LV 146 : Maverick states | There is no more West | Lorgnette : Hong-Kong mastered

Letter from La Vigie dated 8 July 2020


Maverick states

The Westphalian international order, which was intended to be egalitarian, has ended up degenerating into the law of the strongest: some States, using leverage, will try to compensate for their weakness by adopting an original model that should guarantee their survival. We shall call them the mavericks’ and here we propose a typology of their strategies.

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There is no more West.

The West was at the same time a civilization, a way of thinking marked by doubt and science, a world domination and a geopolitical device focused on the alliance between Europe and America. But both America and Europe are in deep disarray as the link between the two sides of the Atlantic inexorably unravels. The West is no longer, if not as a remnant of an ancient but already extinct world. Let us become aware of this in order to build a new system.

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Lorgnette: Hong Kong mastered

China finally decided to take over the Hong Kong enclave, despite a special status negotiated in 1997 that was to last fifty years. The “one country, two systems” theory has just been shattered a quarter of a century ahead of schedule.

This decision does not really surprise even if Beijing takes a risk, that of seeing the financial and commercial place that HK was and of tarnishing its image. But the ceaseless demonstrations, at a time when the Chinese power has been stiffening for several years in the face of difficulties, constituted an internal challenge that could not last any longer. Indeed, China is first of all obsessed with maintaining its unity, guaranteed by sustained growth rates that were fading away, a trend that accelerated with the pandemic. The Chinese decision must first be understood along that way. Yet Beijing felt strong enough to challenge the international community, especially the United States.

Beyond that, it reinforces the bad image given by China that has spread throughout the world over the last six months. It seems to ignore it, confident of its power and negligent towards the rest of the world, in line with its ancestral attitude.

Taiwan now remains to be watched.

JOCV

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Friedrich Nerly. 1807-1878. The Piazzetta in the moonlight. The Piazzetta in the moonlight. Cologne. Wallraf Richartz Museum

LV 145 : Japan and France: maritime strategies | Army’s strategic vision | Lorgnette: Sino-Indian tensions

Letter from La Vigie Nr 145, dated 24th June 2020

Japan and France: maritime strategies

France and Japan, comparable G7 countries, linked by an exceptional partnership, are similarly confronted with the economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis. In search of new levers to revive their economies, they are among the world’s leading oceanic powers and can count on their national maritime strategies to make the most of their assets. The global, bilateral and inter-ministerial maritime dialogue, which opened in Noumea in September 2019, is a pioneering tool enabling them to launch open projects at the scale of the maritime spaces of Europe and the Indo-Pacific, in the service of the reasoned development and preservation of the world ocean.

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Army’s Strategic Vision

The central argument of this reflection is the return to high intensity. It goes without saying that after thirty years of land-based operations of all kinds (peacekeeping, counter-insurgency, etc.) we are seeing a hardening of land-based armed conflicts outside. In order to cope with this, the army will have to be toughened up. It should be noted that this global vision does not cover the national territory.

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Lorgnette: Sino-Indian tensions

China and India clashed on 15 June in a high valley in Ladakh, on the Himalayan borders of the two countries, on the shores of Kashmir, itself the object of friction between India and Pakistan (LV 113). In a valley at more than 4000 m., unarmed border guards clashed with stones and sticks, causing the deaths of about twenty Indians and perhaps forty Chinese. It is believed that the Chinese set up tents in a disputed area. Both countries have since increased their appeasement measures.

Yet the affair is worrying: firstly, because Kashmir is the other explosive region in Central Asia (apart from Afghanistan) that involves three nuclear powers, in a context of state claims (which we note in this issue). But also because China seems to want to apply on the banks of the Galwan River the fait accompli policy it has practised in the South China Sea. The only difference is that here it is challenging not middle powers but India, itself a nationalist, which can use this as a pretext to make up for poor economic results.

This is worrying.

JOCV

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LV 144 : Getting ahead of the game | Missing : scinetific authority | Bartering in the Sahara

Letter from La Vigie n° 144 of 10 June 2020

Getting ahead of the game

In order for France to cope with the current crisis as the health shock subsides, the strategist recommends that it should give a new, realistic strategic impetus and envisage an ambitious renewal of its national paradigm. These two axes are the keys to a long-term project.

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Missing: scientific authority

The pandemic is not a geopolitical turning point, but it is accelerating underlying trends. Among these, the collapse of the authorities continues. Scientific authority was one of the last remaining. However, the influence of scientists has lost much in the crisis, whether in the analysis of the virus or in the major debates on the different types of treatment for the disease. This does not mean the end of scientific progress, far from it. But the public authority of the word of scientists, thanks to their legitimacy and neutrality, has suffered from the interests they were able to defend. This further weakens the cohesion of societies.

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Lorgnette: Bartering in the Sahara

The death of Abdelmalek Droukdal, an Islamist leader of AQIM in Mali, may be just a tactical success. Perhaps it is also a sign of a broader movement. Indeed, things are moving in Mali as they are in Algeria. In Mali, the last legislative elections have apparently not changed the political balance. However, IBK, the Malian president, has understood that there is a need to move and to do so, to negotiate with both the Tuaregs and the Peuls.

In Algeria, the new President Tebboune has controlled the hirak. He has launched a constitutional amendment that allows Algeria to commit the army across the borders. This does not concern Morocco, but rather the borders to the east, because the situation in Libya is evolving in favour of Turkey’s protégés, which is worrying Algiers.

The south therefore had to be guaranteed. A Droukdal was not only Islamist but Algerian, and he wanted to prevent the subtle bartering in the south. So one can imagine that Algiers let him go, so as to stabilise the Sahara and have a free hand. The fact remains that IBK, the Malian president, has been too late and that large demonstrations are calling for his resignation. Not ideal for negotiating, perhaps enough to finally decide to move.

JOCV

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LV 143 : MBS the squanderer | Religion as a strategic factor | Lorgnette : Open skies closing in

Letter from La Vigie n° 143 of 27 May 2020

MBS, the squanderer

Mohamed ben Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and de facto master of the country to an extent unrivalled since his grandfather, founder of the dynasty, exercises power in an authoritarian manner, convinced that the country must be radically reformed. The results are hardly convincing, especially for his calamitous foreign policy, to the extent that he gives the feeling that he has made his country more fragile than prepared for the future.

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Religion as a strategic factor

While some considered that the religious fact would become marginal in the 21st century, the importance of religion remains paramount in many countries; it is therefore a strategic factor not to be neglected.

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Lorgnette: Open skies closing in

President Trump recently announced that his country will withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty in six months. This follows the withdrawal from the INF Treaty (LV 112) with the same type of argument (it is the Russians’ fault) and the same calculation: to find room for manoeuvre against the Chinese and above all to disengage from any arms control system. For the American President, he belongs to the old and multilateral world that hinders the freedom of the United States (cf. the withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran, LV 95).

For once, the Europeans are not happy… Eleven countries, including France and especially Germany, officially regret the American decision and declare to remain in the treaty (as does Russia). The Alliance is under strain. Eyes turn to the latest arms control treaty, New Start, which expires in 2021. The Americans would like to include the Chinese who do not see the point.

The Europeans can either preserve the European strategic theatre with local negotiation (assuming Moscow is willing to do so and Washington does not stand in the way), or follow the Americans in a general negotiation with Russians and Chinese, but where they would have little weight.

JOCV

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LV 142 : Europe and Covid | Otherness at its peak | Lorgnette : German Primacy

Letter from La Vigie n° 142 of 13 May 2020

Europe and Covid

Europe is the continent most affected by the pandemic. However, there are many disparities and these are not mainly due to different responses by the authorities. The unanimous trend towards national retrenchment, the weakness of the EU’s response and the unlikely budgetary solidarity can be observed. In fact, the crisis is the end of a long process of division that requires strategic aggiornamento.

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Otherness at its peak

The global health crisis is causing multiple tensions, both strategic distancing and tactical barrier gestures. The disruption is becoming more pronounced. What could be at stake in this brutal stiffening is the massive rejection of Western hard ways and the expiry of a Euro-Atlantic societal model whose fragility has been shown by the coronacrise. An antagonistic otherness defies the universal claim that governs the world. France must concern itself with a revival of the state of organization of the world to preserve its place in it.

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Lorgnette: German primacy

The recent decision of the German Constitutional Court surprised only the idealists. Indeed, by recalling that the ECB had to explain its quantitative easing programme and by considering that it is acting beyond its mandate, the Karlsruhe court reaffirms in law its constant doctrine: in 2009, it had explained (with regard to the Lisbon Treaty) that “The peoples of the European Union, which are constituted in their (respective) Member States, remain the holders of public authority, including the authority of the Union“. In other words, it affirmed the primacy of the German Constitution, including over the European treaties.

This contradicts a common opinion in France, that of the supposed primacy of the European treaties over the French Constitution. Of course, the latter has been extensively modified since its inception and even more so in the last two decades. No “shaking hand” to change it, then. But this French neglect of the law is not “the rule” in Germany, where the rule is held in high esteem.

This is not national egoism: just law. Whose source comes from the sovereign people.

JOCV

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LV 141 : Europe and its center | Resilience, that magic word | Lorgnette: European disagreements

Letter from La Vigie, 29 April 2020

Europe and its centre

Europe’s centre of gravity, if we refer to a strategic definition, lies in the great European backbone that traditionally ran from London to Milan, via the Rhine. The events of 2020 are changing the situation and brutally highlighting the German question, which will determine the future of Europe. Only a genuine partnership between France and Germany would make it possible to perpetuate a powerful Europe.

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Resilience, that magic word

The pandemic has prompted many calls for “resilience”. In fact, the French  military operation against Covid-19 has taken on this name. Behind the over-mediatization of the word, let us return to the foundations of what it means. Its introduction into the strategic vocabulary dates back to the White paper of 2008 in a context of the fight against terrorism, unsuited to the current crisis. Above all, resilience is built before the crisis: invoking it when the crisis occurs shows above all that one is powerless in the conduct of the crisis.

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Lorgnette: European disagreements

The brutality of the pandemic is suddenly putting the European institutional edifice under strain. For more than a month now, in the Union’s area of economic competence, positions have been clashing very hard. In previous crises, the confrontation was “all against one” (Greece in 2012 during the euro crisis, Germany in 2015 during the migration crisis). This time we are witnessing the formation of two camps, fiercely opposed: the frugals (Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Finland) and the friends of cohesion (Spain, France, Italy).

At stake: the possibility of a common debt, in other words the technical transition to budgetary solidarity, with the richest paying for the least rich. The frugals refuse it, while others (France) see it as a way to progress towards European sovereignty: the “big step” method, so to speak. However, it is likely that the frugals will win because the European political and economic balance suits them. Otherwise, some (Italy) might be tempted to leave the euro. But if there is a transfer, others could leave it: Finland has already communicated to this effect.

This time the crisis is existential.

JOCV

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La Vigie Nr 140 : Coronacrisis : a strategic recession ? | Covid in America : the flip-flop | Lorgnette : truce in Yemen

Letter from La Vigie, 15 April 2020

Coronacrise: a strategic recession?

A few ideas for France and Europe for waiting to prepare for a form of strategic recession on the planet and get out of a few probable impasses. The world according to the coronacrisisremains undetermined for some time.

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Covid in America: the flip-flop

America is now the epicentre of the global pandemic with exceptional figures confirming that it remains the country of all extremes. The political, economic, military and diplomatic consequences are already numerous. However, this crisis is accelerating the turning point that has already begun in the 21st century, that of leaving American centrality.

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Lorgnette: truce in Yemen

Coronacrise precipitates events. By a trick of history, the pandemic that strikes the royal families of Saudi Arabia causes in Riyadh a notable evolution: that to stop the expenses in Yemen.

Everyone knows that this war was ordered by the impetuous Mohamed ben Salman, who believed he could easily and by force resolve the Yemeni imbroglio. This conflict, which has been going on since 2015, has led to the intervention of a Saudi coalition. It has never managed to achieve its goals, including that of driving the houthists out of their positions in the North of the country. The conflict has caused more than 110,000 deaths and the worst humanitarian crisis of the moment.

That is why the Kingdom offered a ceasefire last week, which was rejected by the houthis, who never believed the Saudi offers and are in the process of retaking Marib province. They are in a position of strength and de facto, Arabia finds that it has lost the war. The issue at stake is how to settle the accounts and manage relations with Iran. But a first case of Covid 19 in Yemen risks accelerating things and pushing the Saudis to withdraw unilaterally.

JOCV

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La Vigie Nr 139 : Face to the virus : first lessons from Asia | Forgotten strategic vocabulary | Withdrawing forces

Letter from La Vigie, 1st April 2020

Face to the virus: first lessons from Asia

Two weeks after the lockdown of the entire French population, much has been said about the measures adopted in some Asian countries to contain the Covid-19 epidemic. If the successes met by Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea or Japan to deal with the first wave of the epidemic are undeniable, they are due to a high level of preparedness of the administrations, the response forces and the populations to manage a probable crisis with potentially severe consequences. The rapid spread of the pandemic, incomplete information from China and hampered international cooperation have left most European countries with no choice but to confine themselves. These initial lessons from Asia will have to be quickly learned by all, individually and collectively, to prevent such a strategic surprise from being repeated in the new world to be built the day after.

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Forgotten strategic vocabulary

The health crisis we are facing reminds us of a number of terms that have been forgotten or neglected in strategic vocabulary: strategic surprise, weak signals, strategy of means, defence and innovation, freedom of movement, resilience… some are losing interest, others are regaining an importance that should not have been given up.

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Lorgnette: Withdrawing forces

The coronavirus is a good excuse. Or it can be very useful. For example, Iraq has decided on very strict border restrictions. The Americans took the opportunity to redeploy their force, in fact to abandon two of the three bases they had in the North and West of the country. That this decision came at a time when the Shiite militias had relaunched their campaign of harassment against American troops, following (post) the assassination of General Souleimani is of course completely fortuitous.

Unsurprisingly, many followed the American decision: the British and Czechs announced their decision to stop the training mission. France too, thus dismantling the Iraqi component of Operation Chammal, but also (discreetly) the special forces detachment operating in Syria. Officially, it is of course concerned about the strengthening of the Islamic state in the region. But it is in fact very happy to find a timely way out, since the objectives of this mission were no longer very clear. Above all, this will make it possible to lighten the system and strengthen the military resources in France. We have to relearn how to complete an operation.

JOCV

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LV 138 : Virus and strategy | Europe and its West | War to virus ?

Letter from La Vigie Nr 138, dated 18 March 2020

Viruses and strategy

Covid-19 reminds us of forgotten notions, such as the “Bacteriological” of the CBRN. Various response strategies have been implemented (fixing, blocking, slowing down) that put in tension the normality of systems in the face of chaos. The crisis is accelerating the current turning point of globalization because, beyond the harsh economic crisis that is coming, new frameworks for a different regulation will have to be installed. The crisis is not only a health crisis, it brings us back to the essential.

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Europe and its West

Europe’s relationship with the West does not only concern the people living along the Atlantic seaboard, all European countries face the West with different strategies. The main issue in transatlantic relations is the relationship with Washington, beyond the Atlantic Alliance.

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Lorgnette: War on the virus?

During his televised speech on 16 March, the President of the Republic called for national mobilisation in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not a question here of criticizing the exceptional measures that have been taken and which correspond to an extraordinary situation. On the other hand, the RP has declared on six occasions that “we are at war“, specifying only once that it was a health war. The search for a theatrical effect to mobilize the population can be irritating. It shows a lack of reflection on war.

At La Vigie, we regularly speak out against the abusive expression “war on terrorism“, imported without reflection from across the Atlantic and constantly used, because it fails to designate an enemy that is primarily political. In this case, the enemy is a virus! If we are at war, will the RP therefore call Parliament to implement Article 35 of the Constitution (The declaration of war is authorized by Parliament)? This is only emphasis, we will be told: a figure of speech. But war is neither a figure of speech nor an artifice of communication. Communication does not take the place of strategy.

JOCV

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La Vigie Nr 137 : Persistence of Boko Haram | PANG : Oceanic manoeuvre | Lorgnette : Munich security conference

Letter from La Vigie of 4 March 2020

Persistence of Boko Haram

The (low) French attention for Africa is concentrated on the Sahel-Saharan strip because of Operation Barkhane. However, another jihadist insurrection persists around Lake Chad: Boko Haram remains and has mutated profoundly. Faced with this, the countries in the area have taken vigorous initiatives over the past five years that have made it possible to confine the crisis centre. Why not looking at this example rather than persisting in a Sahelian strategy that has no end in sight?

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PANG: Oceanic Manoeuvre

The project for a new-generation aircraft carrier outlined by the Ministry of the Armed Forces to replace the Charles de Gaulle in 2038 is still only an industrial and technological dossier. It will soon be clarified. But it remains to give it a real strategic dimension as the military pivot of a global oceanic maneuvering and action capability by 2060 capable of protecting France’s interests in the world at that time.

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Lorgnette: Munich Conference 2020

The theme of the latest Munich Security Conference was the Weakening of the West or Westlessness (14-16 Feb.). It confirmed the western anomie.

After the interview with The Economist (Transatlantic Relations, LV 129) and the speech of the Military Academy (Deterrence, LV 136), it completed the President’s strategic vision of an unstable world that is changing dangerously. It had reaffirmed the need for an expanded European strategy and sovereignty that went beyond military issues to encompass standards, technology, infrastructure, communications, AI or neighbourhoods. He noted America’s remoteness, Germany’s rejection of power and the divergences between Europeans while the EU is invisible in the management of crises that affect its security and its values. Among the issues debated in Munich, Syria was not on the agenda, while the humanitarian crisis crystallised differences in priorities and competition between powers, recourse to the economy or migrants as political weapons. Let us hope that the emergency meeting of EU EA ministers will be a salutary awakening.

JOCV

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