LV 205: The Polish question | Strategic manoeuvres underway | Lorgnette : An insignificant RNS

Letter from La Vigie dated 23 November 2022

The Polish question

The war in Ukraine validated Poland’s strategic priorities, which for three decades had been warning of the Russian threat. Paradoxically, the war in Ukraine shows the Russian weakness and the solidity of the Alliance: Poland’s strategic situation is reinforced. Is this why one can sense acrimony rising in Warsaw towards Berlin?

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Strategic manoeuvres underway

An update on Russia’s campaign in Ukraine is useful at the start of winter, when some are tempted to make a strategic move to revive the ailing global economy. Firmly supported by the EU, Ukraine is fiercely opposed to it. Already the geostrategic and geo-economic manoeuvres underway prefigure the strategic framework of a “second 21st century”. For France, a healthy wait-and-see attitude would be in order.

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Lorgnette: An insignificant RNS

Since 2012, La Vigie has been sceptical of the White Paper process, often finding it disappointing and wordy. Despite this, it has always welcomed the intellectual effort made to produce an overall strategic analysis, even if the procedure adopted more often than not condemned these works to fail to meet the need, assuming that it is a question of defining a grand strategy and not simply of communicating it. The 2008 review was too long, the 2012 review was repetitive and the 2017 review was incomplete.

The deterioration of the formula continued with this RNS (Revue nationale stratégique: National Strategic Review), prepared in secret, unveiled at the last moment, brief and agreed, the result of administrative work with little scope and above all without any debate. At the very least, the previous exercises gave rise to discussions and if the result was disappointing, everyone had at least reflected and debated.

Here, one wonders whether the exercise was not quickly dismissed. Everyone would have understood a document of expectation that set the limits of the moment, specified its uncertainties, stated its will, and gave guidelines for the present time. The reader finds none of this in the published document.

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La Vigie Nr 202: Autumn raspoutitsa | Transatlantic strategic square | Lorgnette : The Iranian street rumbles

Autumn Raspoutista

In the autumn of 2022, the season of the first cold spells and quagmires, we note the multiple strategic bogging down of France: the total and worrying deadlock of the war in Ukraine which saturates the Euro-Atlantic landscape, the swamps in which radical and sceptical intercontinental relations are bogged down, and finally the budgetary swamp of the future army model and of the security investments that need to be made for the security of France and the French. An autumn already well bogged down.

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Transatlantic strategic square

From Moscow to Washington, from Prague to Berlin, the transatlantic strategic stakes have changed over the past month. From the war in Ukraine to questions of deterrence, from an enlarged Europe beyond the EU to the importance of economic issues, everything points to a rise in tensions.

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Lorgnette: The Iranian street rumbles

Once again, Iran is experiencing massive protests, following those of 1999, 2009, 2017 and 2019. Experts tell us that this time things are different, that the new generation is connected, that no one believes in the possibility of reforming the regime anymore, that women are involved.

What hasn’t changed is the regime’s repression, which deploys its squads of Revolutionary Guards and other Basijis. The army remains in the background and could decide the fate of the country if the clashes persist.

No one believes in the legitimacy of the theocratic regime in Tehran. However, it has been able to interpret the interests of the country and to conduct an active foreign policy despite American and Saudi hostility, with real successes, especially in its immediate environment. A fall of the regime would probably not put an end to regional geopolitical rivalries.

But the observer wonders: in the 21st century, can a popular revolutionary movement, even a massive and lasting one, put down a tyranny? The Sudanese and Belarusian examples do not support this view. We shall see.

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La Vigie Nr 200 (special): Power, Europe, speeches | N° 200: eight years of La Vigie | Strategic fasting | Lorgnette: New Kingdom

Letter from La Vigie, 14 September 2022

Power, Europe, speeches

Olaf Scholz in Prague and Emmanuel Macron in front of the ambassadors have both just given speeches that mention their visions of Europe. If there are real convergences, let us note that the perspectives seem different. Yet, despite the apparent persistence of divisions, the European Union has managed to move forward. Its ability to compromise is perhaps what makes it truly powerful.

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N° 200: eight years of La Vigie

With this issue 200 of La Vigie, we wanted to draw the guiding thread of the strategic transition that has affected all security issues for the past eight years, from 2014 to 2022. For France, three milestones are decisive: 2015, the year in which the country was warned about terrorism on its own territory; 2019, the year of the global health breakdown; and 2022, with the Russian invasion in the heart of Europe. To do this, we consulted our eight end-of-year reviews, which are highly instructive: yes, we have indeed changed our strategic framework and we will have to adapt to it.

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Strategic fasting

It is accepted, whether for religious or non-religious reasons, that frugality and fasting have virtues for the human body. Figuratively speaking, it is becoming urgent for our state social bodies to adopt a more frugal posture, at all levels, in order to safeguard their independence and thus their sovereignty.

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Lorgnette: New Kingdom

At the time of the Queen of England’s Golden Jubilee, we hailed her as the last living political witness to the Second World War (LV 194). Her death coincides with the arrival at 10 Downing Street of Liz Truss, a sort of B. Johnson in petticoats. The simultaneity of the two events marks the definitive end of an era, that of a British twentieth century that had managed to make the transition from the world’s leading power to a European power that had fallen into line. This phantasmagorical England, which tries to maintain its traditions in the face of a changing world, is the source of the ‘soft power’ narrative of popular television series (The Crown, Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders). That England is no more.

We have entered a new world, the post-Brexit world, perhaps the world of a ‘Global Britain’ (LV 165). There is no guarantee that the new king, Charles III, will have the reassuring prestige that Elizabeth II had built up. That discreet charm of the monarchy has thus left us. But the small regret at the fading of “yesterday’s world”, as S. Zweig said, is in the end the nostalgic characteristic of all changes of era.

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La Vigie Nr 198 : Rearming Germany | Lorgnette : an end to Al Qaeda | Reading notes

Letter from La Vigie, 3rd August 2022

Rearming Germany

The Federal Chancellor’s intention to make the German army the first in Europe raises historical, material and human challenges for Germany. However, this view is incomplete, because deterrence, the construction of a European army and its articulation with national armies are implicitly included in the German announcement. This should give rise to new strategic considerations.

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Lorgnette: an end to Al Qaeda

On 31 July, an American drone killed Ayman al Zawahiri in Afghanistan. This Egyptian doctor is of interest. As a young man, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and was fascinated by Sayyd Qutb, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who was executed by Nasser in 1966 and was a proponent of radical Islam. Thus, Zawahiri made the connection between this radical current stemming from the Brotherhood and what would become Al Qaeda.

At the end of the 1980s, after a few years in prison, he went to Pakistan and joined forces with O. bin Laden, with whom he became his personal physician and founded Al Qaeda. They broke with the Brotherhood and theorised a global Islamic struggle. After bin Laden’s death in 2011, he took over the leadership of the movement even though he lacked the charisma of his predecessor.

The American strike symbolically closes a cycle: that of the misnamed ‘war on terror’ which has influenced all the strategic thinking of the last twenty years. It comes at a time when the Taliban reign in Kabul and the United States is engaged in other challenges: support for Ukraine and confrontation with China. This poor record does not mean that jihadism has succeeded: indeed, it is still with us.

Reading notes

For your holiday reading, we suggest the following books:

  • Le traquenard (Boustani et Seznec)
  • Risques et dérives de la vie religieuse (de Lassus)
  • Le travail invisible (Gomez)
  • Aimer l’armée, une passion à partager (Bentegeat)
  • Traité de stratégie (Coutau-Bégarie)
  • Pourquoi la dissuasion (Roche)
  • La houle s’en allait au levant (Finaz)
  • Opération poker (Maigret)
  • Les voies de la puissance (Ancel)
  • Les guerres de religion (miquel)
  • Les abeilles grises (Kourkov)
  • Un général des généraux (Boucq et Juncker)

To read them, click here

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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 195: Hopes and fears in Norway | At the gun show | Lorgnette: Colombian hope

Letter from La Vigie, dated 22 June 2022

Hopes and fears in Norway

Norway is undoubtedly a European country, even if it is not a member of the EU. An ally in NATO, this relatively close country is in fact largely unknown in France. This is a pity, because Norway’s strategic posture is actually very close to France’s, namely to cultivate a certain independence in the midst of our alliance system. It would be in our mutual interest to move closer to that.

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At the gun show

The Eurosatory land armaments show saw a sharp increase in participation, both in quantity and quality. The war in Ukraine has focused attention on guns and drones, implicitly raising the question of how to manage the third dimension. President Macron’s speech announcing a “war economy” opens up a number of debates on the eve of a new legislature.

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Lorgnette: Colombian hope

The result of the presidential elections in Colombia is unprecedented: the candidate G. Petro is from the left, which is unusual in this country, where the elites have always succeeded in appointing right-wing presidents who take a hard line in the fight against drug traffickers or the countless guerrilla groups in the Amazon jungle. The newly elected president is himself a former guerrilla… His vice-president, F. Márquez, has an African immigrant background, a first in this South American country.

This choice is radically new in this country beset by many difficulties and, as in Chile (LV 185), this duo crystallises all the hopes of so many “Nadies”, the “people”, the “Nemo”… all the poor, marginalised, left behind. Will the left-wing presidential duo live up to expectations? The risk is that the expectations are a bit unrealistic, in the short and medium term.

Having said that, let’s salute the democratic manoeuvre that remains hopeful in spite of everything: the people have the freedom to choose and express their will. The vote does carry a message. A message of hope.

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La Vigie Nr 192 : Intensity, symmetry, threshold, model | Turkish balancing act | Lorgnette: United Ireland ?

Letter from La Vigie dated 11 May 2022

Intensity, symmetry, threshold, model

From a theoretical point of view, what does the war in Ukraine tell us? Many talk about high intensity. It is more a question of symmetry, which leads to threshold effects but also to technological mixes of old weapons and new objects. A fine diagnosis must be made that questions our armed forces model.

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Turkish balancing act

The Turkish regime is trying by all means to stay in power, but the economy has been cruelly hurting the man in the street for the past year, and the Ukrainian crisis has only reduced the margins of manoeuvre, making the diplomatic position vis-à-vis Russia delicate. As Erdogan strives to improve foreign relations, the only way out should be an increased presence in Libya, where hydrocarbons represent a lifeline for Turkey, away from Russia and Iran.

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Lorgnette: United Ireland?

The Brexit (LV 135) has raised the question of the future of the United Kingdom (LV 105) since its adoption. If many thought that the disintegration of the kingdom would come from Scotland (LV 71), the recent elections in Northern Ireland indicate a second possible cause. Indeed, the nationalist party Sinn fein (in favour of reunification with Ireland) won (27 seats out of 90) while its unionist opponent, the DUP, obtained only 25 seats. Sinn fein will therefore form the government, with the DUP appointing a deputy prime minister according to the Good Friday Agreement (1988). Negotiations were going to be tough.

The result of the elections is primarily due to social causes, inflation and the division of the DUP following the Brexit agreements which ratified a complicated agreement for Northern Ireland, a “protocol” governing customs provisions (it provides for free movement with the Republic of Ireland but controls with Great Britain). So it is the European question that is posed to London, once again. The fact remains that this vote opens the way, if things continue, to a referendum for unification in a few years’ time.

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La Vigie Nr 191 : LV 191: Finnish Model | War, Crime and Punishment | Lorgnette: Jacques Perrin

Letter from La Vigie dated April 27th 20221

Finnish Model

The war in Ukraine has prompted interest in Finland: this neighbouring country of Russia first resisted it during a war, preserved its independence throughout the Cold War, developed admirably at the end of the latter, joined the EU and is preparing to join the Alliance. Can this be a model for Ukraine?

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War, crime and punishment

With varying degrees of success, lawyers have always tried to build a body of law to limit the damage and suffering caused by wars. Can the current complex body of law, although not accepted by all states, be useful in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine?

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Lorgnette: Jacques Perrin

Jacques Perrin was a man of the cinema: one thinks of Cinema Paradiso, the marvellous L’empire du milieu du sud on Indochina and of course Microcosmos. But the strategist will remember above all his military films: 317th Section will remain one of the best war films ever made, which shows the life of a lieutenant at the head of his section in Indochina. L’honneur d’un capitaine shows the same challenges, this time at the level of a unit commander during the Algerian war. Two films made under the direction of Pierre Schoendorffer. La légion saute sur Kolwesi is more anecdotal.

This reality of war, at the level of the man, is obviously fascinating and anyone who has commanded men will find himself in it. The setting of these difficult conflicts deserved something more political: the unforgettable Crabe-tambour, with J. Rochefort and J. Dufilho, will delicately give a glimpse of the political dimensions of the war, never far from the command. Between the carnal and human thickness of the field and the more blind and indifferent objective of politics, it is the whole complex dimension of war that has been rendered.

Thank you, Mr. Perrin, for having shown it so simply. Rest in peace.

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La Vigie Nr 188 : A difficult awakening | Attrition in Ukraine | Lorgnette : Economic backlash

Letter from La Vigie dated 16 March 2022

Difficult awakening from a long strategic sleep

Ukraine is the revelation of the strategic sleep of the Euro-Atlantic world seeing a threat suddenly appearing on its doorstep. The outsourcing of defence, the primacy of economic factors, the prevalence of national interest: these are all reasons for this abstention. Does the EU still have a heart for strategy after years of lethargy?

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Attrition in Ukraine

The armed conflict in Ukraine is in its third week of fighting. The strategist observes it from multiple angles: first of all, from a military strategy point of view, with several focuses: the course of operations on the ground, aspects of information warfare, the fate of populations or vital infrastructures. He also broadens his view to other aspects, diplomatic or geopolitical, whether they concern Russia, Europe, America or the rest of the world.

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Lorgnette: economic backlash

The economic sanctions are already causing a chain reaction that we do not yet fully understand. They are occurring in an economic context that was already convalescing from the pandemic from which we had not yet fully recovered. Now, the sanctions against Russia are hitting us and many countries around the world as a backlash.

First and foremost, the hydrocarbon market (oil and gas) is permanently affected. No supplier can replace Russia in the short or medium term, contrary to what some hope. The decisions taken in favour of electricity and against nuclear power are a clear obstacle here. In addition to this rise in costs, the fall in the euro is aggravating inflation.

The situation for cereals (wheat, maize, sunflower, nitrogen fertilisers) is even more worrying, as the sanctions affect Russia, while Ukraine can no longer export (and will soon be unable to sow). Many countries in Africa and Asia are likely to experience a violent food crisis, not to mention our farmers. It is not only Russia that will be affected by the sanctions.

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La Vigie Nr 179 : France in 2050 | The American question | Lorgnette : Forgotten Bosnia

Letter from La Vigie dated November 10th 2021

France in 2050

The news is always quick to emphasise the crises of the moment and the seemingly insurmountable challenges: let’s reverse the point of view and consider what assets France has at its disposal to still be what it is in 2050. The picture is less bleak than is often assumed.

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The American question

Trumpism did not disappear after the last presidential election. Just as the Democrats refused to accept Trump’s victory five years ago, the Republicans refuse to accept Biden’s victory. He was badly elected and is struggling to implement his reforms and to unify the Democrats, divided between radicals and conservatives. A defeat in the next elections (mid-term, presidential 2024) is therefore highly likely. A second Trump presidency would deepen the fragmentation of the country.

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Lorgnette: Forgotten Bosnia

Who still remembers Bosnia-Herzegovina? This small country, born in 1995 from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, has never found a political balance. This meeting between a “Muslim-Croat federation” and a “Republika Srpska” has never worked. It is under the supervision of the European Union, which is no longer interested in it. So we see the Serbian leader gradually acting in favour of separation (and eventually the reunion of the Serbian part with Serbia in Belgrade). The population is talking about a possible return to war.

However, this does not worry the international community, especially Europe, which is content with a black hole in the Balkans and has no prospects to offer. The Union is struggling to promote a negotiated solution between Kosovo and Serbia. It is not even certain that a secession of the Bosnian Serb part would be violent. In fact, some may think that this separation is a logical option and that 25 years later, with the help of fatigue, what was considered inadmissible at the time is admitted. But this would open the Pandora’s box of border rectifications in Europe. Which it does not need.

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