LV 244 (free): Extended Mediterranean: Italy’s ambitions beyond Europe | Grand strategy in disarray | Lorgnette: Indian elections

Letter from La Vigie, dated 12th June 2024

 

Extended Mediterranean: Italy’s ambitions beyond Europe (LV 244) (free)

Since 2022, Italy has decided to adopt a new strategic positioning in an area stretching from the Gulf of Guinea to the north-western Indian Ocean, which it calls the “extended Mediterranean”. This cross-cutting vision, which includes diplomatic and economic as well as military and security aspects, underlines Rome’s ambitions for a southern flank of NATO and the EU that has too often been neglected. In support of this strategy, Italy is also developing a strong naval base, centred on a major upgrade of capabilities and spectacular growth in volumes, making it an essential partner for France, particularly in the Indo-Pacific.

To read the article, click here

Grand strategy in disarray (LV 244) (free)

Grand strategy remains a demanding discipline, combining diagnosis and decision, thought and action. Since its inception, La Vigie has tirelessly explored this method. We note its structural weakening, which reflects the deterioration of political debate. Yet other countries have succeeded in implementing major strategies. If we leave it to the course of events, we will encounter tragedy. Then perhaps grand strategy will be reborn.

To read the article, click here

Lorgnette : Indian elections

The elections that have just taken place in India are full of lessons. Narendra Modi did not achieve the triumph he had hoped for, even though his coalition managed to secure a third term in office. Domestic factors played their part: doubts about the Prime Minister’s ultra-Hindu political project, the tarnished aura of a man from the bottom, economic successes (7% growth) that do not redistribute enough (unemployment remains high), and persistent regional disparities.

However, this will give him a free hand internationally to continue his balancing act (LV 240). It will continue to combine its grand strategy: cooperation with the West, notably within the framework of the Quad (United States, Australia, Japan), while benefiting from the indulgence of the Europeans; cooperation with the BRICS and notably Russia, whose oil feeds its economy; pursuit of economic development in support of a globalisation that brings prosperity; attachment to its neighbours in the Indian Ocean; a marked effort towards Africa; maintenance of a degree of tension with China and Pakistan.

What is most remarkable is the decorrelation between domestic political life and foreign policy.

JOVPN

Subscribers: click directly on the links to read online or download the pdf issue (here), always with your login/password. New readers: read the article by issue, by clicking on each article (€2.5), or subscribe (discovery subscription €17, annual subscription €70, orga. subscription €300 excl. tax): here, the different options.

Photo credit: Maria Ripoll Cera on Visualhunt

LV 243: Paris-Warsaw: Prelude or waltz? | A funeral dirge for international law | Lorgnette: the meaning of war

Letter from La Vigie, dated 29 May 2024

Paris-Warsaw: Prelude or waltz?

Poland has traditionally had difficulties with its two neighbours, Russia and Germany. The war in Ukraine is reshuffling the cards in its strategic equation and prompting it to take an interest in the new French discourse: is this the prelude to a lasting understanding or just a waltz?

To read the article, click here

A funeral dirge for international law

The decision by Karim Khan, the ICC prosecutor, to ask for arrest warrants to be issued for Netanyahu and his defence minister has provoked strong reactions in the United States. Based on morality rather than law, they threaten one of the foundations of the international order, justifying in hindsight all the criticism of a law that would only target countries that are not aligned with the United States. If the threats against the ICC materialise, it could be the death knell of international law.

To read the article, click here

Lorgnette: the meaning of war

Soldiers are starting to write: what was still the exception twenty years ago is now becoming commonplace. But let’s take a look at the themes covered in these works: history, ethics or personal accounts, in most cases. In the latter case, the war is described as an experience. The authors show its violence, its injustice and the trauma it caused. France, for example, has been at war for thirty years without realising it, because its soldiers have been under fire (here).

Of course, the reader is left in awe of the examples given, the underlying heroism, and the moral and psychological dimension of war. But they are also bothered by a major omission, that of the political dimension of war. War is not only the work of those who wage it. War has a cause before it has a meaning. It is the work of a society before it is the work of the men who lead it. War is not war because it is an experience, it is war because it is first and foremost a political object. France was not at war because it did not think of itself as being at war. This is, moreover, the criticism we have regularly levelled at recent external operations in which the enemy was not identified.

This confusion remains embarrassing.

JOVPN

Subscribers: click directly on the links to read online or download the pdf issue (here), always with your login/password. New readers: read the article by issue, by clicking on each article (€2.5), or subscribe (discovery subscription €17, annual subscription €70, orga. subscription €300 excl. tax): here, the different options.

Photo credit: europeancouncilpresident on VisualHunt.com

LV 242 : Decentralised Spain | Tenacious internal fragility | Lorgnette: The Ukrainian turn

Letter frm La Vigie, dated 15th May 2024

Decentralised Spain

A new stage in the rediscovery of France’s neighbours on land: Spain. It is a textbook example of a state where the tension between central government and the regions is critical. This political focus explains its strategic ambition, which bears no comparison with the empire it once was.

To read the article, click here

Tenacious internal fragility

After leading to conflicts far away, the attacks of the 2010s brought attention back to the domestic front. But the return of war, particularly in Ukraine, is prompting people to look outside again. Yet the situation at home seems more fragile than ever, as many signs show. We must not forget the home front.

To read the article, click here

Lorgnette: The Ukrainian turn

After the failure of the Ukrainian offensive in the summer of 2023, the fighting continued throughout the autumn and winter, with slow Russian pressure which, thanks to a very favourable fire ratio, gradually nibbled away at a few positions and crushed the Ukrainian forces. The symbol was the capture of Avdivka in February 2024 (LV 236), a large suburb of Donetsk where the Ukrainians had been fortifying themselves since 2014.

But after a pause in March, the Russians resumed their push more vigorously from April onwards, whether in Chasiv Yar (a suburb of Bakhmut) or to the west of Avdivka, managing to make clearer progress at a rate of 25km² per week. Since last Friday, in addition to recurring fighting along the entire front, they have launched a major push north of Kharkiv, pushing aside the Ukrainian forces and taking several dozen square kilometres. Ukraine is short of weapons, ammunition and manpower. Western aid remains at a low level and the military situation seems very compromised.

It seems that we are witnessing a military turning point on the ground, even though Moscow has not yet launched all its forces. A turning point is taking place and the words ‘collapse’ are being uttered more and more. Are we close to the end?

JOVPN

Subscribers: click directly on the links to read online or download the pdf issue (here), always with your login/password. New readers: read the article by issue, by clicking on each article (€2.5), or subscribe (discovery subscription €17, annual subscription €70, orga. subscription €300 excl. tax): here, the different options.

Photo credit: La Moncloa - Gobierno de España on Visualhunt

LV 241 : Raids in the Middle East and the threshold of disuasion | NATO’s decoupling | Lorgnette: 7 years on

Letter from La Vigie, dated 1st May 2024

Raids in the Middle East and the threshold of disuasion

The reciprocal attack by Iran and Israel in April was the first direct aggression against the Hebrew state for decades: a threshold of escalation has been crossed. But it pits two powers on the nuclear threshold against each other: does the classic grammar of deterrence still apply?

To read the article, click here

NATO’s decoupling

The entry of the first Russian troops into Ukraine prompted NATO member states to support the invaded country. European voices then proclaimed that the Alliance was being strengthened, as evidenced by the accession of Sweden and Finland. However, decoupling mechanisms (not just transatlantic) are at work, threatening the Alliance’s very survival.

To read the article, click here

Lorgnette: 7 years on

7 years after the 1st speech at the Sorbonne (LV 107), 3 pages of text later, where does France and Europe stand? A list of successes, still implacable observations, progress to be made, incentives to build the European pillar of the Alliance, to implement common strategies, to apply the strategic compass, to rethink energy and agricultural policies, to use France’s nuclear weapons to protect Europe…

There’s nothing fundamentally new here, apart from the fact that we can guess at the impact of farmers’ protests against rising energy prices. We have already dealt with these issues in a previous issue (LV 237), which gives this speech a surprising tone. Can we keep repeating the same observations and the same proposals, betting on our listeners’ amnesia? Some of the German press echoed this perplexity, while French columnists did not hesitate to evoke a “strategic rupture”… Europe is thus at a turning point in the face of uninhibited powers, the risk of falling behind, and the battle of the imagination. “I have come to talk to you about Europe”, he said 7 years ago.

What if we were now to take action?

JOVPN

Subscribers: click directly on the links to read online or download the pdf issue (here), always with your login/password. New readers: read the article by issue, by clicking on each article (€2.5), or subscribe (discovery subscription €17, annual subscription €70, orga. subscription €300 excl. tax): here, the different options.

Photo credit: Chris Devers on Visualhunt

LV 240: India at the centre of the power game | War economy | Lorgnette: Junta in trouble

Letter from La Vigie, dated 17 April 2024

 

India at the centre of the power game

Changes in the strategic context, marked by the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific, are tending to give the Indian Ocean a central role. India, the only credible power in the region, is taking advantage of this to position itself at the barycentre of the power game, between non-alignment and multi-alignment.

To read the article, click here

War economy

The war economy has returned to the public discourse in the wake of the war in Ukraine. Yet this concept belongs to historical circumstances (the twentieth century) that are far removed from the country’s current situation. So why are the authorities using this expression?

To read the article, click here

Lorgnette: Junta in trouble

The Burmese junta continues to suffer setbacks. The Karen insurgents, who have rallied to the NUG (Government of National Unity), have just taken the town of Myawaddy, the most important crossing point to Thailand. Since the offensive launched last October, the junta’s opponents have scored a series of successes. While the junta retains control of the skies (thanks to Russian support), its troops on the ground are shaky. Defections are multiplying to such an extent that the junta decided in February to resort to conscription, which has exacerbated the population exodus. It is estimated that in the three years since the end of Burma’s democratic spring, the population of 54 million people has been made up of almost 100,000 refugees and 1.6 million displaced persons.

Is this the end? It is too early to say, because for the moment it is mainly the margins of the country that are being taken over by the rebellion, not the ethnic Burmese heartland, which remains under the overall control of the regime. The regime has little support, but many of its neighbours fear, without saying so, a Burmese chaos. China, which is officially silent on the principle of non-interference, is unhappy to see the Burmese alliance unravel: its aim was to develop direct access to the Bay of Bengal.

JOVPN

Subscribers: click directly on the links to read online or download the pdf issue (here), always with your login/password. New readers: read the article by issue, by clicking on each article (€2.5), or subscribe (discovery subscription €17, annual subscription €70, orga. subscription €300 excl. tax): here, the different options.

Photo credit: MEAphotogallery on VisualHunt.com

LV 239: The long Tunisian road | Where is the front line ? | Lorgnette: Bleak Olympic games

Letter from La Vigie, 3rd April 2024

The long Tunisian road

After a lost decade, Tunisia, which was at the forefront of the Arab revolts, has handed over to Kaïs Saïed. A populist who is preparing for re-election at the end of the year, no one knows whether he has a plan or whether he will lock himself into certainties without a project. France has forgotten Tunisia. This silence must be used to rebuild ties.

To read the article, click here

Where is the front line?

Curiously, our leaders tell us that our armies are engaged on the “eastern flank”. But if the area between the North Cape and the Caucasus is the flank, where is the front? What is behind this geographical, tactical and doctrinal nonsense? So let’s have the courage to look the front in the face.

To read the article, click here

Lorgnette: Bleak olympic games

Paris will be hosting the Olympic Games this summer, and it has to be said that the event is far from enchanting. The older generation will remember the good mood and pride that surrounded the 1992 Albertville Olympics. Nothing like that this year. For one thing, the geopolitical situation does not make the atmosphere very optimistic, and everyone senses that the Games could be the occasion for serious disruptions, whether cyber attacks or terrorist attacks.

Secondly, the Olympic magic has disappeared and this great media machine produces a lot of noise but not necessarily dreams. Amateurism has faded to such an extent and the money machine is so visible that nobody really believes in the show. The prices advertised are insane, both in the stadiums and in the hotels.

Finally, the disruption to everyday life is already there and is accelerating. The major transport works will not be completed and the municipal, regional and even national authorities are doing their utmost to come up with absurdities, encouraging Parisians and French people to flee the area.

With such repulsive communication, how do you expect the party to start? Fleeing the Olympics?

JOVPN

Subscribers: click directly on the links to read online or download the pdf issue (here), always with your login/password. New readers: read the article by issue, by clicking on each article (€2.5), or subscribe (discovery subscription €17, annual subscription €70, orga. subscription €300 excl. tax): here, the different options.

Photo credit:Gwenaël Piaser on VisualHunt.com

LV 238: Deterrence and circumvention | Impossible victory | Lorgnette : The implosion of ECOWAS?

Letter from La Vigie, 20 March 2024

Deterrence and circumvention

The very nature of the war in Ukraine raises questions about the relationship between deterrence and conventional action. The search for a complete integration of military actions, through an approach based on physical environments and immaterial fields, paradoxically offers greater possibilities of circumventing deterrence at the lower end of the spectrum. This question of possible circumvention is becoming increasingly critical for the Atlantic Alliance, with the issues of credibility of resources and solidarity between Allies at stake in the run-up to the American elections.

Impossible victory

Victory may seem an obvious word, but it is fraught with pitfalls because it is so strongly influenced by history and the Western model of war. Yet the conflicts of the post-Cold War era and the most recent wars show how unsuitable this concept is. We need to rethink victory and see it as an illusion: other objectives need to be pursued.

Lorgnette: The implosion of ECOWAS ?

These are difficult times for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). This “sub-regional” organisation (as the African jargon puts it) brought together 15 members from West Africa and the Sahel, from Nigeria to Senegal and Niger (but without Mauritania, which left in 2000). Originally an economic organisation, at the end of the 1990s it added a security mission (creation of Ecomog). It tried its hand at crisis mediation (Mali 2013, Gambia 2017). From 2019, its members will be discussing a common currency to replace the CFA franc. In 2017, Morocco and Mauritania asked to join.

But coups d’état from 2021 onwards hampered the process. Mali and Guinea were suspended, followed by Burkina-Faso, while Niger saw its trade transactions excluded and some people spoke of military intervention by the organisation to reinstate President Bazoum. The split became even more pronounced in January 2024, when Burkina, Mali and Niger announced that they were leaving the organisation. The heart of the Sahel is moving away from the Gulf of Guinea. The future is uncertain, as if suspended.

JOVPN

Subscribers: click directly on the links to read online or download the pdf issue (here), always with your login/password. New readers: read the article by issue, by clicking on each article (€2.5), or subscribe (discovery subscription €17, annual subscription €70, orga. subscription €300 excl. tax): here, the different options.

Photo credit:

 

LV 237: European Deterrence – Economic Sovereignty – Lorgnette : Elections in Iran

Letter from La Vigie, 6 March 2024

European deterrence

Candidate Trump’s recent comments that American protection in NATO was conditional on a European defence effort have reignited the debate on European deterrence. In the event of a strategic default by the US with regard to its European allies, could the French nuclear force take over to protect EU countries? LV takes a detailed look at this sensitive issue at a time of particularly aggressive pressure from Russia.

To read the article, click here

Economic sovereignty

The return to favour of the term sovereignty should not conceal the difficulties it implies: is one sovereign in an area when one does not control all its constituent elements? Does the State have the means to defend the companies it intends to keep sovereign? Can sovereignty ignore the management of companies and their legal form? At a time when the world has changed profoundly, a new understanding of the term sovereignty is needed.

To read the article, click here

Lorgnette: Elections in Iran

The Iranian elections took place last Friday and were marked by a record abstention rate (41%), even though the conservatives officially won. To conquer without peril is to triumph without glory. This hostility reflects the country’s disappointment with the results of those in power: aspirations for greater freedom have followed one another with yet another uprising (LV 202) last September after the death of Mahsa Amini, who did not respect the headscarf, an uprising that was once again put down in bloodshed. But economic difficulties are also having an impact (50% inflation).

By appointing the Assembly of Experts, the election is also paving the way for the succession of the “Leader”, Ali Khamenei, who is 88 years old. By locking society down to such an extent, the regime is showing a degree of internal feverishness, despite the fact that its diplomacy is gaining ground, succeeding in renewing relations with Saudi Arabia and avoiding confrontation with Israel while at the same time embodying the camp of refusal. Relations with Russia and China have been strengthened.

So Iran is waiting for the American elections (betting on Trump) and the succession of the Leader. Heaven can wait. So can the Iranian people.

JOVPN

Subscribers: click directly on the links to read online or download the pdf issue (here), always with your login/password. New readers: read the article by issue, by clicking on each article (€2.5), or subscribe (discovery subscription €17, annual subscription €70, orga. subscription €300 excl. tax): here, the different options.

Photo credit: Mammut chez Pixabay (here)

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.

To read the article, click here

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.

To read the article, click here

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.

JOVPN

Subscribers: click directly on the links to read online or download the pdf issue (here), always with your login/password. New readers: read the article by issue, by clicking on each article (€2.5), or subscribe (discovery subscription €17, annual subscription €70, orga. subscription €300 excl. tax): here, the different options.

Photo credit : Lukas Johnns chez Pixabay here

 

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.

To read the article, click here

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?

To read the article, click here

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?

JOVPN

Subscribers: click directly on the links to read online or download the pdf issue (here), always with your login/password. New readers: read the article by issue, by clicking on each article (€2.5), or subscribe (discovery subscription €17, annual subscription €70, orga. subscription €300 excl. tax): here, the different options.

Photo credit : hans pohl on VisualHunt