LV 159 : On democracy in America | Grozny the new | Lorgnette : Closed sky

Letter from La Vigie Nr 159, dated 20 January 2021

Democracy in America

The events of 6 January in Washington mark a popular emotion, undeniably seditious even if it cannot be described as a coup d’état. It confirms the deep American division between radicals on both sides. It is also the occasion for censorship by the major social networks which questions their place in the democratic system. A heavy task awaits Joe Biden.

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Grozny the new

Chechnya hasn’t been in the headlines for the last 15 years or so, yet what happened to Chechens fighting Chechens in Syria, some alongside Russians, others in the EI? Today, however, let us note the Russian control that has regained control of it ciscaucasian space.

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Lorgnette : Closed sky

Russia declared on 15 January that it was withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty, signed in 2002, which allowed the right to conduct and the obligation to accept observation flights over [the] other party’s territory to verify military activities and installations. Trump’s United States unilaterally withdrew last November (LV 143) to the chagrin of its European allies, who refused to accede to Moscow’s request not to transfer their observations to Washington. The United States had already withdrawn unilaterally from the INF Treaty (LV 112).

Open Skies marked the end of the era of Confidence and Stability Building Measures (CSBMs) that had irrigated international dialogue since the 1970s. The whole system of arms control and monitoring disappears: all that remains is the New Start Treaty (nuclear arsenal control), which expires on 5 February next.

The timetable is important: while Joe Biden will take command of the White House on 20 January, the Russian announcement constitutes diplomatic pressure to prolong New Start while affirming its resolution in the negotiations to come.

JOCV

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LV 154 : Tumultuous elections | (De)frozen conflitcts | Lorgnette : Secularims misunderstood

Letter from La Vigie n° 154 ; 11 November 2020

Tumultuous elections

The US presidential election has kept the world’s media on tenterhooks. Many on that occasion decried American democracy. However, other recent elections (Belarus, Côte d’Ivoire) have shown unconvincing processes. On closer inspection, the American election shows a great democratic vitality, even if politically (but that is another matter) the transition crisis is likely to continue.

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(De)frozen conflicts)

Frozen conflicts were an unwelcome legacy of the Cold War. Nevertheless, they are warming dangerously, one after the other, and the case of Nagorno-Karabakh is fuelling strategic thinking around hypotheses of symmetrical high-intensity conflicts.

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Lorgnette: Secularism misunderstood

It must be said that following the Islamist attacks of the last few weeks, secularism has been much talked about, rarely understood. First of all in France, where some people who take advantage of it understand it only as a kind of State atheism, which it is obviously not. But above all, the notion seems to some people to be the symbol of a “French universalism”: it must be said that this universalism is indeed French and very poorly understood outside.

This is true among our European and American friends. One only has to look at the journalistic treatment of the “big” American media, it is true that it is strongly influenced by the post-colonial, woke and communitarian ideology. Even Le Monde implies that this is excessive (here). But this famous “French model” is not understood by Muslim countries either, and the French reaction has been seen (and instrumentalized by some, notably R. Erdogan) as an official persecution of Muslims. Let us recall that French Muslims are those in Europe who feel best integrated into their country. And let us deplore the fact that our secularism is so badly assimilated, first of all by us, unable to explain it simply.

JOCV

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LV 151 : Behind the wall | What does America tell us ? | Lorgnette : High-Karabakh

Letter from La Vigie n° 151 of September 30, 2020

Withdrawal behind the wall

The construction of walls is accelerating in this world. However, this tactical mode of action has never been able to contribute structurally to sustainable strategic action. Similarly, it reflects a withdrawal into oneself and a fear of the other when we need dialectics.

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What does America tell us?

The American election campaign is particularly abnormal: not only because of Covid, but also because it demonstrates the confrontation, block by block, of two irreconcilable Americas ready to fight, refusing in advance the victory of the other side. Beyond the disappearance of the WASP cement, it is a conception of modernity that is moving away. Finally, this issue of La Vigie looks at the consequences of the victory of D. Trump or that of J. Biden: in both cases, the prospects are not great.

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Lorgnette : Nagorno-Karabakh

Should we be surprised at the resumption of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan? No. First of all, because the dispute is ancestral and we see no negotiated solution to this conflict. Moreover, the outbursts of recent days seem to have been orchestrated more for internal reasons on the Baku side than by the desire to regain military control of this territory. The fact remains that the cannons have spoken and that some are alarmed.

Let us recall here that a frozen conflict does not mean an extinguished conflict: the freezing only means that it does not degenerate, but that it is maintained, on the other hand, by more or less noisy or deadly skirmishes. By this yardstick, the battle of the last few days would be normal.

For all that, it is at odds with Azerbaijan’s skillful policy (LV 134). The two great godfathers of the region, Russia and Iran, should quickly signal the end of the episode in Baku. But this is counting without the Turkish activism, about which one wonders here what he is pursuing: in the complicated multi-band game of the East, this is probably not about the Transcaucasus but more likely a message to Moscow and Tehran.

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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