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.

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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?

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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.

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LV 234: In war, there is only wealth in men | Depolarisation | Lorgnette : Other Eastern tensions

Letter from La Vigie, 24th January 2024

 

In war, there is only wealth in men

For three decades, it was thought that expeditionary wars required professional soldiers. The wars of the 21st century show that the debate between quality and quantity, cannon fodder and technology, professionalisation or conscription, active and reserves, nationals and foreigners needs to be revisited.

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Depolarisation

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the polarised world gave way to a unipolar moment and then to a multipolar world. The proliferation of conflicts that no single power has been able to stop, the collapse of political movements, cultural bases and economic models have led to the emergence of a depolarised world prey to the appetites of the most voracious. However, France has the means to take advantage of this particular moment to reassert itself so that it does not have to choose voluntary servitude.

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Lorgnette: other Eastern tensions

For many analysts, the main issue in the Far East is the Chinese question, with regard to its neighbours or the United States. But the Korean question is likely to become much more sensitive. Last year, Kim Jong-Un stepped up his demonstrations of force (ballistic missile tests), which he is continuing this year: bombing of Yeonpyeong Island, testing of an underwater weapon and a hypersonic IRBM missile. The Constitution once again designates South Korea as the first hostile country.

In South Korea, after attempts at détente (LV 90), a hardening is underway (LV 211), which will be the focus of the April elections. But Kim was humiliated by the negotiations with D. Trump in 2016 (the latter left the table before the end of the talks). He sees that America is embroiled in multiple crises and is in an election year. He has strengthened his ties with Russia and delivered millions of shells for the war in Ukraine. V. Putin will visit Pyongyang this year.

Bluff again or march to war? The Ukrainian example may have given the Korean leader some ideas, despite China’s opposition to this tension.

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LV 223 (free) : What the war in Gaza tells us | Paper from Armenia | Lorgnette: the fall of Icarus

Letter from La Vigie, dated 1st November 2023

The Hamourabbi code (source)

What the war in Gaza (or Sukkot) tells us

To go beyond considerations on the ground about the war in Sukkot (Gaza), we will first try to determine the war aims of each side, before asking ourselves what this war says, a further stage in a re-primitivisation of the contemporary act of war.

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Paper from Armenia

The theatres of war and the ways in which they are waged may change, but the invariants of strategy can be observed in all theatres, and there is a high price to pay for neglecting them, whatever the mode of action chosen. Armenia has bitterly rediscovered them because it did not respect them.

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Lorgnette: the fall of Icarus

If you fly too close to the sun, you risk burning your wings and falling into the abyss…

This is what the various dignitaries of the Chinese Communist Party or officials of the State apparatus experience on a regular basis, and when they fall from grace for whatever reason – which is never made public – they are invariably accused of “acts of corruption” and stripped of their professional positions and social standing.

However, the Chinese regime has done particularly well this year, dismissing its foreign affairs and defence ministers one after the other and making them disappear both literally and figuratively (damnatio memoriae by removing all references to them from government websites). The first, Qin Gang, has been missing since 25 June, the second, Li Shangfu, since 29 August. They had been sworn in in March of the same year.

These ruthless purges, while reminiscent of Mao, have rarely been so close to Xi Jingping’s entourage, and are both Stalinist in their implacability and Orwellian in their radicalism.

Still, it’s good to live in the West.

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LV 225: Ambiant disaster | If there’s only one left, it’s IndoPac | From Korea to Armenia

Letter from La Vigie, dated 20 Sept. 2023

Ambient disaster

The ideologies of the twentieth century, communism and liberalism, have lost their hold on society. For twenty years, the world has witnessed the return of religion as a geopolitical factor, but two catastrophisms – ecological and demographic – have now become replacement ideologies. We need to move beyond them.

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If there’s only one left, it’s IndoPac

For several months, if not years, France’s foreign policy has suffered from a notable lack of clarity in its latest qualification as a “trusted partner power”. Its long-standing partners are taking advantage of this to bully Paris and subject it to historic affronts. Because we have to exist on the international stage, the only thing left is the Indo-Pacific, which we are boosting in the hope that our new partners will have confidence in us.

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Lorgnette: from Korea to Armenia

President Putin welcomed Kim Jong Un, the President of North Korea, with great pomp and ceremony. Kim Jong Un is not accustomed to being received in this way, as his country has opted for long-term strategic isolation. The Korean peninsula is not at peace, since only an armistice was signed in 1953, and since then Pyongyang has maintained a considerable military effort, to the point of developing nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and possibly a missile-launching submarine. The advantage of military dictatorships is that they have stockpiles. Korea is said to be supplying Russia with 10 million shells to maintain its RAPFEU in Ukraine. You have the allies you can get.

That’s what Armenia told itself when, in 2020, it was unable to resist the Azerbaijani offensive. Russia did just enough to prevent things going too far (LV 151, 154 and 184) and moved on. So its troops went to Ukraine and are still there. From then on, the CSTO, which organised the “near abroad”, lost its strength and Armenia announced that it was organising military exercises with the United States. Moscow is no longer able to guarantee wider security and is losing its most traditional supporters. Azerbaijan is taking advantage. Russia is letting it happen…

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LV 217: Peaceful moods in the Arabian Peninsula | Japan’s strategic assertion | Coronation

Letter from La Vigie, dated 10 May 2023

Peaceful moods in the Arabian Peninsula

The strategic posture of Saudi Arabia has recently evolved a lot, with many factors: personal evolution of MBS, redimensioning of the politico-religious issue, war in Yemen, Iranian rivalry, Middle Eastern environment, oil issue, role attributed to the United States.

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Japan’s strategic assertion

Japan continues the normalisation of its strategic posture started in 2015 and amplified by the war in Ukraine and the prospects of tension around Taiwan. It is preparing to become a true regional security contractor.

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Lorgnette: Coronation

The strong-minded who don’t mind were therefore quick to explain how the coronation of Charles III was an outdated legacy of the past, anachronistic, necessarily out of date. The ‘serious’ newspapers, The Guardian and The Times, found the King sullen, stilted, anxious.

And yet, after the death of Elizabeth II, who had led a transition to modernity and whose death marked the end of a certain twentieth century (LV 200), this coronation marks something both new and very old.

The novelty lies in the modernising touches the king brought to the ceremony. It is better to speak of an update, since the present pomp and circumstance is ultimately a recent invention (see here).

But it is especially important to note the respect of another dimension, going back further, that of the coronation. By definition, it is a unique event, a sacredness of the royal person. Charles III was aware of this and had a hieratic face. This word must mean nothing to strong minds. Yet this dimension was clearly perceptible during the ceremony, a mass in which the king, dressed in liturgical vestments, acquired another state. For from now on, his status precedes the state…

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Photo crédit : U.S. Department of State

LV 211 : South Korea: the nuclear temptation | Europe’s Ukrainian spiral | Lorgnette : balloon hunting

Letetr from La Vigie dated 15 FEB 2023

South Korea: the nuclear temptation

South Korea is the tenth largest economy in the world but strategically it is heavily dependent on the United States. However, if Europe is interested in Ukraine and Washington is interested in China, the Korean question is becoming more sensitive, with 90 missile tests carried out by Pyongyang. So much so that Seoul is talking very strongly about nuclear capabilities again.

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Europe’s Ukrainian spiral

One year after the Russian aggression in Ukraine, this article answers the following three questions: How did it come to this? How will it finish? How can we avoid a repeat? It advocates an immediate Russian-Ukrainian strategic pat.

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Lorgnette: balloon hunting

The earthquake in Turkey and Syria has claimed 40,000 lives, but the death toll is expected to double or even triple. The disaster took place in the area bordering the two countries, where the last Syrian opponents, many of them jihadists, have taken refuge under Turkish control. International aid is arriving, but the observer senses a kind of embarrassment, both towards the devious Erdogan and towards the banished Assad. As a result, humanitarian emotion seems to be stifled.

Meanwhile, America is dealing with air balloons and sending its best jets to shoot them down, issuing flight bans, suggesting UFOs… The incredulous observer thinks he is dreaming in front of both amateurism and over-reaction. He has the impression that the American government is reacting like in Hollywood superhero movies, when Mars attacks and you have to do everything to defend yourself. The show is shown to the willing public and the message is simple: the alien is China, the alien to be wary of.

At the same time, articles are multiplying to predict that Ukraine will lose.

As if the media washer were saying: Let’s move on…

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LV 206: Back from Singapore | High intensity: taking the high road | Lorgnette: The Kertch bridge

Letter from La Vigie dated 7 December 2022

Back from Singapore

On his return from a visit to Singapore, the strategist was stunned by what he had seen: here was the capital of globalisation, succeeding in physically and culturally reuniting the East and the West, which, according to Kipling, “will never meet“. And yet, Singapore demonstrates the opposite…

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High intensity: taking the high road

The prevailing discourse, especially since the new phase of the Russian-Ukrainian war started on 24 February 2022, insists on the need for the French armed forces to be prepared to be engaged in a ‘high intensity’ war scenario. While leaving the decision to modify the operational contract of our expeditionary armies to the political power, let us lend ourselves to the exercise: inspired by what we can observe in Ukraine, what are the lessons that we must (re)learn to be able to fight such battles?

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Lorgnette: The Kerch Bridge

On the night of 7-8 October, the Ukrainians managed, to the surprise of everyone, to hit the Kerch Bridge, presumably with the help of a naval drone. This was not only a serious blow to Russian logistics but also a deliberate attack on one of the symbols of Crimea’s attachment to Russia.

On 5 December, barely two months later, Vladimir Putin visited the bridge, which he himself had inaugurated on 15 May 2018.

This visit, which few people expected, is rich in lessons. If Putin travels to and from this bridge in person without any problems, it is because he is healthy enough to do so, that he is not afraid to be absent from places of power despite the conspirators, that he manages to move without foreign intelligence anticipating it, that Russian engineering is working hard and that there is no question, despite the withdrawal from Kherson, of abandoning Crimea.

At the same time, the Ukrainians managed to hit two strategic bases 800 km inside Russia. The political stakes are rising on both sides.

This war is far from over.

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LV 203: Crisis: a question of morale | Did you say deterrence ? | Lorgnette: stiff China

Letter from La Vigie Nr 203 dated 26 October 2022

Crisis: a question of morale

We are living in a state of protean crises, which are becoming endless and simultaneous, creating a climate of anxiety. War is a form of crisis and the military are specialists in crisis management and insist on the importance of morale in order to overcome them. Shouldn’t we draw inspiration from the military model to face current crises?

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Did you say deterrence?

President Macron’s statements the other night on deterrence may have been clumsy. However, they bring up the debate on an essential question, renewed by a world nuclear order that is unravelling, from NWBT to the end of the INF treaty, from Ukraine to North Korea. It is high time to get back to the terms of the discussion.

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Lorgnette: Stiff China

As we predicted last summer (LV 197), the Chinese stiffening has been accentuated on the occasion of this 20th Congress of the CCP. Let us remember that in China, power belongs to the party. We saw the humiliating way in which Hu Jintao, the previous leader, was ruthlessly dismissed in front of the world’s television channels, and also the composition of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau, in which only Xi Jinping’s supporters were promoted.

Despite the difficulties, or more likely because of them, the Chinese leadership has chosen to persevere: in its noxious anti-Covid strategy, in the pursuit of an economic policy that has produced disappointing results this year, and in its opposition to Taiwan, which is now enshrined in the CCP charter. This clear hardening accompanies Xi’s unlimited power, designated for a third term.

The hard line can be expected to become more pronounced, both in opposition to the US and in support of V. Putin. Yet the possibility of failure increases the risk of a breakout action in the zone, notably against Taiwan, betting on a weakening US following the mid-terms. Worrying.

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La Vigie Nr 197 : European security 2022 : to the results | The Chinese question | Lorgnette : Heatwave

Letter from La Vigie, 20th July 2022

European Security 2022: to the results

At the results in mid-2022, the war in Ukraine appears as a major hitch in the trajectory of European security 30 years after the Cold War: a suffering Ukraine, a raw front line in the heart of a continent that is freezing, a postponed European reunification, a Russia that is turning its back on Europe and engaging in new Asian cooperative horizons. France, which cannot be satisfied with this, must retain its freedom of thought and proposal in the face of this strategic discontinuity. This war is first and foremost a question of European security, to be dealt with first and foremost among Europeans. Can we still force Russia to accept a more cooperative framework of cohabitation in Europe through a real and better coordinated strategic containment? It is by answering this question that France will be able to revise its military posture and avoid the anachronistic trap of a massive capability grooming.

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The Chinese question

China is experiencing a sudden economic slowdown, due in large part to a brutal zero-covid policy. This is undermining a system based on successful growth. It affects Beijing’s international posture: less towards the near abroad than the implementation of its global policy. These economic challenges pose political problems that will be at the heart of the next CCP Congress this autumn.

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Lorgnette: Heatwave

What does the recent heatwave in France and Europe tell us? First of all, the reality of climate change, now measurable by everyone, at the level of human experience. The novelty of the current episode lies in its brutality, which makes it a radical departure from the climatic variations that the earth has experienced in the past, which extended over hundreds and thousands of years. The cause is most certainly also human.

It should also be noted that it coincides with the development of globalisation in the 1980s: the emergence of the Third World and the transformation of numerous countries into manufacturing workshops has led to production, trade and consumption. The heat wave is the counterpart of our prosperity. And if China is responsible for 30% of the planet’s greenhouse gases, it is because it produces for the Western consumer.

Symbolically, this heatwave also reflects the political and economic disruption of the world. Wars and conflicts are still raging (Ukraine, Yemen, Sahel) and popular riots are on the rise (Sri Lanka, Panama). Everywhere, the planet is experiencing a heat wave.

This is worrying.

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La Vigie Nr 194 : India is on its way | Conceptual wavering | Lorgnette : God save the Queen

Letter from La Vigie, dated 8 June 2022

India is on its way

India is attracting little interest, even though its rank among nations is growing steadily. Its strategy remains marked by its cumbersome neighbours (Pakistan, China), but its tradition of non-alignment makes it resistant to American neo-imperial embroilment. This is an opportunity for France, which is in good agreement with this South Asian power, an agreement that goes beyond signed contracts.

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Conceptual wavering

From strategic compass to strategic concept, there is a general wavering as the war in Ukraine seems to be stalling. It is the moment of the first assessments among the Europeans who are divided on the way to go. It is perhaps also the time for France to question its defence posture, to take its time to find out how to integrate the lessons of the strategic surprises coming from Moscow and Kiev.

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Lorgnette: God save the Queen

The Queen of England has just celebrated her jubilee, the 70th anniversary of her reign. The longevity is understandably surprising, but not as surprising as the popular fervour that has surrounded these celebrations. A silent sovereign, the Queen nevertheless won the support of her subjects thanks to her remarkable demeanour and reserve: who was not impressed by her brief three-minute statement at the time of the Covid pandemic, calling on her compatriots to hold on? It was a change from the lengthy speeches made by other leaders.

Source

Yet it is not this exemplary role played by an exceptional personality over these 70 years that counts. It is the tribute to the last human being who came close to the political management of the Second World War. It is true that she had no decision-making power at the time, but she already had the awareness of a national mobilisation to resist the enemy.

This memory is still prominent in contemporary England, which cannot be understood if we ignore the pride of having resisted with sweat, blood and tears. Elizabeth II is also a witness to that moment, to that sacred union of the British people. May God keep you!

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