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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LV 136 : Nuclear deterrence : the satus quo | Ecology and strategy | Mali : speaking the truth

Letter from La Vigie, 19 FEB 2020

Nuclear deterrence: the status quo

An analysis of the nuclear deterrence discourse of the current legislature shows an assumed continuity and a fairly theoretical openness to a European strategic nuclear perspective. One will readily subscribe to this agreed caution. The reactions recorded reveal a rhetoric whose meaning is fading and priority is fading despite the current disorder.

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Ecology and strategy

The preservation of the environment is a global priority, yet it is rarely mentioned by strategists. However, when it comes to managing scarce resources, there is an opposition between a political vision (ecology) and an economic vision (economy), despite the ideological excesses of some. A response to this global problem should logically be multilateral: the American withdrawal from the Paris agreements hinders this approach. Something else must be imagined, all the more so as the strategic factor will weigh more and more heavily in tomorrow’s conflicts, a prospective that must be examined today.

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Lorgnette: Mali: speaking the truth, the end of denial?

By confirming the offer of direct contacts with Iyad Ag Ghali and Amadou Koufa, two emblematic jihadist leaders, IBK, the Malian Head of State transcends the inclusive national dialogue. What does he have to offer?

Probably little, if not a real sharing of political and social views and even local responsibilities. In fact, the military framework has been well renewed: French reinforcement (600 men for Barkhane and G5 Sahel) after the Pau Summit (LV 134), the symbolic and negotiated return to Kidal of an element of the reconstituted Malian army (based on 2/3 of local paramilitaries) on 16 February, the integration into the FAMA of 500 men from the MSA for Menaka and the launch of Maliko, a vast autonomous Malian military operation to reconquer the territory whose eastern theatre covers Gao, Menaka and Kidal.

At the same time, General (ex-captain putschist) Sanogo was released without trial. It is an attempt to bring together all the Malian actors in a Malian military coalition against AW. Al Saharoui (EIGS) designated to all as the terrorist intruder to be eradicated. Then we’ll talk about everything (political, social, religious) But we’re speaking French too. To be seen, up close

JOCV

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LV 135 : Europe and the South | Brexit and the end of EU | Coronavirus : Chinese ?

Letter from La Vigie, dated 5 FEB 2020

Europe and its South

Long regarded as the preserve of southern European countries, the southern Mediterranean shore and its hinterland are now becoming an issue for all European countries, whatever they may be. Only a long-term multilateral strategy will make it possible to resolve the many crises in this region that threaten Europe.

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Brexit and the end of the EU

Brexit thus became law and a country left the European Union for the first time. Admittedly, there are still a few months of negotiations to settle the details of future relations, but the essential points have been said. The EU loses much more than just a 28th of its members: in addition to size (population, GDP) or contribution to the common budget (which will have repercussions on solidarity towards poorer countries, often the latest entrants), it loses a strategic player. While the UK may lose out, the EU sees with its departure the beginning of the end.

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Lorgnette: Coronavirus: Chinese?

The Coronavirus epidemic surprises the observer. As well for its treatment in China, which testifies to the feverishness of the government while the growth rate was ebbing away and that the prior takeover was intended to allow President Xi to better control it. The crisis is generating popular discontent that must be carefully monitored, especially if the power fails to stem the epidemic.

Incidentally, there is a massive movement of quarantines: villages, neighbourhoods, entire cities and even countries, as evidenced by the drastic reduction in relations with China and the closure of borders. We can see here the new phase of globalisation, as we have known it for the last ten years: while trade has increased incredibly (including in diseases), the reaction to the negative effects is closure and local repatriation: here protectionism, there health isolation of a suspect country. The coronavirus is symbolic of geo-economic times and beyond, geopolitical times. Let us hope that this disease is controlled before contaminating everything.

JOCV

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LV 134 : New military strategies | Clever Azerbaijan | Sahel, no Pau

Lettre from La Vigie, dated 22 JAN 2020

New military strategies

Military strategy must articulate both nuclear strategy and the response to asymmetric adversaries. Without dwelling on fashionable concepts (Hybrid Warfare, A2/AD), let us note the return to concerns of high-intensity warfare, which had been forgotten. Opposition between peers or quasi-peers is back on the agenda, without overshadowing other priorities. 2020 is an opportunity to think calmly before the turmoil of the next presidential campaign and the subsequent LPM.

Clever Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is thus on the borders of Europe and Asia, the Russian world and the Middle East, and is of interest to both China and the United States. As a Muslim, Shiite and secular country, it has just presided over the Non-Aligned Movement. Rich in abundant oil, it does not waste this income and succeeds, thanks to skilful diplomacy, in asserting its interests despite the persistent dispute with neighbouring Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. These are all exceptions which would almost be worthy of a model and in any case arouse interest.

Lorgnette: Sahel, no Pau

France convened the leaders of the five G5 Sahel countries at a summit in Pau last week. It asked them, as it were, to confirm their desire to see France intervene in the region, in particular through Operation Barkhane. It was a question of finding political support at a time when the French presence is routinely decried in regional public opinion. In short, to force the said governments to come out of their duplicity. In exchange, France announced the dispatch of 220 additional troops and the refocusing of the operation on the Tri-border region.

220 troops is a 5% reinforcement: no one will believe that this can change the balance of power. As for the concentration on the three borders, it is a change that is at best operative, it certainly has no strategic significance. As for the rest, nothing changes and the stalemate will continue. For the old moons that have been proper and ineffective for decades will continue without changing the political behaviour of the region’s rulers: what if we put them face to face with their responsibilities?

JOCV

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LV 133 : Pespective on 2020 | On common goods of humanity | Lognette : Ottoman Libya

Letter from La Vigie of 8 January 2020

French perspective on 2020: strategic regulation in question

The strategic disruption of the planet continues. In 2020, it could become even more geo-economically unstable. For France, which needs to refocus its strategy and rethink its alliances, this is undoubtedly the time to reassess its external commitments, to exercise strategic restraint and to prioritise efforts on public security and cohesion in order to regain room for manoeuvre.

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The common goods of humanity

Beyond geopolitical or economic issues, it is at a time when multilateralism is experiencing its deepest crisis that it is most needed, particularly to guarantee the sustainable management of the common goods that the planet offers us. Whether we are talking about the environment, the sea and the oceans, exo-atmospheric and cybernetic space or the infinitely small human body, the preservation and exploitation of these goods, which are common to all humankind, require the practice of effective multilateralism so that they may benefit the human species in the long term. The different societies and human generations must also agree to listen to each other before engaging in dialogue.

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Lorgnette: Ottoman Libya

The situation in Libya is experiencing a new wave of uncertainty. While the Tripoli government was showing its limits (that of not governing anything, despite official UN recognition), while Misrata’s militias and their affiliates constituted the last square to oppose the Marshall Haftar, who had launched the final push to conquer Tripoli and reunify the country, helped in this by his Egyptian and Emirati godfathers, not to mention a number of mercenaries, President Erdogan announced that he was going to intervene.

Let us recall the long filiation between Misrata and Turkey to understand that Ankara basically wishes to defend its last point of support in the southern Mediterranean. Turkey remains a Mediterranean power and its neo-Ottomanism recalls its past domination. The fact remains that it is well established in Syria, that its supporters of Idlib are little by little driven out by the Russian-Syrian offensive and that there is a plethora of violent Islamists to be recycled. Ankara will officially send regular troops: let’s bet that the main one will be made up of jihadist séides.

Bad news for Libya and the Sahel!

JOCV

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LV 132 : AMR 2019 : Taking stock of the world to come | Europe and the East | Lorgnette: Christmas dream

Letter from La Vigie, dated 25 December 2019

AMR 2019 : Taking stock of the world to come

Our annual aide-memoire to the king takes up the year again : a neighbourhood in crisis, especially in the south, a belt of conflicts beyond, the end of the West and thus of the notion of world order, a pervasive rivalry between the United States and China, the maintenance of cross-cutting issues (nuclear, terrorism, armed crime) and the birth of new ones (awakening peoples), a passive Europe stuck between the EU and NATO, and a France on the verge of the clarifications that we must now pursue and ambition to achieve.

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Europe and the East

The relationship between Europe and the East is largely determined by the relationship between Europe and Russia. While the spectres of the 20th century still poison this relationship today, a reversal of perspectives may lead to a constructive win-win relationship.

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Lorgnette: Christmas dream

The Christmas period is often the occasion of a truce of the confectioners (trêve des confiseurs). This year, the truce will give way to a strike. Let’s make a dream come true: that of a country that would enforce its motto (Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité). Freedom in every sense of the word (freedom to move as freedom to strike or to demonstrate, the two having to be reconciled); equality (but, if we have understood correctly, this is the subject of the debate underlying the pension reform); and above all fraternity, which we vowed last January (LV 108).  Now, the peoples who are waking up are all calling for fraternity, under their calls for justice and equity. It is fraternity that binds the community together, makes the other one a fellow human being despite his differences, the equal of a brother with whom we share the desire to live together, in an organized society, to live a community of destiny. This stranger that I meet in the street, beggar or beggar, is also this brother.

Basically, fraternity is a vision, not a demand; a prerequisite, not an objective. In this Christmas season, whether you are with your family or on mission, at home or abroad, we wish you a beautiful and soothing fraternity.

JOCV

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LV 131 : Sahel : just before the rubble | EastMed and gas | Lorgnette : Challenges of DG Defence

Letter from La Vigie dated 11 December 2019

Sahel: just before the rubble

The motives put forward by some (economic interests) or others (fight against terrorism) are struggling to convince of the French strategy in the Sahel. As a result, because we define the enemy poorly, we are stalling, knowing that the authorities in the region do not have the same priorities as France. This addition of misperceptions, false pretenses, miscalculations and misunderstandings hinders many initiatives. It is time to make a real diagnosis and start from the bottom.

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Eastmed (Medor ) and gas

The geopolitics of the eastern Mediterranean is now stimulated by the abundance of natural gas that has recently been found on its seabed. The region’s balances are all the more affected by this as the liquefaction of LNG from this gas now allows its production, diffusion and storage in situ, certainly with heavy investments. This rapid evolution creates a strategic dynamic of competitions, alliances and cooperation that has a strong impact not only on the local residents but also on the region near the Levant and even on the green economy, whose regional situation is changing.

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Lorgnette: challenges for DG Defence

The new European Commission is finally in place and presents its innovations. Among these, a “DG Defence Industry & Space”, named Défis (Defense Industry & Space – Challenges in French) and already named “DG Defence” like the CESDP which was quickly established as a European defence. But collective defence is still NATO for most EU Member States (LV 129), as the President of the Commission pointed out.

The result of the partition of DG Industry, this DG will be a stimulus and an arbiter for the EU’s defence industry. We see it as the spearhead of a reconquest by Europeans of their strategic autonomy, a decisive step on the road to a Security and Defence Union, which is obviously complementary to NATO. With the permanent structured cooperation of the 25/27, the €13 billion FEDEF over 7 years and Galileo, we will thus have a catalogue of structures that will complement the COPS, the EUMS, the EDA and prepare the European army that some see emerging.

To counter the Russian threat and meet the Chinese challenge? We’ll judge on the basis of the evidence. But what has been lacking so far is will and strategy; structures will not replace them.

JOCV

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La Vigie Nr 130 : People in motion | Europe-Asia : same equations ? | Lorgnette : pope and nuclear

Letter from La Vigie dated 27 November 2019


People in motion

This autumn saw massive demonstrations all over the world: in Latin America, North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. What does this global and simultaneous phenomenon mean when the analysis of each movement suggests contingent and local factors? Despite the differences (purpose, duration, social or political motivation), they share the disappointment with the established powers. Above all, they appear to be a new consequence of globalization, as paradoxical as this conclusion seems.

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Europe-Asia: same equations?

In twenty years, France and Japan have become strategic partners of the 21st century, re-establishing a level of relations that the two countries had not enjoyed since the advent of the Meiji era, contributing to the archipelago’s opening to modernity at the end of the 19th century. Over the course of the 20th century, after having been allies in the first world war, they became allies of the United States after 1945. With different strategic cultures that reflect their distinct histories, their strategic autonomy and their alliance stances towards Washington now have some common points that are interesting to note as we approach the next NATO Summit.

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Lorgnette: Pope and nuclear

Pope Francis’ speech in Nagasaki (here) constitutes a significant reversal of jurisprudence. Indeed, the Catholic Church has never concealed its opposition to nuclear weapons. But after much debate, it had resolved, in France, to accept the principle of deterrence (text of the 1983 Episcopal Conference). Deterrence had been recognized as a necessary evil. But for Pope Francis, it is “perverse”: “International peace and stability are incompatible with any attempt to rely on the fear of mutual destruction or on the threat of total annihilation“. As for nuclear weapons, if their use had always been condemned, the Church said nothing about their possession. Having or manufacturing it is now condemned: “The use of atomic energy for military purposes is now, more than ever, a crime. It is immoral.

The Pope calls for international negotiations, especially around the TPNW (LV 87). It is the only time when morality meets reality. It must be said that today, despite the objectives affirmed by the NPT, we are not moving towards a world without nuclear weapons. On the contrary.

JOCV

 

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