La Vigie Nr 166 : The end of the state ? | Strategic posture of Italia | Lorgnette : Chadian domino

Letter La Vigie, dated 28 APRIL 2021

The end of the state?

It seems obvious to us that we live in a state. However, modern state organisation is the result of a long process and the contemporary rule of law is not a constant. Today, states are challenged by various means, which weakens and discredits them. How then can the legitimacy of the state be strengthened?

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Italy’s strategic posture

Contemporary Italy, heir to three Romas, is fundamentally Mediterranean and existentially European. These determinants do not prevent it from having a very deep alliance with the United States while maintaining a special relationship with Russia. In Europe, it has a complicated relationship with Germany, the result of centuries of experience. With the Brexit causing a reshuffling of European balances, this is a good time for a rapprochement between Paris and Rome, despite recent frictions and provided France forgets its condescension.

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Lorgnette: Chadian Domino

The violent death (in troubled circumstances) of Idriss Déby, the Chadian president, constitutes a geopolitical earthquake. It is first and foremost an internal one because, as a good despot, he had not prepared his succession. Without even mentioning the representation of popular aspirations, his system will be difficult to perpetuate and should re-launch rivalries between clans. Let’s remember that the conquest of power has always been done by arms, especially by the northern tribes.

But it is above all the regional balance and the French security apparatus that are weakened. In the military system left in Africa after the Cold War, N’Djamena has always occupied a place of choice thanks to its central position. It has been strengthened more than ever following the troubles in the Sahel-Saharan strip that have followed one another over the past decade, and particularly the intervention in Mali. It should be remembered that the headquarters of Operation Barkhane is located in N’Djamena and that the Chadian troops were the only effective ones in the G5 Sahel on which Paris is basing so much hope. By domino effect, all the countries in the region can now fall. This is bad news.

JOCV

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LV 163 : The Greek ally | Introduction to multidomain operations | Lorgnette : Senegal in turmoil

Letter from La Vigie, Dated 17 March 2021

The Greek ally

Since last summer’s tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, France has moved closer to Greece. Greece has settled all its differences with its Balkan neighbours. The deep rivalry with Turkey remains, aggravated by the Cyprus question. The rapprochement with France is logical from Athens’ point of view. For Paris, it will be important to ensure that this is not just a diplomatic coup but a lasting alliance.

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Introduction to multi-domain operations

The synergy of multi-domain military engagements has accelerated since 2014. The development of hybrid strategies, combining military and non-military modes of action, by state and non-state competitors or strategic disruptors, led the United States to structure its approach to multi-domain operations (MDOs) and to solicit its allies. As is the case whenever a new strategic and operational concept emerges, each of them is required to appropriate it before considering a common interoperable and coordinated response. France is preparing for this. The next NATO and EU summits could see the adoption of the first concrete multilateral initiatives.

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Lorgnette: Senegal in turmoil

The events of the last few days in Senegal are worrying. Indeed, the arrest of the main opponent to the government, Ousmane Sonko, triggered a series of bloody riots (a dozen dead, nearly 600 injured). Although the situation has since calmed down, it reveals several trends. First of all, Senegalese democracy, often cited as an example, is not immune to upheaval. We need to remember what happened twenty years ago in Côte d’Ivoire. The president, Macky Sall, remains very ambiguous about a possible third candidacy and has succeeded in eliminating the opposition… except for Ousmane Sonko, who is not from the seraglio. He made a name for himself by coming third in the last presidential election by denouncing corruption but also the French influence.

Now, this anti-French sentiment is spreading throughout the former African pré carré. This is to lend a lot of power to France, but the affair comes at a time when the debate is raging around the Barkhane operation. If minds are focused on the Sahel, it is advisable to remain cautious towards the region’s solid supports. A destabilised Senegal would be very bad news for everyone.

JOCV

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LV 160 : Djibouti, a coveted strategic crossroads | Risks anc conflicts | Lorgnette : A new start

Letter from La Vigie dated 3 FEB 2021

Djibouti, a coveted strategic crossroads

As an established fulcrum at the convergence of the major maritime routes linking Asia and the Middle East on the one hand, and Africa and Europe on the other, which became a strategic crossroads during the Cold War, the Republic of Djibouti’s strategic dimension was strengthened as it entered the 21st century. The subject of massive economic investment from China and home to the military bases of six different foreign countries, with those of China and the United States surpassing those of France (former sovereign power on the territory), this tiny state has engaged in subtle and lucrative diplomacy, not without risks, in order to guarantee its political autonomy, security and development.

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Risks and conflicts

2021 will provide the basis for the 2022 election platforms. The recent publication of an Update to the 2017 Strategic Review is part of this framework. The exercise is classic, well-written and somewhat agreed upon, but it serves above all to justify capacity needs. It lacks boldness in the face of undiscerning risks and a new, ambivalent and below-threshold conflictuality, both external and internal. It does not outline a necessary integral strategy. This is a pity.

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Lorgnette: New start

As soon as he arrived, Joe Biden proposed a five-year extension of the New Start Treaty. Russia agreed immediately. This is good news. New Start was indeed the last arms control treaty in force. Bilateral, it linked Washington and Moscow to limit the number of their nuclear weapons. It was due to expire on 5 February and it is likely that a re-elected Donald Trump would have let the deadline pass, as he had withdrawn from other treaties. This was not the decision of his successor.

The extension means that the bilateral dialogue should resume in a more conventional way, which does not mean that tensions will ease. One recalls the Democratic Party’s obsession with “Russian fraud” and the suspicion of connivance between Mr Trump and Putin. J. Biden will have to take this fringe of his party into account. However, returning to international negotiations is a good signal. Above all, it reopens perspectives on nuclear issues: updating the JCPOA agreement with Iran or dealing with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW cf. LV 87). We will follow this closely.

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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La Vigie Nr 117 : China and the heart of the earth | A look at North Africa | Lorgnette : Spanish elections

La Vigie, Strategic letter, Nr 117 ( 8 MAY 2019)

China and the heart of the earth

China, which is re-emerging, is, in the eyes of the United States, the challenger. Yet, despite its need for revenge on unequal treaties imposed by “barbarians” and felt as a humiliation, it has no desire for power. Certainly, its “Belt and Roads” initiative to refocus across Asia is a major geo-economic ambition: it can be seen as a re-reading of the founders of Anglo-Saxon geopolitics and the intention to control the heartland. This requires us to renew our strategic calculations.

A look at North Africa

North Africa is a strategic area that is poorly identified and agitated by multiple rivalries. In the centre, torn Libya is experiencing a strong east-west push that is having a negative effect on the adjacent Maghreb. France must be careful not to encourage this perverse dynamic and promote an autonomous Maghreb area based on the MENA concept.

Lorgnette: Spanish elections

The Spanish general elections on 28 June did not quite resolve the country’s deep political crisis. Certainly, the Socialist Party comes first and if it allies itself with Podemos (radical left), it arrives at 11 seats of the majority necessary to govern. Faced with it, the Popular Party lost many seats, a loss badly compensated by Vox, a radical right-wing formation born of a split. This right-wing bloc is reportedly supported by the centrist, liberal and anti-independence party, Ciudadanos.

In other words, no “classic” left-wing majority is possible without the support of small parties. The Catalan secessionist parties obtained only 39% of the votes, which puts the independence issue into perspective in a context of electoral mobilization. P. Sanchez, the socialist leader, could rely on the ERC (Catalan left) or on a Basque party and some independents.

Nevertheless, P. Sanchez will not want to launch a referendum on the independence of Catalonia (even if we wait for the regional elections on 26 May to check the intensity of the independence movement, which fell on 28 June, see LV 94). It is to be hoped that the fragile coalition that will be put in place will help to cool the secessionist crisis.

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JDOK

La Vigie Nr 115 : Europe and Fantasy | Free strategic figures | Lorgnette : Demos in Africa

Letter La Vigie Nr 115 (10 April 2019)

Europe and fantasy

French pro-Europeans, including federalists, are sincerely convinced that this option is in the country’s interest. For them, it is a question of taking advantage of Europe as a power multiplier but also of dealing with their inferiority complex towards Germany. The EU would thus be the only way to cope with unbridled globalisation. If it has not been successful so far, it is because we have not gone far enough or hard enough, not because of a mistake in method and strategic calculation. In other words, they are responding to their fear of decline by wanting to base themselves in an EU seen as a “larger France”, which it is clearly not.

Free strategic figures

What is France’s power relationship with its European neighbours, but also with China, Russia and the United States, the strategic triangle that currently dominates the international scene? Can it be satisfied with the European response and hide behind the multilateral method?

Lorgnette: Demonstrations in Africa

Yellow vests inspire people. So here is a wave of peaceful demonstrations that are changing the course of history. The case is obvious in Algeria, where the masses of the people, thrown into the streets, managed to force President Bouteflika’s departure, while waiting for the others to leave. But this is also true in Sudan where, for the past four months and in general inattention, the people have been demonstrating against the regime of Omar al Bashir. Not far away, major demonstrations took place in Mali against President IBK (who was re-elected last year), deploring the ineffectiveness of international forces and the corruption of the system. Finally, in Venezuela, the opponent J. Guaido stands up to President Maduro thanks to his supporters in the street.

It is not said that all these movements succeed in bending the powers that be. Let us simply note their multiplication, in very different societies and with different political systems. And let us remember that similar movements in Eastern Europe had led to the collapse of socialist regimes, transitions to civil rights and thus the end of the Cold War. So we may be facing a deeper movement than we think. To watch out for.

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JDOK

La Vigie n° 99 (1st AUG 2018) : Mali, in-between – Russia reinvests Egypt – Lorgnette : Deadlines planet

La Vigie n° 99, a strategic letter by Jean Dufourcq et Olivier Kempf

Mali, in-between

Seen from France, Mali first poses a security question. Unfortunately, this perception prevents more complex geographical and political realities than the “fight against terrorism”, an awkward slogan that justifies our action. Because the Malian question (and beyond, regional, in the Sahara as in the Sahel which obey to different logics) is first that of the state organization. However, there are some optimistic factors that need to be strengthened so that military success “en premier” is pursued by a political and economic action “en second”.

Russia reinvests Egypt

Russia, which is prospecting for former Soviet positions, is gradually re-establishing itself along the great maritime artery that connects the North Sea with the Indian Ocean. In doing so, she finds in President Sissi’s Egypt a central partner sensitive to her leadership and her strategic, security and economic arguments. Her ability to mediate and her regional ability make her the player in the strategic reconstruction of the Levant, an interlocutor with whom France must now compose to find a place in the game.

Lorgnette : Deadlines planet

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In Africa violent non-state actors give the illusion of sovereignty

Thomas Flichy de La Neuville , Professor in Saint-Cyr’s military academy – Libya, Central African Republic, Mali.

In a regional context marked by the frailty of the State, little, determined and often violent groups currently drive political evolutions in Africa. These actors are sometimes cemented by ethnic or religious solidarities. Common interests more often gather them. They are thus in constant evolution, in particular as far as their system of alliance is concerned. The French army has been confronted to these actors on three theatres of operations: in Libya,  Central Africa and Mali. The main lesson, which can be drawn in 2017, is that these violent non-state actors – which prosper on the smoking ruins of the state – mimic sovereignty. In Libya, the violent non-state actors are entirely dependent from foreign powers (I). In the Central African Republic, where UN forces are powerless, some of them intend to create new states (II). In Mali, they have decided to seize the countryside, fighting desperately against the territorial chieftaincy (III).

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