LV 236: Italian twin | Ukrain : two years on | Lorgnette : the return of war

Letter from La Vigie dated 21 FEB 2024

 

Italian twin

La Vigie continues its tour of France’s land borders with a look at Italy. The country has opted for multilateralism, but is currently suffering from a lack of strategic vision at a time when all landmarks are disappearing: France shares this moment of uncertainty, and our interests may well converge.

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Ukraine: two years on

The war in Ukraine began two years ago. After recalling the main phases of the conflict so far, La Vigie takes stock of the situation from the Russians, Ukrainians, Americans, Europeans and French.

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Lorgnette: The return of war

In 2023, the number of wars and casualties rose to levels not seen since the end of the Cold War. While the second half of the 20th century saw a decline in the number of wars and armed conflicts, over the last few months these have been on the rise again, both in terms of numbers and victims.

2023 has counted nine major wars around the world, taking place in the Sahel (1,418 deaths in Burkina Faso alone in 2022), Somalia, Sudan (since the start of the war in April 2023, there have been 6 million displaced persons and already 9,000 deaths), Burma, Ukraine (it is plausible that each side could exceed 100,000 deaths, mainly in the military), Gaza, Nigeria, Syria and Yemen, three wars that continue to claim large numbers of victims.

And yet these wars are attracting varied attention: while the French public is interested in Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, Gaza, no one is watching Burma, the African conflicts or Yemen. We should be wary, however, of Western centrism, despite its media power. Finally, with rare exceptions, today’s wars are long. They rarely result in clear-cut victories.

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LV 235 : Portugal or extreme Europe | The EU faced with its contradictions | Lorgnette: the past that won’t go away

Letter from La Vigie dated 7 FEB 2024

 

Portugal or extreme Europe

Portugal, this small cape of Europe, appears not only as its extremity but also as its extreme example. Proud of a prestigious history, having dominated large parts of the world that it had to abandon, it is rich to have been. It is a fine European symbol.

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The EU faced with its contradictions

In the run-up to the European elections, and with a change of political leadership in the offing in Brussels, the EU is facing up to the far-reaching consequences of the war in Ukraine, as well as the discontent of many Europeans. Can the word ‘sovereignty’, which has ceased to be taboo, really find a definition in the language of the EU?

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Lorgnette: the past that won’t go away

On Sunday 21 January, almost 1.4 million Germans took to the streets to protest against the rise of the AFD (Alternative für Deutschland), the far-right party that advocates the expulsion not only of immigrants but also of “recent citizens”. The AFD is climbing in the polls, both in the former GDR and in the West.

The issue is not simply the attitude towards a political line but the question of the relationship with the past. For decades, Germany has held back politically because of the guilt it carries and maintains about the Nazi past. However, some members of the AFD have no hesitation in forgetting the past and putting the guilt aside.

Basically, the question posed to Germany is a question posed to the whole of Europe: what balance should be struck between the necessary duty to remember and the equally necessary duty to forget? For while we must not forget the totalitarian excesses and the abominable horrors they directed, radical repentance also appears to be abusive in that it handicaps all action. Writing history has always been a political matter, and it is more so than ever today. Should we always put the past behind us?

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LV 234: In war, there is only wealth in men | Depolarisation | Lorgnette : Other Eastern tensions

Letter from La Vigie, 24th January 2024

 

In war, there is only wealth in men

For three decades, it was thought that expeditionary wars required professional soldiers. The wars of the 21st century show that the debate between quality and quantity, cannon fodder and technology, professionalisation or conscription, active and reserves, nationals and foreigners needs to be revisited.

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Depolarisation

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the polarised world gave way to a unipolar moment and then to a multipolar world. The proliferation of conflicts that no single power has been able to stop, the collapse of political movements, cultural bases and economic models have led to the emergence of a depolarised world prey to the appetites of the most voracious. However, France has the means to take advantage of this particular moment to reassert itself so that it does not have to choose voluntary servitude.

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Lorgnette: other Eastern tensions

For many analysts, the main issue in the Far East is the Chinese question, with regard to its neighbours or the United States. But the Korean question is likely to become much more sensitive. Last year, Kim Jong-Un stepped up his demonstrations of force (ballistic missile tests), which he is continuing this year: bombing of Yeonpyeong Island, testing of an underwater weapon and a hypersonic IRBM missile. The Constitution once again designates South Korea as the first hostile country.

In South Korea, after attempts at détente (LV 90), a hardening is underway (LV 211), which will be the focus of the April elections. But Kim was humiliated by the negotiations with D. Trump in 2016 (the latter left the table before the end of the talks). He sees that America is embroiled in multiple crises and is in an election year. He has strengthened his ties with Russia and delivered millions of shells for the war in Ukraine. V. Putin will visit Pyongyang this year.

Bluff again or march to war? The Ukrainian example may have given the Korean leader some ideas, despite China’s opposition to this tension.

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LV 233 : Outlook for 2024 | A single objective : Victory ! | Lorgnette : 2023, a hot year

Letter from La Vigie, dated 10 January 2024

Outlook for 2024

On the whole, 2023 was a gloomy year, with wars in Ukraine, Gaza, Sudan, Burma, the Sahel and Yemen, Burma, and the crises in the Sahel and Yemen), but there were a few  some positive flashes. 2024 offers an uncertain EU, a weakened United States  United States, a Middle East under great strain, Asia following its own course, Africa in turmoil and France undecided.

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A single objective: victory!

The funds allocated to the armed forces are increasing sharply all over the world. Conversely, many operations and wars, especially in the West, have become bogged down or have ultimately failed, in recent years. The questions that arise are: what is the purpose of the army? and how to achieve victory? A re-reading of Clausewitz  would seem a wise way of answering these highly topical questions.

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Lorgnette: 2023, a hot year

Météo-France made this clear in a note published last month:  2023 is the hottest year since the beginning of the pre-industrial era  (1850-1900). It overtakes 2016 and 2020, 2nd and 3rd. The global temperature is 1.4°C above the “normal” average.

Although some regions experienced temperatures below these long-term averages below these long-term averages (for a short time), the global consequences are clear: sea ice has retreated, many regions have experienced record-breaking heat, fires and floods have increased, and species extinction has developed. 2023 will also be one of the warmest years in years to come. We’ll remember it as an almost normal year, compared with the excessive temperature extremes that await us tomorrow.

There are two options for reducing greenhouse gases, the main cause of global warming. responsible for global warming: reduce our production (and therefore consumption of fossil fuels) or to bet on technological solutions that are slow in coming on the scale we need. But we’ll need both if we want to be able to say: “we’ve been hot! “.

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LV 232 : Reinventing the maritime security model | Multiple standards | Lorgnette : Dual Kissinger

Letter from La Vigie dated 27 December 2023

Reinventing the maritime security model

Recent actions at sea against economic assets, in both the Black and Red Seas, have prompted us to reflect on maritime security. For a long time a subordinate issue of naval strategy, the concept deserves to be reviewed in depth, at a time when the multiplication of activities and critical infrastructures at sea are multiplying, suggesting new risks.

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Multiple standards

In recent weeks, some have criticised the West for adopting a “double standard”, proclaiming virtues that are applied differently depending on the circumstances. Without pointing to the incoherence of other players, it is worth noting that this doubt, taken to extremes, betrays first and foremost the loss of influence of a West that is unravelling and weakening by dint of doubt.

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Lorgnette: Dual Kissinger

The death of Henry Kissinger has prompted us to revisit this astonishing figure. The story of this young man who fled Nazi Germany to become a professor at Harvard and then an active adviser to American presidents remains an extraordinary one. He fascinates because he is one of the rare examples to have been, at the highest level, both a geopolitician and a geopolitologist, both a practitioner and a theoretician. It’s not just a question of giving advice and appraisals to those who govern us from time to time: every geopolitologist does it, at a lesser level. Dear Henry Kissinger was in charge of affairs and, in the conditions of his time, he pushed ahead with the rapprochement with China, which at first appeared to be an attempt to bypass the Soviet Union, but with long-term consequences that can still be seen today.

Kissinger was above all a theoretician, notably through two books: Diplomacy (1994), a brilliant realist overview of international relations over the past two centuries. World Order (2016) attempts to explain that there has never been a world order and that we need not worry about the disorder of the 21st century. Two fascinating books.

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LV 231: War in the Middle East: Rereading the classics | Avoid surprise | Lorgnette: things are rocking in Buenos Aires

Letter from La Vigie, dated 13 Dec 2023

War in the Middle East: Rereading the classics

A number of commentators have described Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip as a colonial war. This term, which assumes that Gaza is a colony of Israel, is not the most appropriate. Re-reading Trinquier or Beaufre allows us to consider that this is first and foremost a revolutionary war.

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Avoid surprise

Any army in operation, any strategist wishing to launch a war, seeks surprise in order to increase its gains. This article outlines the characteristics of surprise and the need for it. But if the enemy is also trying to surprise us, how can we avoid being surprised ourselves?

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Lorgnette: things are rocking in Buenos Aires

On 19 November, Argentinian voters nominated Javier Milei for the country’s presidency with 56% of the vote. Described as anti-system, populist and ultra-liberal, labels struggle to describe this loud-mouthed opportunist. Many compare him to Trump or Bolsonaro, even though his initial measures show a pragmatism far removed from the excesses of the election campaign.

Is this a sign of political radicalisation in Argentine society? Not really, but rather the weariness of a people in a country that is collapsing, with inflation at 140%, a poverty rate of over 40%, money reserves at rock bottom and an economic situation at half-mast. What’s more, they are exasperated by the endemic corruption of the politicians who have been in power for years. So why not vote for someone who wants to bring down the system, since the system no longer works?

J. Milei has already put some water in his wine, looking for political alliances to be able to govern: he only has 38 seats out of 350. He will have to compromise. It’s not certain that the system won’t digest him too.

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LV 230: The Red Sea and its great game | Monaco perched on its rock | Lorgnette: COP 28

Letter from La Vigie, 29 Nov 2023

The Red Sea and its great game

The Red Sea is a vital artery of international trade, particularly necessary for Europeans, and is subject to local strategic dynamics between neighbouring countries, regional dynamics with neighbouring areas, and global dynamics with the major players (United States, China, Russia) involved to a greater or lesser extent. Only Europe has little interest in the area. Did you say geopolitics?

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Monaco perched on its rock

Let’s continue our tour of France’s terrestrial neighbours by exploring the principality of Monaco. Gradually moving closer to France in search of a protector, it was only when it lost most of its territory that its development could really begin. Today, relations are friendly and cooperative, but France is still very much present, and Monaco’s sovereignty remains relative.

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Lorgnette: COP 28

The next Conference of the Parties (COP) on the environment will open in Dubai on 30 November. It is the continuation of a process launched at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, bringing together experts and decision-makers every year under the aegis of the United Nations and with the help of experts from the IPCC. It implements the Kyoto Protocol (signed in 1995 and ratified in 2005), which commits the parties involved to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5%. The 2015 Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to less than 2°C. Last year in Sharm el-Sheikh, a fund was set up to help poor countries affected by climate change.

This year’s challenge is to reduce the use of fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil). But the current strategic climate is not conducive to a binding international agreement. While the EU needs clear commitments to phase out fossil fuels, many countries in the South are still dependent on fossil fuels for their development, whether they produce them or need them.

Alongside the ongoing conflicts and underlying geopolitical struggles, the mechanics of international negotiation are struggling.

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LV 229: The United States and the new world | Strategic issues for the seabed | Lorgnette: Spanish turmoil

Letter from La Vigie, dated 15 November 2023

 

The United States and the new world

Faced with the upheavals underway, America is redefining its priorities. Despite its domestic political difficulties, and backed by a buoyant economy, it is returning to the Middle East, closing the Ukrainian question and renewing its ties with China. This pragmatism should come as no surprise, but we need to draw the consequences.

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Strategic issues for the seabed

The seabed, whose relatively long-standing exploitation has been facilitated by the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is becoming a major strategic territory. With the growth in economic activity and the energy and digital transitions underway, they are home to critical infrastructures that need to be able to monitor them and intervene if necessary.

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Lorgnette: Spanish turmoil

Spanish politics never ceases to surprise us. After a party of vacuums (LV 180), the Catalan question is back (LV 94). Last May, the Left in power (LV 117) suffered a debacle in the local elections. P. Sánchez decided to dissolve the assembly and won his gamble in the July elections, where his party held its own. But to stay in power, he needed to secure a majority, which he could only find among the independentists, particularly the Catalans. This agreement was reached on 9 November in exchange for a highly controversial amnesty law, which allows Catalan leader C. Puigdemont, who has been in exile (on the run) in Brussels since 2017, to return to the country. In 2017, the country experienced one of the worst political crises in its modern history (LV 80).

However, Mr Sánchez did not come out on top, and if he is able to reach this agreement, it is because the right-wing leader, A. Feijóo, was unable to build a coalition. So here we have the PSOE, a weakened party, which only manages to find a coalition in a minority situation by reviving the question of independence.

Unsurprisingly, demonstrations organised by the right have multiplied since the announcement of the agreement. Spain is set for another troubled period.

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LV 223 (free) : What the war in Gaza tells us | Paper from Armenia | Lorgnette: the fall of Icarus

Letter from La Vigie, dated 1st November 2023

The Hamourabbi code (source)

What the war in Gaza (or Sukkot) tells us

To go beyond considerations on the ground about the war in Sukkot (Gaza), we will first try to determine the war aims of each side, before asking ourselves what this war says, a further stage in a re-primitivisation of the contemporary act of war.

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Paper from Armenia

The theatres of war and the ways in which they are waged may change, but the invariants of strategy can be observed in all theatres, and there is a high price to pay for neglecting them, whatever the mode of action chosen. Armenia has bitterly rediscovered them because it did not respect them.

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Lorgnette: the fall of Icarus

If you fly too close to the sun, you risk burning your wings and falling into the abyss…

This is what the various dignitaries of the Chinese Communist Party or officials of the State apparatus experience on a regular basis, and when they fall from grace for whatever reason – which is never made public – they are invariably accused of “acts of corruption” and stripped of their professional positions and social standing.

However, the Chinese regime has done particularly well this year, dismissing its foreign affairs and defence ministers one after the other and making them disappear both literally and figuratively (damnatio memoriae by removing all references to them from government websites). The first, Qin Gang, has been missing since 25 June, the second, Li Shangfu, since 29 August. They had been sworn in in March of the same year.

These ruthless purges, while reminiscent of Mao, have rarely been so close to Xi Jingping’s entourage, and are both Stalinist in their implacability and Orwellian in their radicalism.

Still, it’s good to live in the West.

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LV 227 : AI and cyber attacks (2/2) | Vertical crises in the levant | Lorgnette: Free trade… or not

Letter from La Vigie, dated 18 October 2023

AI and cyber attacks (2/2)

This is the second part of the article dedicated to the interaction between artificial intelligence and operations in cyberspace. We draw up a typology of possible modes of action, both offensive and defensive (link to 1st article).

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Vertical crises in the levant

The Sekkot war between Hamas and Israel reopens the Palestinian question. In addition to the feared conflagration in the Middle East, there is a risk that the crises in Syria, the Caucasus and Ukraine will combine to form a refusal front.

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Lorgnette: Free trade… or not

The fabulous 1990s are long gone… the almost dreamlike interlude when the West had succeeded and won everything, defeated the USSR, imposed liberal capitalism at world level (think of the WTO), the world was at peace (forget Yugoslavia), the ‘good’ war between the good guys and the bad guys (1st Gulf War) had gone off like clockwork, the ‘developing’ countries supplied us with resources and cheap goods… ah…

Sic transit gloria mundi.

It’s no longer a time for free trade, and we’re in for a rude awakening. The coronacrisis has only accelerated the inward-looking trend that must have Pareto turning in his grave. The neoliberal monetary systems of the twentieth century, based on complacent credit and infinite speculation, will not last forever and the awakening will be painful. So we’re looking for our roots in the truest sense of the word, slowly returning to the Earth, like mining resources (for energy and industry). Extraction of rare earths in Sweden around 2035. Lithium as early as 2027 in Allier, 2028 in Cornwall. The old tin mines will also reopen there… History, an eternal restart!

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LV 226: Near and Middle East: stabilisation or future crises in sight? | Prudence and strategy | Lorgnette: Elections in Moldova

Letter from La Vigie, dated 4 October 2023

 

Near and Middle East: stabilisation or future crises in sight?

The recompositions underway in the Middle East, between Syria’s normalisation of its international position, the safeguarding of Turkish influence in the Caucasus and the re-establishment of Saudi Arabia-Iran relations under the auspices of Beijing, are tending to safeguard the strategic triangle of Russia, Turkey and Iran to the detriment of American and European influence.

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Prudence and strategy

Prudence has a bad reputation, yet it is a necessary quality for a strategist: discerning, forward-looking and informed by experience, it supports the two strategic principles of freedom of action and adaptation. Is there any need to stress that France should adopt a more cautious strategy than it does today?

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Lorgnette: Elections in Moldova

Last Saturday, Slovaks went to the polls and Robert Fico’s party came out on top with 23% of the vote. It should not be too difficult for him to form a coalition and run the country for the legislature. A populist accused of corruption, he managed to convince voters with a surprising foreign policy line: while Slovakia had consistently supported Ukraine, the new prime minister explained that peace negotiations with Moscow were necessary.

In so doing, he joins Hungary’s Victor Orban, who is also paying lip service to Kiev. It should be noted that these two countries, along with Poland, are at the forefront of the controversy with Kiev over cereals, which led to a row between Warsaw and Kiev a fortnight ago. The Visegrad group (which also includes the Czech Republic, which remains a loyal supporter of Ukraine) brings together Central European countries that exemplify what some observers describe as illiberalism.

Yet the question they raise is not simply that of Ukraine and its relationship with Moscow, but also that of European balances. While some were congratulating themselves on European solidarity 18 months ago, it is about to be sorely tested.

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LV 225: Ambiant disaster | If there’s only one left, it’s IndoPac | From Korea to Armenia

Letter from La Vigie, dated 20 Sept. 2023

Ambient disaster

The ideologies of the twentieth century, communism and liberalism, have lost their hold on society. For twenty years, the world has witnessed the return of religion as a geopolitical factor, but two catastrophisms – ecological and demographic – have now become replacement ideologies. We need to move beyond them.

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If there’s only one left, it’s IndoPac

For several months, if not years, France’s foreign policy has suffered from a notable lack of clarity in its latest qualification as a “trusted partner power”. Its long-standing partners are taking advantage of this to bully Paris and subject it to historic affronts. Because we have to exist on the international stage, the only thing left is the Indo-Pacific, which we are boosting in the hope that our new partners will have confidence in us.

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Lorgnette: from Korea to Armenia

President Putin welcomed Kim Jong Un, the President of North Korea, with great pomp and ceremony. Kim Jong Un is not accustomed to being received in this way, as his country has opted for long-term strategic isolation. The Korean peninsula is not at peace, since only an armistice was signed in 1953, and since then Pyongyang has maintained a considerable military effort, to the point of developing nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and possibly a missile-launching submarine. The advantage of military dictatorships is that they have stockpiles. Korea is said to be supplying Russia with 10 million shells to maintain its RAPFEU in Ukraine. You have the allies you can get.

That’s what Armenia told itself when, in 2020, it was unable to resist the Azerbaijani offensive. Russia did just enough to prevent things going too far (LV 151, 154 and 184) and moved on. So its troops went to Ukraine and are still there. From then on, the CSTO, which organised the “near abroad”, lost its strength and Armenia announced that it was organising military exercises with the United States. Moscow is no longer able to guarantee wider security and is losing its most traditional supporters. Azerbaijan is taking advantage. Russia is letting it happen…

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