LV 205: The Polish question | Strategic manoeuvres underway | Lorgnette : An insignificant RNS

Letter from La Vigie dated 23 November 2022

The Polish question

The war in Ukraine validated Poland’s strategic priorities, which for three decades had been warning of the Russian threat. Paradoxically, the war in Ukraine shows the Russian weakness and the solidity of the Alliance: Poland’s strategic situation is reinforced. Is this why one can sense acrimony rising in Warsaw towards Berlin?

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Strategic manoeuvres underway

An update on Russia’s campaign in Ukraine is useful at the start of winter, when some are tempted to make a strategic move to revive the ailing global economy. Firmly supported by the EU, Ukraine is fiercely opposed to it. Already the geostrategic and geo-economic manoeuvres underway prefigure the strategic framework of a “second 21st century”. For France, a healthy wait-and-see attitude would be in order.

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Lorgnette: An insignificant RNS

Since 2012, La Vigie has been sceptical of the White Paper process, often finding it disappointing and wordy. Despite this, it has always welcomed the intellectual effort made to produce an overall strategic analysis, even if the procedure adopted more often than not condemned these works to fail to meet the need, assuming that it is a question of defining a grand strategy and not simply of communicating it. The 2008 review was too long, the 2012 review was repetitive and the 2017 review was incomplete.

The deterioration of the formula continued with this RNS (Revue nationale stratégique: National Strategic Review), prepared in secret, unveiled at the last moment, brief and agreed, the result of administrative work with little scope and above all without any debate. At the very least, the previous exercises gave rise to discussions and if the result was disappointing, everyone had at least reflected and debated.

Here, one wonders whether the exercise was not quickly dismissed. Everyone would have understood a document of expectation that set the limits of the moment, specified its uncertainties, stated its will, and gave guidelines for the present time. The reader finds none of this in the published document.

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LV 204 : A new strategic world is emerging | Corruption and strategy | Lorgnette : in two voices

Lettre from La Vigie Nr 204 dated 9 novemrbe 2022

A new strategic world is emerging

The war in Ukraine seems to be stabilising the fronts, which is a setback for Russia and a Ukrainian success. The strategic consequences will be long-lasting, notably by entrenching the West’s opposition to its Moscow neighbour. For all that, this war is not in itself a turning point but the ultimate revelation of a multiform crisis that has shaken up our strategic world for ten years.

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Corruption and strategy

Corruption, which is not generally included in the fundamentals of strategy, nevertheless invites itself into the debates as soon as it is implemented: the corrupter encourages those he corrupts to model their strategy on his own, or at least to make them compatible. Strategists are also affected, as their assessments of the situation may be biased or corrupted, making them less relevant.

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Lorgnette: in two voices

Ah, dear novlangue… that which offers simultaneous and contradictory points of view. A delight in two recent examples.

COP27 is currently taking place in Sharm-el-Sheikh and developed countries would like emerging economies to finally stop their frenetic consumption of hydrocarbon energy – while the West reopens coal-fired power stations, Europe builds LNG terminals and buys shale gas from the US.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) criticised Qatar and its protection of human rights two weeks before the start of the World Cup.

The Qatari Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, reacted in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: he feels irritated by the German double standard, which has nothing against Qatar when it comes to evacuating nationals from Afghanistan or buying Qatari gas or oil, but which gets on its high horse when it comes to sports…

Let us not mock too much: let he who has never sinned cast the first stone.

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LV 203: Crisis: a question of morale | Did you say deterrence ? | Lorgnette: stiff China

Letter from La Vigie Nr 203 dated 26 October 2022

Crisis: a question of morale

We are living in a state of protean crises, which are becoming endless and simultaneous, creating a climate of anxiety. War is a form of crisis and the military are specialists in crisis management and insist on the importance of morale in order to overcome them. Shouldn’t we draw inspiration from the military model to face current crises?

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Did you say deterrence?

President Macron’s statements the other night on deterrence may have been clumsy. However, they bring up the debate on an essential question, renewed by a world nuclear order that is unravelling, from NWBT to the end of the INF treaty, from Ukraine to North Korea. It is high time to get back to the terms of the discussion.

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Lorgnette: Stiff China

As we predicted last summer (LV 197), the Chinese stiffening has been accentuated on the occasion of this 20th Congress of the CCP. Let us remember that in China, power belongs to the party. We saw the humiliating way in which Hu Jintao, the previous leader, was ruthlessly dismissed in front of the world’s television channels, and also the composition of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau, in which only Xi Jinping’s supporters were promoted.

Despite the difficulties, or more likely because of them, the Chinese leadership has chosen to persevere: in its noxious anti-Covid strategy, in the pursuit of an economic policy that has produced disappointing results this year, and in its opposition to Taiwan, which is now enshrined in the CCP charter. This clear hardening accompanies Xi’s unlimited power, designated for a third term.

The hard line can be expected to become more pronounced, both in opposition to the US and in support of V. Putin. Yet the possibility of failure increases the risk of a breakout action in the zone, notably against Taiwan, betting on a weakening US following the mid-terms. Worrying.

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La Vigie Nr 202: Autumn raspoutitsa | Transatlantic strategic square | Lorgnette : The Iranian street rumbles

Autumn Raspoutista

In the autumn of 2022, the season of the first cold spells and quagmires, we note the multiple strategic bogging down of France: the total and worrying deadlock of the war in Ukraine which saturates the Euro-Atlantic landscape, the swamps in which radical and sceptical intercontinental relations are bogged down, and finally the budgetary swamp of the future army model and of the security investments that need to be made for the security of France and the French. An autumn already well bogged down.

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Transatlantic strategic square

From Moscow to Washington, from Prague to Berlin, the transatlantic strategic stakes have changed over the past month. From the war in Ukraine to questions of deterrence, from an enlarged Europe beyond the EU to the importance of economic issues, everything points to a rise in tensions.

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Lorgnette: The Iranian street rumbles

Once again, Iran is experiencing massive protests, following those of 1999, 2009, 2017 and 2019. Experts tell us that this time things are different, that the new generation is connected, that no one believes in the possibility of reforming the regime anymore, that women are involved.

What hasn’t changed is the regime’s repression, which deploys its squads of Revolutionary Guards and other Basijis. The army remains in the background and could decide the fate of the country if the clashes persist.

No one believes in the legitimacy of the theocratic regime in Tehran. However, it has been able to interpret the interests of the country and to conduct an active foreign policy despite American and Saudi hostility, with real successes, especially in its immediate environment. A fall of the regime would probably not put an end to regional geopolitical rivalries.

But the observer wonders: in the 21st century, can a popular revolutionary movement, even a massive and lasting one, put down a tyranny? The Sudanese and Belarusian examples do not support this view. We shall see.

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La Vigie Nr 201: Wild geese | What to think of the SCO ? | Lorgnette : Tigray, a forgotten war

Letter from La Vigie dated 28 September 2022

The wild geese

After having had the wind in their sails at the articulation of the XX° and XXI° centuries, private military companies are being singled out because of Wagner’s actions. The latter is however not a singularity but an illustration of what such a company can be. Its use, which reveals the weaknesses of the Russian army, should also raise questions for those who claim to be strategists. Is the development of such companies compatible with a national strategy?

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What about the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation?

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) has just held its annual summit in Samarkand, and it has received exceptional attention from the Western media, which is on the lookout for the slightest dissension between Russia, China and India in support of Moscow. But the important thing is not there but in the enlargement of the organisation to include Iran and the acceptance of a dozen countries, notably from the Middle East, as observers.

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Lorgnette: Tigray, the forgotten war

Here is a war that has been going on for two years, between a federal state that wants to bring a federated state of 6 million people to heel. There have already been 500,000 victims, aerial bombardments of civilian refuges, countless war crimes (including the use of starvation), drones, clashes between army groups of more than 20 divisions each, a 5-month truce suddenly broken, a backhanded attack by a neighbouring country, the regular use of armed drones.

It’s all happening in September 2022 and no, this is not Ukraine, but the conflict between Tigray and the Ethiopian federal government. So war is not back, it has never left our world, but who cares what happens in the Middle East, Yemen, Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa?

Yet the modalities of these wars are not so far removed from what we observe in Ukraine, despite the supposed evidence of “high intensity”, in fact common to all wars. The difference lies not in the armoured-mechanised dimension of one war compared to the other, but in its ultra media coverage.

The emotion in the face of the misfortunes of our fellow human beings should be the same. This is not the case. Wealth is not just about money.

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La Vigie Nr 200 (special): Power, Europe, speeches | N° 200: eight years of La Vigie | Strategic fasting | Lorgnette: New Kingdom

Letter from La Vigie, 14 September 2022

Power, Europe, speeches

Olaf Scholz in Prague and Emmanuel Macron in front of the ambassadors have both just given speeches that mention their visions of Europe. If there are real convergences, let us note that the perspectives seem different. Yet, despite the apparent persistence of divisions, the European Union has managed to move forward. Its ability to compromise is perhaps what makes it truly powerful.

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N° 200: eight years of La Vigie

With this issue 200 of La Vigie, we wanted to draw the guiding thread of the strategic transition that has affected all security issues for the past eight years, from 2014 to 2022. For France, three milestones are decisive: 2015, the year in which the country was warned about terrorism on its own territory; 2019, the year of the global health breakdown; and 2022, with the Russian invasion in the heart of Europe. To do this, we consulted our eight end-of-year reviews, which are highly instructive: yes, we have indeed changed our strategic framework and we will have to adapt to it.

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Strategic fasting

It is accepted, whether for religious or non-religious reasons, that frugality and fasting have virtues for the human body. Figuratively speaking, it is becoming urgent for our state social bodies to adopt a more frugal posture, at all levels, in order to safeguard their independence and thus their sovereignty.

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Lorgnette: New Kingdom

At the time of the Queen of England’s Golden Jubilee, we hailed her as the last living political witness to the Second World War (LV 194). Her death coincides with the arrival at 10 Downing Street of Liz Truss, a sort of B. Johnson in petticoats. The simultaneity of the two events marks the definitive end of an era, that of a British twentieth century that had managed to make the transition from the world’s leading power to a European power that had fallen into line. This phantasmagorical England, which tries to maintain its traditions in the face of a changing world, is the source of the ‘soft power’ narrative of popular television series (The Crown, Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders). That England is no more.

We have entered a new world, the post-Brexit world, perhaps the world of a ‘Global Britain’ (LV 165). There is no guarantee that the new king, Charles III, will have the reassuring prestige that Elizabeth II had built up. That discreet charm of the monarchy has thus left us. But the small regret at the fading of “yesterday’s world”, as S. Zweig said, is in the end the nostalgic characteristic of all changes of era.

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La Vigie Nr 199 : Coming out of the hot summer | Lorgnette: La Vigie’s year in review and entry into the 9th year | Analytical table of La Vigie 2021 -2022 (free reading)

Letter from La Vigie 31st August 2022

Coming out of the hot summer

The world’s affairs have been hot. There was of course the war in Ukraine, from which we are drawing some geopolitical consequences. But the rest of the world has also seen developments. This is an opportunity to take stock of the issues before the start of the new school year.

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Lorgnette: La Vigie’s year in review and entry into the 9th year

You will find attached the analytical table of the issues and posts of La Vigie published in the last year.

We have published 128 texts this year (118 last year), of which 20 were written by external authors (31 last year): Many thanks to our contributors who complement our analyses. We welcome young (and not so young) writers to write two or three page articles. 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. Among these 125 texts, we published 58 articles in free reading (46 last year): in addition to the Lorgnettes, various blog articles and the weekly chronicles of the war in Ukraine) as well as two free issues.

Of the 125 texts, 66 dealt with cross-cutting themes, 59 with specific geographical areas. 23 articles dealt with strategy (general, military or environmental), not to mention those dealing with geopolitics or military deterrence. The war in Ukraine itself has given rise to 23 articles (not counting broader posts on its strategic stakes). Let us point out a series on the countries of the Caucasus, another on some Nordic countries. There are also a few more general considerations (environment, religion, culture) and reading notes.

We are entering our ninth year, thanks to our new associate, Philippe Davadie, for allowing a broadening of views. We are looking for a specialist contributor on the air force and space: if you are interested, contact us. More than ever, strategic fluidity is the order of the day and the upcoming economic crisis, American or Chinese uncertainties or French challenges will accentuate the difficult high-level reading of our environment. We will endeavour, more than ever, to present our analyses to you.

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

Analytical table of La Vigie 2021 -2022

Click on the link to get the pdf.

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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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