the country’s security. Three sensitive issues emerge: high intensity confrontation, strategic surprise and the need for a global security policy for France.

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Lorgnette: Spain, party of the void

Contemporary Spain (LV 172) is, like Italy, adept at political innovation. It had invented Podemos, a far-left party. Founded in 2014, it obtained 20% of the vote in 2015 and has participated in a coalition government since 2019. Ciudadanos, a liberal party, originally Catalan, spread throughout Spain from 2014. But these good electoral results of 2015 and 2016 have not been confirmed. These political parties want to get out of the alternative between PSOE, PP and independents.

A new attempt is emerging, that of the Party of Emptiness (España Vaciada: Emptied Spain), formed in September. A poll already promises it 15 deputies. It brings together the neglected territories, neither capital nor rich coastal region (i.e. Catalonia and the Basque Country). They are disconnected from the networks (motorways, TGV, high-speed Internet). They are reminiscent of the Yellow Vests, but above all of the French “Diagonal of Emptiness”, that scarf of underdevelopment crossing the hexagon from the North-East to the South-West.

We must be attentive to this non-ideological but territorial political experiment, bringing together the “somewhere” against the “anywhere”. The return of the local (LV 94) will perhaps be the next surprise.

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La Vigie Nr 179 : France in 2050 | The American question | Lorgnette : Forgotten Bosnia

Letter from La Vigie dated November 10th 2021

France in 2050

The news is always quick to emphasise the crises of the moment and the seemingly insurmountable challenges: let’s reverse the point of view and consider what assets France has at its disposal to still be what it is in 2050. The picture is less bleak than is often assumed.

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The American question

Trumpism did not disappear after the last presidential election. Just as the Democrats refused to accept Trump’s victory five years ago, the Republicans refuse to accept Biden’s victory. He was badly elected and is struggling to implement his reforms and to unify the Democrats, divided between radicals and conservatives. A defeat in the next elections (mid-term, presidential 2024) is therefore highly likely. A second Trump presidency would deepen the fragmentation of the country.

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Lorgnette: Forgotten Bosnia

Who still remembers Bosnia-Herzegovina? This small country, born in 1995 from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, has never found a political balance. This meeting between a “Muslim-Croat federation” and a “Republika Srpska” has never worked. It is under the supervision of the European Union, which is no longer interested in it. So we see the Serbian leader gradually acting in favour of separation (and eventually the reunion of the Serbian part with Serbia in Belgrade). The population is talking about a possible return to war.

However, this does not worry the international community, especially Europe, which is content with a black hole in the Balkans and has no prospects to offer. The Union is struggling to promote a negotiated solution between Kosovo and Serbia. It is not even certain that a secession of the Bosnian Serb part would be violent. In fact, some may think that this separation is a logical option and that 25 years later, with the help of fatigue, what was considered inadmissible at the time is admitted. But this would open the Pandora’s box of border rectifications in Europe. Which it does not need.

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La Vigie Nr 178 : Strategic Identity for France | The German question | Lorgnette : Diplomacy is a combat sport

Letter from La Vigie dated 27 OCtober 2021

Strategic identity of France in 2022

There can be no European autonomy without a prior strategic identity, and no strategic identity without a desire for sovereignty. The time of strategic rivalries is over, it is the time of the 20th century. The time of regulated coexistence could become that of the 21st century. It is up to France to propose in 2022 a European de-alignment and a return to centrality and thus to strategic sovereignty.

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The German question

The German question, born at the beginning of the 19th century, seemed to have been resolved in 1990 with the reunification of the two Germanies. It has simply changed form and one cannot understand the European question without discerning an underlying German question. Its economic power and geographical centrality allow it to exercise a new benign neglect that is not in our interest.

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Lorgnette: Diplomacy is a combat sport

Diplomatic manoeuvres are in fashion. France cannot do without them, either by using them or by paying for them. In the gradation of a diplomatic crisis, the first rung is the summoning of the foreign ambassador to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: this was the recent decision of Algeria (September) and Mali (October), following remarks deemed excessive by President Macron.

The next level is a recall for consultation: this was the case with allied countries: Italy in 2019, Turkey in 2020, the United States and Australia this summer. Algeria has just recalled its ambassador following the president’s remarks on the memorial rent. However, the embassy’s services continue to function.

The next step is to dismiss the ambassador. This is what Belarus decided last week and Turkey this weekend. The next decisions are to close the embassy and then to break off diplomatic relations.

It is clear that this autumn is very active and that France is particularly targeted, which is a sign that it is expressing itself at the risk of displeasing.

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La Vigie n° 177 : Uchronies 2100 | Finally alone ! | Lorgnette : Polish challenge

Letter from La Vigie dated October 13, 2021

Uchronies 2100

What are the major strategic paths on which France can embark? Where will we be in 2100? We propose three deliberately divergent uchronies to explore the consequences of our actions if nothing changes today. Let’s hope that they will fuel our reflection and help us imagine an enviable original option.

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Alone at last!

Solitude is a possible strategic choice, contrary to what we too often think. It abandons many flaws in the analysis of the current globalisation, and many fantasies of a solution as well. If it is well thought out, by choosing partners here or there on this or that subject, and by not hesitating to seek power relations elsewhere, it should make it possible to find new margins for manoeuvre in line with our long-term interests.

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Lorgnette: Polish challenge

The Polish Constitutional Court this week ruled that the Polish Constitution is superior to the EU treaties in certain cases. This is another stone thrown into the EU’s garden, after the turmoil of the Brexit. Some speak of a legal Polexit. Poland would remain in the Union but would opt out of some common legal rules. Denmark and Germany have said similar things (LV 142). This is a major challenge, since the Union is built on law. The Polish decision calls into question this essential foundation of the Union’s effectiveness (we do not dare use the word “power” in relation to the EU).

The case is eminently political. The threat of the end of subsidies will not scare Warsaw, which may be using this decision to establish a balance of power with Brussels. Other countries (Hungary and even the Czech Republic) will oppose any retaliation that is too serious. Once again, a Brussels certainty is being called into question: the ineluctability of European construction and its superstructure. So far, crises have been overcome, but with increasing difficulty. A road accident can be fatal.

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La Vigie n° 176 : AUKUS: the irremediable mistrust | Maritime environment: what are the stakes ? | Lorgnette : islamist reflux in the Maghreb

Letter from La Vigie, September 29, 2021

AUKUS: the irremediable defiance

The AUKUS affair is not primarily commercial but fundamentally political. France has not only been fooled but also scorned. This calls into question not only the reliability of our alliances but above all that of the United States whose amateurism is obvious. The consequences are irremediable and France must question many of its certainties, both with regard to the Alliance and above all to the EU. As for the concept of the Indo-Pacific, marked by an obsolete concept of containment of China, it is necessary to quickly move away from it and return to a balanced Asian policy. Finally, be more cunning.

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Maritime environment: what is at stake?

After the “perspectives of the terrestrial environment” for the Army (LV 175), here are the “stakes of the maritime environment” for the French Navy, which finds itself in the wide open spaces of a deployment on the four naval and strategic fronts that fall to it and which require many more resources. An integral maritime strategy for France is emerging as a new ambition for France in the 21st century.

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Lorgnette: Islamist backlash in the Maghreb

The general public does not follow much of what is happening in the Maghreb where, however, significant developments are taking place. For example, in the last Moroccan legislative elections, the local Islamist party (the PJD) largely lost its influence. Whereas yesterday many saw an irremediable progression, here is the sound of its retreat that cannot be attributed to pressure from the Palace alone.

Similarly, the coup de force this summer by Kaïs Saïed (LV 173) marks above all the failure of Ennhadha, the Islamist party that has been part of all governments since the Jasmine Revolution of 2011. Finally, in Algeria, the Islamists are gradually losing their positions and their influence, both with the government and the population.

The Maghreb is thus experiencing a general movement of disaffection towards political Islam. This does not mean that it has disappeared: simply that its dynamic of progress has broken down and that it is considered a marginal option, but certainly no longer inevitable.

However, this does not mean that credible alternatives are emerging. On the contrary, this is a sign of deeply disillusioned populations. This is just as worrying.

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La Vigie Nr 175 : 20 years after (9/11) | Land domain : what future ? | Lorgnette : war in Tigray

Letter from La Vigie of 15 September 2021

Twenty years after (September 11)

Who remembers September 11? Far fewer people than one might think, even though it was the first event with immediate global resonance, a strategic victory for the aggressors. It marked a turning point for America, which is not as definitive as it is said to be; political Islam has emerged as central, though no one knows if it is really sustainable. Finally, September 11 marked the beginning of European disillusionment from which we have not emerged.

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Land domain: what future?

The French Army has not necessarily been in the spotlight lately. According to its own words, it is preparing for increasingly tough wars and its increase in power, particularly in terms of capabilities, is consistent with its new doctrine. However, given the dangerous nature of the world, we will have to find reliable allies.

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Lorgnette: War in Tigray

Since November 2020, war has been raging in northern Ethiopia. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his reconciliation with Eritrea, has embarked on a policy of centralising this federal country. He quickly wanted to bring Tigray, the northern province that had played a major political role in past decades, to heel: it was the Tigrayans who had brought down the regime of Mengistu (the Black Stalin), and had led the country since 1991.

A minority (7% of the 110 million people), they had allied themselves with the Oromo ethnic group but had to leave power three years ago because their management was considered too biased. Their successor, who appeared to be a man of compromise, was even more so when he launched hostilities last year. However, after initial setbacks, the Tigrayans regained the advantage and repelled both the Eritreans who were attacking in the north and the Ethiopian army coming from the south. Since then, they have allied themselves with other ethnic groups and the federal model is in danger of breaking up, while massacres and exactions are on the increase.

The second most populous country in Africa is risking its survival.

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La Vigie nr 174 (free) : Concerns and doubts | Afghanistan : reason to keep | Lorgnette: Year in Review and Year 8 | Table of publications 2020-2021

Letter from La Vigie, September 1, 2021 in free reading

Concerns and doubts

At the end of the summer, a deep inner anxiety is emerging in France. It is due to a new generation, the so-called Millennials, but also to a deep geographical fracture of the territory. The ambient malaise goes beyond the question of the health pass and finally awaits a new, homogeneous and coherent domestic strategy, giving meaning to our national community. Far from the declinism of some or simplistic slogans, France’s assets must be mobilised to rebuild cohesion.

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Afghanistan : reason to keep

The withdrawal from Afghanistan was logical and surprises only the candid. It is part of an American continuity that dates back to Obama. It does not constitute a profound decline of the United States which follows its strategic interests of the moment, as it has always done, which should not surprise Europeans.

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Lorgnette: Year in Review and Year 8

Attached is an analytical table of the issues and posts of La Vigie published in the last year.

We have published 118 texts this year, of which 31 were written by external authors: many thanks to our contributors who complement our analyses. This dynamic allows us to broaden our points of view and allows young or experienced authors to express themselves, thus fulfilling the vocation of La Vigie. In addition, we have published 46 additional articles for free reading (in addition to the Lorgnettes, various blog articles). In total, 71 texts can be read without subscription, even if they do not have the coherence sought by the fortnightly letter.

Of the 118 texts, 58 dealt with cross-cutting themes, 60 with specific geographical areas. 28 articles dealt with strategy (general, military or environmental), not to mention those on geopolitics or military deterrence. Let us point out a series on spatial strategy, thanks in particular to our intern, whom we thank here. There are also a few more general considerations (environment, religion, culture), obituaries and reading notes.

Europe has attracted our particular attention (with a series that will be grouped together in a dossier), as well as Africa (Sahel and Maghreb). Asia and the Middle East follow, while the Americas, the Arctic, Central and South Asia and Russia have received little attention.

We are entering our eighth year. More than ever, strategic fluidity is the order of the day and the upcoming economic crisis, the results of the American election or the beginnings of the French presidential campaign will accentuate the difficult high-level reading of our environment. More than ever, we will endeavour to present our analyses to you. We will soon be announcing some changes.

Until then, enjoy your reading… and have a good summer!

Table of publications 2020-2021

The table of publications published by La Vigie in recent months is attached to this issue. You can consult it by downloading the pdf issue here.

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La Vigie Nr 173 : On the front lines | Lorgnette : Geopolitical trip to MOrocco | Summer reading

Letter from La Vigie, August 4th 2021

On the front lines

While the “summer break” overshadows international news in France, serious business continues to be conducted elsewhere. Here is a series of strategic snapshots of the world’s frictions: Tunisia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Polynesia, Pegasus, Sahel.

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Lorgnette: Geopolitical trip to Morocco

Sea, mountain and desert, Morocco offers multiple faces. A sultanate and then a kingdom with a brilliant history and a rich heritage, it is a country to visit to understand the challenges of the Maghreb and Africa. Discover Morocco next November with Professor Kader Aberrahim and our partners from Conflits and Ictus Voyages. This is La Vigie’s first geopolitical study tour!

During this trip, you will be accompanied by French-speaking guides as well as Kader Abderrahim, professor at Science Po, associate director of research at La Vigie and author at Conflits. He has published Géopolitique du Maroc, which we have reported on (here). Two meetings with Moroccan personalities are planned, in Marrakech and Tangiers, to discuss the major geopolitical issues of the country. In addition to the historical sites of Morocco, a guided tour of Tangier Med, the first port in Africa, is also organised. Information and registration here.

Transport is by coach and overnight stays are in 4-star hotels.

Summer reading

For your summer, we suggest you read: Le versant du soleil (R. Frison-Roche) – It doesn’t take a hero (HN Schwarzkopf) – Unité 8200 (D. Alfon) – Quand la France commence-t-elle? (B. Lançon) – Guerres invisibles (Th. Gomart) – Non-retour (Jusseaume et alii).

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La Vigie Nr 172 : The need for foresight | Spanish restraint | Lorgnette : Olympic Truce

Letter from La Vigie, dated 21th July 2021

The need for foresight

The DNA of the military naturally leads them to foresight and to translate it into action through operational planning procedures. Planning is a virtue and foresight remains more necessary than ever at a time when long-term orientation, a traditionally very Western cultural trait, is being questioned.

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Spanish restraint

Spain is the heir to a long history that began under the Romans, continued through the Visigothic empire before experiencing the long cycle of the Muslim invasion and the Reconquista. At the end of the Middle Ages, a world power was built, combining a European power with the Habsburgs and a colonial power with Latin America. Centuries of long decline and a painful 20th century followed, leaving a democratic Spain in reconstruction, having made a Western choice and more concerned with itself than with its obvious but little used international assets.

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Lorgnette: Olympic Truce

On 23 July the Games of the 32nd Olympiad will open in Tokyo. Restored by Pierre de Coubertin, bringing together every four years the world’s best athletes to compete in a fair joust, celebrating youth, friendship between peoples and the universal values of sport, they usually offer an opportunity for a truce in the development of world tensions and conflicts. This truce should be very brief.

The global politicisation of the Covid-19 pandemic, the virulent rise of nationalist discourses thought to be a thing of the past, the questioning of international law and order, pessimistic editorials heralding the Chaos Games, and the fracturing of most national societies along these lines are among the reasons given. In spite of reinforced health protection measures excluding all spectators from the venues, the Games are expected to attract nearly 4 billion viewers and become the most watched in history. After August 9 and the commemoration of the nuclear holocausts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, regional geopolitics, usually animated during the summer when Europe is on holiday, will resume its rights.

Long live the athletes and long live Olympism!

JOCV

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La Vigie Nr 171 : Providing France with a grand strategy | The games of war and chance | Lorgnette :Iran and negotiations

Letter from La Vigie, dated 7 July 2021

Providing France with a grand strategy

The discontinuity in the global trajectory caused by the pandemic invites France to rethink the strategic framework of its current action; in the absence of sufficient European coherence, it must adopt a long-term national vision and define the axes of a major long-term strategy for which six key factors to be prioritised and combined are proposed to the reader.

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The games of war and chance

Strategy is too serious a matter not to devote all one’s time to it. Games are an abundant means of doing so. In these times when we are constantly being surprised by our environment, it is time to get serious and finally play.

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Lorgnette: Iran and negotiations

In Iran, Ebrahim Raissi was elected President of the Republic on 19 June, after a soft campaign that resulted in a record abstention, a sign of voter disaffection and perhaps the sidelining of all reformist candidates. The press labelled him an ultraconservative. The system probably selected him first for his ability to maintain: he is conservative in the first sense. The fact remains that this impoverished and corrupt country is suffering from the sanctions imposed by D. Trump and that during his campaign, Mr. Raissi constantly affirmed his desire to obtain the lifting of the sanctions.

This is the subject of the Vienna negotiations, which are the focus of the new US president’s attention (LV 168). So we should not be surprised by the latest IAEA report which states that Iran has “begun the necessary steps to produce enriched uranium metal“. This comes as no surprise to anyone, but it is a good way to put pressure on the Iranian authorities to negotiate.

Thus, a new Iranian leadership seems to be in a position to discuss with the new American leadership. Let’s hope that Mr. Raissi’s conservatism will give way to a fine pragmatism to compromise.

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La Vigie n°170: J. Biden’s European campaign | Strategic orientation and synthesis | Lorgnette: France and the Indian Ocean

Letter from La Vigie dated 23 June 2021

Joe Biden’s European campaign

The long experience of J. Biden has allowed the success of a meticulously prepared European tour, satisfying all parties (G7, EU, NATO but also V. Putin) while subordinating them to a more global objective, by means of carefully maintained ambiguities not always perceived by his interlocutors.

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Strategic orientation and synthesis

At a rare moment in history, the need to manage a complicated present is preventing policy makers from devoting the necessary time to finding solutions to tomorrow’s challenges. It is time to reintroduce the long time of reflection and strategy, within the State and society, to enable our country to pull its weight in the Great Game that is being set up. For this, the creation of a National Council for Strategic Orientation and Synthesis appears to be a necessity.

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Lorgnette: France and the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean, which is part of the Indo-Pacific, occupies a unique position for France. Bordering on the territory (Reunion, Mayotte, TAAF) and the sea (EEZ), it has both permanent sovereignty military forces and those pre-positioned abroad, by virtue of defence agreements concluded with partner countries (Djibouti, UAE), to ensure the protection of citizens and national interests and to contribute to regional peace and stability. It has strong strategic partnerships such as those with India, Australia and Indonesia.

In 2021, it will hold the annual presidency of the IOC, which brings together Mauritius, the Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles, whose recently elected SG is French for four years, as well as the two-year presidency of the Indian Ocean Chiefs of Navy Forum (IONS), whose plenary session will be held in La Reunion from 28 to 30 June. It is also a member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association. As the EU Member State that launched Operation ATALANTA to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, France has valuable assets to guide the Union’s maritime ambitions during its EU Presidency in 2022.

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La Vigie Nr 169 (Free) : What is France ? | Staying on course | Lorgnette : Tchüss, Angèle

Letter from La Vigie, dated 9 June 2021

What is France?

To say France today is much less obvious and shared than in the past. There are many gaps between generations and populations. Beyond that, it is a common understanding of geography, history and the State, these three pillars of the person France, that seems no longer to be shared. Being aware of this is essential before launching any grand strategy project.

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Staying on course

In such a fluid strategic situation, how do you stay on course? How to conduct an effective manoeuvre? How to get rid of untimely strategic biases? From Europe to Africa, the practice is difficult, the difficulties follow one another and are similar.

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Lorgnette : Tchüss, Angèle

Angela Merkel is leaving office: we won’t miss her. This cold-blooded politician knew how to kill her political rivals. She was excellent at coming to and staying in power, but has been a disappointment since. It is true that her measured, nuanced and ‘proper’ side appealed to the French notable, who was impressed by this Germanic restraint which he took for healthy rigour. And yet… she systematically decided late, always taking the time to let situations rot before giving her opinion. The few times she has allowed herself to be guided by instinct, it has been catastrophic: whether it was the decision to stop nuclear power after Fukushima or the decision to welcome a million migrants in the middle of summer 2015.

Of course, her policies may not be bad for Germany, whose short-term interests and ageing, satisfied rentier ideal she has always preserved. Externally, it was worse. She is presented as pro-European: she was the most Germanolist of German leaders since the war. Worse: not a single French leader noticed.

Tschüss Angèle, we will not miss you.

JOCV

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