LV 161 : Fear and strategy | Algerian bastion | Lorgnette : Asia and democracy

Letter from La Vigie dated 17 FEB 2021

Fear and strategy

Fear is now omnipresent in our societies. It is both a source of great comfort but also a source of deep anxiety. However, this attitude refuses to consider progress and only sees the dangers, where risks should be taken. Fear is defeatist and hinders any strategic project.

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Algerian bastion

Very close to us, Algeria seems to be stuck in a situation of general stagnation which worries all those close to it. The end of non-receipt of the Stora report, the effervescence of its neighbours and the cautious restraint of its major partners are all symptoms of a strategic transition that cannot be found.

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Lorgnette: Asia and democracy

The repression in Hong Kong last summer (LV 146 and 155) highlighted a trend that can be observed throughout the Asian continent: the retreat of democracy.

In the Philippines, for example, R. Duterte was elected in 2016 and his populism continues to threaten democratic gains. For several months now, Thailand has been experiencing regular demonstrations against King Rama X, which gradually aim to break away from the traditional constitutional monarchy to weigh more directly on the country’s affairs. On 1st February, a coup d’état in Burma brought the government of Aung San Suu Kyi to heel and she herself was arrested.

This development is taking place under a double influence: on the one hand, the Chinese example which shows the strong manner  in which the Uighurs have been fought in Xinjiang, or recently in Hong Kong and, from longer time, in Tibet; on the other hand, the exhaustion of the Western democratic model, whether under the American era of D. Trump or under the unconvincing performance of the Europeans.

Let us increase our virtue before giving lessons to the world, because if our model no longer attracts, it is our responsibility.


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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.


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La Vigie Nr 128 : Why Indo-Pacific? – Towards calm in the Middle East – The Lorgnette: The inevitable Brexit

Letter from La Vigie dated 30 October 2019

Why Indo-Pacific?

In ten years, the term Indo-Pacific (IP) has almost replaced the term Asia-Pacific. What are the reasons for this change in the geographical framework of the main actors’ foreign policies? As the world’s demographic and economic centre of gravity, will the PI become the next challenge in the confrontation between Beijing and Washington or the area of cooperation, freedom and development from which as many people as possible can benefit? To avoid marginalisation, France and Europe must develop a global and coherent vision of the PI accompanied by projects that will concretely meet the expectations of the different sub-regions.

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Towards calm in the Middle East

The Middle East has long been polarized around the Palestinian question and then the jihadist question. From now on, we are in a new phase, initiated before D. Trump came to power. Whether in Turkey, Syria or even Saudi Arabia, policies are changing and one can imagine a region less conflictual than in recent years.

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The Lorgnette: The inevitable Brexit

Very few are able to follow the detours of Euro-British policy around Brexit. However, let us note several things. 1/ The European strategy of blocking Brexit at all costs has failed. It should be noted that the EU was indeed partly responsible for the blockage. Until recently, there was nothing to negotiate. But in the end, the EU negotiated. 2/ Boris Johnson won his bet, contradicting all speculation. Many expected him to seek only a no-deal, but he managed to negotiate, quickly and skilfully, an agreement that was certainly not perfect, which is the hallmark of all agreements. 3/ The British Parliament played an unpleasant role, between persistent blockage and refusal of dissolution: indeed, another of Cameron’s reforms was to introduce a threshold for dissolution, which blocks the system. 4/ The ultimate blockage implemented against BoJo is intended to counter it, not the agreement, which could lead to a no-deal that we were precisely trying to avoid.

Absurdity is indeed a British trait.

But this should not hinder a Brexit that is now inevitable. The result will then have to be assessed in five years or more.


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La Vigie n° 97 (20 June 2018) : Kim-Trump : Two winners ? – Governance : towards syncretism – Seen from la Lorgnette : Aquarius

Letter n° 97,  La Vigie, 20th  June 2018 (to read this issue in French, clic here)

Kim-Trump : Two winners ?

The recent Singapore summit between Presidents Kim and Trump resulted in a rather flat and uncompromising statement: yet both protagonists were very satisfied. However, this is not a “win-win” agreement, since basically everyone thinks they have deceived each other. In fact, beyond the nuclear issue (yet nothing less than anodyne), the most interesting lies in the ulterior motives of the two leaders. They did not say a word and no commentator has deciphered their real calculations. They are much more subtle than we think.

Governance : towards syncretism

To save the idea of a minimal governance of the planet, we will have to introduce a dose of diversity in the principles and values that administer it, especially at the regional level because the universal always has a local color. To preserve the gains of the old multilateral structures that are going down (UN, NATO, EU), it will be necessary to focus on identifying the factors of peace and development that they carry. To contribute, France must be out of alignment.

La Lorgnette : Aquarius



New Silk Roads and Central Asia : Shanghai Cooperation Organisation ( SCO) on the frontline… (E.Dupuy)

The convening of the 17th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO founded 15th January 2001) summit , on the 7th and 8th June 2017, in Astana,  Kazakhstan, was an opportunity to highlight the specificity of the only intergovernmental organisation bringing together 5 of the 6 Central Asian States – ex-soviet republics, (with the exception of Turkmenistan)  and the only one created and de facto “influenced” by Beijing.


(article en français)

Beyond that, it is now the geo-economic interactions and geopolitical convergences between the SCO and China’s “New Silk Roads” (One Belt, One Road, OBOR) project that have to be taken into account to realise how this new “Great Game” will deeply unsettle international relations. Continue reading “New Silk Roads and Central Asia : Shanghai Cooperation Organisation ( SCO) on the frontline… (E.Dupuy)”