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

Letter from La Vigie dated 11 May 2022

Intensity, symmetry, threshold, model

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

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Turkish balancing act

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

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Lorgnette: United Ireland?

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

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

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

Letter from La Vigie dated April 27th 20221

Finnish Model

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

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War, crime and punishment

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

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Lorgnette: Jacques Perrin

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

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

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

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

Letter from La Vigie dated 13 April 2022

Western positions

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

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Ukraine between the Atlantic and the Urals

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

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Lorgnette: various riots

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letter from La Vigie dated 16 March 2022

European strategy in disarray

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

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De-globalisation?

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

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Lorgnette: Spain and Sahara

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

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

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

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

Letter from La Vigie dated 16 March 2022

Difficult awakening from a long strategic sleep

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

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Attrition in Ukraine

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

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Lorgnette: economic backlash

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

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

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

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

Letter from La Vigie dated 2 March 2022

East from West

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

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War in Ukraine

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

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Lorgnette: The Nuclear Factor

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

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

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Crédit photo :Ministère de la défense d’Ukraine

La Vigie Nr 186 : African coups | Torn Georgia | Lorgnette : Indonesian opening

African coups

The recent coups in Mali and Burkina Faso show the disappointment of African elites and populations towards France. This can be explained by a major strategic error, a mixture of good conscience, overuse of the military tool, inappropriate governance manoeuvres and, finally, misunderstood and therefore misimplemented interests. France has disappointed and it is to blame. It must draw the consequences.

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Georgia torn

Georgia is the only country in the Transcaucasus that is open to the West, to the Black Sea, to Europe. The country is haunted by the demons of conflict with separatist provinces and its complicated relationship with Russia. Its attempt at rapprochement with the United States ended in failure, especially militarily, but Georgia has since embarked on a new path towards the European Union. Perhaps this is not a bad idea!

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Lorgnette: Indonesian opening

The recent sale of 42 Rafale fighters to Indonesia is welcome, for obvious industrial reasons. If it is not sure that it favours French defence, it constitutes on the other hand an asset in our foreign policy, in particular in South-East Asia, a more accurate term here than Indo-Pacific. It should also be noted that this sale is accompanied by that of two Scorpene submarines. The AUKUS affront has been repaired (LV 176).

Paradoxically, it may have served its purpose. Indeed, like many countries in the region, Indonesia is careful to maintain a policy of balance between China and the United States, ensuring that it is not too dependent on either. It had been following our strategic and industrial partnership with India with interest, which prompted it to consider our offer carefully. But it is very likely that the Australians’ unilateral decision played a role: by considering that France was not secure enough, Australia proved that, on the contrary, France had a balanced position in the region. This was probably the decisive argument for Jakarta. Thus, in addition to India and Singapore, France obtains a third partner in this South and South-East Asia. Let’s hope it won’t be the last.

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La Vigie Nr 185 : Pioneering Chile | Strategic feverishness | Lorgnette : Lebanese impasse

Letter from La Vigie dated 2 Feb 2022

Pioneering Chile

Chile, this country at the end of the world, is first and foremost determined by its geography. Isolated, it is at once American, Oceanic and Antarctic. It has an original political experience which is currently undergoing new developments. It is also a stake in the Sino-American rivalry since it has economic exchanges with both countries. Neglected by France, it could nevertheless become a partner in the Pacific.

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Strategic feverishness

The strategic puzzle is becoming more complicated with the crises surrounding Ukraine and Taiwan. The feverishness of the situation reveals the place taken by the irreducible strategic otherness of the US-China rivalry and the strategic ambiguity facilitated by the use of deception and intimidation. What place is there for strategic autonomy in the growing interdependence? For France in Europe, an incentive to hasten a reasonable reunification of the European continent that is overdue.

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Lorgnette: Lebanese impasse

Lebanon continues its national collapse, this time reaching unknown levels of degradation. It had long been living on an illusion, that of a national pact that had its roots in 1943. The 1975 civil war and the rise of Hezbollah, a pseudo-state, had already shattered this mirage. The reality of a clan-based corruption, spreading widely to the lowest levels of society, is the fundamental factor in the decline of the country of the Cedar.

Several shocks have thwarted the illusion of a return to normalcy that some observed in the 2000s: on the one hand, the Syrian civil war that has thrown 1.7 million refugees (25% of a population of 6.8 million) into Lebanon; on the other hand, the Gulf States, traditional supporters of the political class, have stopped their support. The gigantic explosion that hit the port of Beirut in the summer of 2020 showed the king naked and accelerated the implosion of the state.

There follows a long deterioration, first economic and financial, but also legal and soon security. Society is disintegrating, the ultimate stage of state decay. This process, visible in the Middle East as in Africa, marks the end of the Western model of the state.

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La Vigie Nr 184 : Bruised Armenia | Russian-US negotiations | Lorgnette : Deterrence and espionage on the small screen

Letter from La Vigie dated 19 Jan 2022

Bruised Armenia

While Turkey has just begun negotiations to try to normalise its relations with its neighbour Armenia – having agreed not to mention the “Armenian genocide” for the time being – it is time for us to continue our trans-Caucasian tour of horizon by looking at Armenia. What place does it occupy in the regional balance?

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Russian-US negotiations

European observers have been very alarmed by the risk of war on the borders of Ukraine. What if it was all a bluff, with Putin playing poker this time and cashing in on the bilateral negotiations with the US? Killing any hope of an autonomous European defence.

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Lorgnette : Deterrence and espionage on the small screen

A television co-production between Arte and the BBC, entitled “VIGIL” and currently on air, stands out. It is a short six-part series.

It begins with an investigation into the suspicious death of a sailor aboard a British SSBN in Scottish territorial waters. While the aerial images are of the actual base at Faslane, the SNLE base is renamed ‘Dunloch’.

Sadly, sacrificing to current conventions regarding the heroine’s moods and omitting a few implausibilities, certainly accepted for dramatic reasons, the series’ interest lies in the way it revisits the underwater film ‘genre’, which can quickly prove tiresome. It is not the ground investigation that offers it, but the way in which the nuclear deterrent is approached. Indeed, the huis clos is an SNLE (sous-marin nucléaire lanceur d’engins) and it soon becomes apparent that the very principle of the deterrent posture is at the heart of a scheme.

It is rare enough to bring these serious issues to such an audience (so within the series there are also all sorts of pacifists): this is the great merit of the series.

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La Vigie Nr 183 : From 2021 to 2022: Still uncertain! | Cordial disagreement | Lorgnette : South-African Nobels

Leter from La Vigie, dated 5 Jan 2022

From 2021 to 2022: Still uncertain!

The year 2022 still looks very uncertain: a banal America, a declining Russia, a tense China, a hesitant Middle East, a stalled Africa and an undecided Europe do not favour major strategic upheavals. The Sino-American rivalry remains the main structuring factor. As for France, we will have to wait for the presidential election to see clearly.

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Cordial disagreement

The year 2021 marked the end of what was intended to be a year of renewed leadership for the UK in world affairs. As 1 January 2022 marked the first anniversary of the effective entry into force of the Brexit, what can we learn from these twelve months? What does this mean for the future of the Franco-British relationship and the normalisation of the relationship between the EU and the UK?

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Lorgnette: South African Nobels

Two South African Nobel Prize winners have just passed away within a month of each other.

Frederik de Klerk, the last white president of South Africa, ended apartheid and organised a peaceful transition to a democratic regime that allowed blacks to take power. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with Nelson Mandela. It was he who changed the doctrine of the National Party from 1989 onwards, legalised the black parties and freed Mandela in 1990. The official abolition of apartheid took place in 1991. He died on 11 November 2021.

Desmond Tutu is a black Anglican bishop who, coming from a modest background, preaches reconciliation between peoples. His fight for non-violence earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. He presided over the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which shed light on many crimes and avoided the confrontation that everyone predicted would follow the change of regime. He did not hesitate to denounce the excesses of Mandela’s successors, notably J. Zuma. He died on 26 December 2021.

Two good men who will be missed by South Africa, which is currently experiencing a lot of turmoil. May their successors be up to the task.

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