LV 243: Paris-Warsaw: Prelude or waltz? | A funeral dirge for international law | Lorgnette: the meaning of war

Letter from La Vigie, dated 29 May 2024

Paris-Warsaw: Prelude or waltz?

Poland has traditionally had difficulties with its two neighbours, Russia and Germany. The war in Ukraine is reshuffling the cards in its strategic equation and prompting it to take an interest in the new French discourse: is this the prelude to a lasting understanding or just a waltz?

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A funeral dirge for international law

The decision by Karim Khan, the ICC prosecutor, to ask for arrest warrants to be issued for Netanyahu and his defence minister has provoked strong reactions in the United States. Based on morality rather than law, they threaten one of the foundations of the international order, justifying in hindsight all the criticism of a law that would only target countries that are not aligned with the United States. If the threats against the ICC materialise, it could be the death knell of international law.

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Lorgnette: the meaning of war

Soldiers are starting to write: what was still the exception twenty years ago is now becoming commonplace. But let’s take a look at the themes covered in these works: history, ethics or personal accounts, in most cases. In the latter case, the war is described as an experience. The authors show its violence, its injustice and the trauma it caused. France, for example, has been at war for thirty years without realising it, because its soldiers have been under fire (here).

Of course, the reader is left in awe of the examples given, the underlying heroism, and the moral and psychological dimension of war. But they are also bothered by a major omission, that of the political dimension of war. War is not only the work of those who wage it. War has a cause before it has a meaning. It is the work of a society before it is the work of the men who lead it. War is not war because it is an experience, it is war because it is first and foremost a political object. France was not at war because it did not think of itself as being at war. This is, moreover, the criticism we have regularly levelled at recent external operations in which the enemy was not identified.

This confusion remains embarrassing.

JOVPN

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LV 241 : Raids in the Middle East and the threshold of disuasion | NATO’s decoupling | Lorgnette: 7 years on

Letter from La Vigie, dated 1st May 2024

Raids in the Middle East and the threshold of disuasion

The reciprocal attack by Iran and Israel in April was the first direct aggression against the Hebrew state for decades: a threshold of escalation has been crossed. But it pits two powers on the nuclear threshold against each other: does the classic grammar of deterrence still apply?

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NATO’s decoupling

The entry of the first Russian troops into Ukraine prompted NATO member states to support the invaded country. European voices then proclaimed that the Alliance was being strengthened, as evidenced by the accession of Sweden and Finland. However, decoupling mechanisms (not just transatlantic) are at work, threatening the Alliance’s very survival.

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Lorgnette: 7 years on

7 years after the 1st speech at the Sorbonne (LV 107), 3 pages of text later, where does France and Europe stand? A list of successes, still implacable observations, progress to be made, incentives to build the European pillar of the Alliance, to implement common strategies, to apply the strategic compass, to rethink energy and agricultural policies, to use France’s nuclear weapons to protect Europe…

There’s nothing fundamentally new here, apart from the fact that we can guess at the impact of farmers’ protests against rising energy prices. We have already dealt with these issues in a previous issue (LV 237), which gives this speech a surprising tone. Can we keep repeating the same observations and the same proposals, betting on our listeners’ amnesia? Some of the German press echoed this perplexity, while French columnists did not hesitate to evoke a “strategic rupture”… Europe is thus at a turning point in the face of uninhibited powers, the risk of falling behind, and the battle of the imagination. “I have come to talk to you about Europe”, he said 7 years ago.

What if we were now to take action?

JOVPN

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LV 236: Italian twin | Ukrain : two years on | Lorgnette : the return of war

Letter from La Vigie dated 21 FEB 2024

 

Italian twin

La Vigie continues its tour of France’s land borders with a look at Italy. The country has opted for multilateralism, but is currently suffering from a lack of strategic vision at a time when all landmarks are disappearing: France shares this moment of uncertainty, and our interests may well converge.

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Ukraine: two years on

The war in Ukraine began two years ago. After recalling the main phases of the conflict so far, La Vigie takes stock of the situation from the Russians, Ukrainians, Americans, Europeans and French.

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Lorgnette: The return of war

In 2023, the number of wars and casualties rose to levels not seen since the end of the Cold War. While the second half of the 20th century saw a decline in the number of wars and armed conflicts, over the last few months these have been on the rise again, both in terms of numbers and victims.

2023 has counted nine major wars around the world, taking place in the Sahel (1,418 deaths in Burkina Faso alone in 2022), Somalia, Sudan (since the start of the war in April 2023, there have been 6 million displaced persons and already 9,000 deaths), Burma, Ukraine (it is plausible that each side could exceed 100,000 deaths, mainly in the military), Gaza, Nigeria, Syria and Yemen, three wars that continue to claim large numbers of victims.

And yet these wars are attracting varied attention: while the French public is interested in Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, Gaza, no one is watching Burma, the African conflicts or Yemen. We should be wary, however, of Western centrism, despite its media power. Finally, with rare exceptions, today’s wars are long. They rarely result in clear-cut victories.

JOVPN

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LV 235 : Portugal or extreme Europe | The EU faced with its contradictions | Lorgnette: the past that won’t go away

Letter from La Vigie dated 7 FEB 2024

 

Portugal or extreme Europe

Portugal, this small cape of Europe, appears not only as its extremity but also as its extreme example. Proud of a prestigious history, having dominated large parts of the world that it had to abandon, it is rich to have been. It is a fine European symbol.

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The EU faced with its contradictions

In the run-up to the European elections, and with a change of political leadership in the offing in Brussels, the EU is facing up to the far-reaching consequences of the war in Ukraine, as well as the discontent of many Europeans. Can the word ‘sovereignty’, which has ceased to be taboo, really find a definition in the language of the EU?

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Lorgnette: the past that won’t go away

On Sunday 21 January, almost 1.4 million Germans took to the streets to protest against the rise of the AFD (Alternative für Deutschland), the far-right party that advocates the expulsion not only of immigrants but also of “recent citizens”. The AFD is climbing in the polls, both in the former GDR and in the West.

The issue is not simply the attitude towards a political line but the question of the relationship with the past. For decades, Germany has held back politically because of the guilt it carries and maintains about the Nazi past. However, some members of the AFD have no hesitation in forgetting the past and putting the guilt aside.

Basically, the question posed to Germany is a question posed to the whole of Europe: what balance should be struck between the necessary duty to remember and the equally necessary duty to forget? For while we must not forget the totalitarian excesses and the abominable horrors they directed, radical repentance also appears to be abusive in that it handicaps all action. Writing history has always been a political matter, and it is more so than ever today. Should we always put the past behind us?

JOVPN

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LV 221 : Germany’s new security strategy | Croatian crossroads | Lorgnette : Legitimate violence

Letter from La Vigie, dated 5 JULY 2023

Germany’s new security strategy

Last June, Germany published its first-ever national security strategy. Even though the document is obviously general in scope and its concept of “integrated security” is not necessarily convincing, it has the merit of seeking to instil a culture of security in all Germans and to open up a democratic debate. France also has a special place in this strategy.

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Croatian crossroads

Croatia is traditionally seen as a Balkan country, although it also sees itself as a Central European country. A good pupil of the EU and NATO, it is gradually freeing itself from the historical legacy (Austro-Hungarian and Yugoslav) that has long corseted it. The Rafale purchase should encourage France to move closer to the country.

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Lorgnette: Legitimate violence

The recent riots in France have raised the question of violence in politics. It is seen by some as an alternative route when democratic processes are blocked. Thus, many have justified the violence committed during the Gilets jaunes crisis or the pension reform by a so-called democratic deficit. At least in these two cases there was a political background. This does not seem to be the case with the riots that have been shaking the country for the past few days: the observer gets the feeling of gratuitous, anarchic and destructive violence. While there are undoubtedly social, educational, police or judicial motives behind these actions, the violence nonetheless seems crude and lacking in any political objective.

Faced with this, the State must react and ensure public order. This is why lawyers explain that it has a monopoly on legitimate violence. Legitimacy comes from the sovereign people, who delegate to the State the task of organising life in society. The whole issue is that of the violence to be used in response to raw violence. Measuring violence is the way to confirm this legitimacy.

This is certainly a difficult task.

JOCVP

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LV 220: The current strategic project | Aviation news | Lorgnette : Italian genrations

Letter from La Vigie, dated 21 June 2023

Source : https://www.turgisetgaillard.fr/

The current strategic project

On the eve of summer, there are numerous meetings and consultations in a variety of formats between operators around the world who are repositioning themselves. They are all looking ahead to the new strategic era ushered in last year by the war in Ukraine. The result is a major strategic project on multiple fronts, paving the way for a multi-faceted international society with new dividing lines.

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Aviation news

In the wake of the war in Ukraine, the Paris Air Show provides an opportunity to take a look at some of the latest developments in the air: the tactical and strategic lessons to be learned, as well as the technical dimensions and the programmatic and industrial challenges.

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Lorgnette: Italian generations

Silvio Berlusconi is dead: his death has given rise to a great deal of media coverage tinged with a kind of nostalgia. The man with the permanent smile transformed politics, turning it into a communications tool. While many saw him as a predecessor to Trump, we should note that he ushered in a devitalisation of political debate in Europe, with the standardisation of ideas and a passion for the ephemeral quip. Is this the end of an era?

Perhaps, if we look at the career of Georgia Meloni, Italy’s current Prime Minister, who hails from the neo-fascist right. She managed not only to get into power but also to stay there. So here we have a politician from the sovereign right who has managed to come to terms with the EU while developing a series of moves, particularly towards the Maghreb: signing a gas contract with Algeria, supporting Tunisia for an IMF loan, insisting on the issue of migration in the Mediterranean. This is something new that we need to pay attention to, especially if we look at the establishment of sovereign parties in Europe (Finland) or their electoral success (Spain). Does Italy herald a lasting trend?

JOCVP

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LV 218 : After Bakhmut | Switzerland reserved | World demography

After Bakhmout

The fall of Bakhmut puts an end to a strategic sequence that began this winter. This small Russian success says nothing about the future of the fighting, but wear and tear and the beginning of public fatigue suggest that discussions are beginning behind the scenes.

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Switzerland reserved

Continuing our tour of France’s land borders, we take a closer look at Switzerland in this issue. What are its founding myths and why might its original army model interest us in 2023?

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Lorgnette: world demography

Demography rarely makes the news. Yet it is one of the most measured strategic factors, heralding long and predictable trends up to 50 years ahead. Although there is much talk of the digital revolution or global warming, and although globalisation is no longer a popular concept, demography remains a forgotten science that is necessary for building strategies (LV 110).

Now, if Europe is in a phase of accelerated demographic collapse (Italy, Germany, Spain and all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe), the latest figures published show that the world’s population will soon face accelerated ageing. By 2050, there will be fewer births than deaths on the planet. In South Korea, the fertility rate has fallen to 0.8 children per woman. The French population should continue to grow until 2040, but with an increased weight of seniors (1/3 against ¼ today). Beyond social questions (pensions), other issues are looming: what share should be given to immigration, while Africa, a world exception, should see its population double in a few decades? Which soldiers for our armies, which are already struggling to recruit?

JOCVP

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LV 215: Germany in disarray | The European issue | Lorgnette : Ill Tunisia

Letter from La Vigie, dated 12 April 2023

Germany in disarray

Year after year, La Vigie studies the evolution of the German question. Chancellor O. Scholz promised a “Zeitenwende” in February 2022, nothing would be the same as before, and behind this catch-all concept, everyone hoped that the situation would improve. What has happened after one year? Let us note that if some profound changes are taking place, notably in the area of defence, German foreign policy has never been so unreadable, apart from being docile to the Americans.

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The European issue

Paradoxically, Europe has emerged from the war in Ukraine little strengthened, despite last year’s thunderous declarations. It seems to be lined up behind a more fragile and febrile America than before, with the prospect of at least three decades of tensions with its eastern neighbour. At the same time, internal tensions are rising while its external image is deteriorating sharply and it is losing interest in the rest of the world. What was a model in the aftermath of the Cold War now seems to have been singularly depreciated.

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Lorgnette: Tunisia ill

Tunisia is sinking into crisis. The hope of the Arab revolts of ten years ago is fading and not reassuring. Ten years of deleterious interplay between political forces and economic decline, not to mention jihadist episodes that have undermined confidence. The election in 2019 of Kaïs Saïed, an inexperienced nationalist, is gradually moving towards an authoritarian system, both to overcome traditional blockages and to serve an obscure policy. The dissolution of the parliament in 2022 followed by the adoption of a new constitution despite a very low turnout was only one step in the political deterioration.

Today, the country is on the verge of insolvency with a huge debt. Spirits are gradually dying down, the president remains inflexible, playing on the support of his Algerian neighbour and advocating economic sovereignty, the reasons for which are hard to see. Wanting to disconnect himself from the West and especially from Europe, he hopes to find external support in China or Russia. But without natural resources, heavily dependent on European tourism and with a long history of European integration, this strategy seems very risky. A worrying stiffening.

JOCVP

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LV 212: Lost illusions | Luxembourg outside the walls | Lorgnette : One year of war

Letter from La Vigie dated 1st March 2023

Lost illusions

France’s foreign policy is facing a field of ruins: all European ambitions are shattered by the realignment caused by the war in Ukraine, our situation in Africa is devastated, our ambitions in the wider world are confused and misunderstood. So this is the perfect time to stop talking out of turn, to reflect and to choose.

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Luxembourg outside the walls

Let’s continue the tour of the French marches by studying its land neighbours, this time the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. How is it that a country with no strategic depth has managed to have the highest gross domestic product per capita in the world and to be a key player in Europe? Thanks to an influence strategy of extraterritoriality.

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Lorgnette: One year of war

The end of February marked one year of war in Ukraine, or more precisely nine if we consider the beginning of the conflict in 2014. But the intensity, the harshness, the length of the fighting and the breadth of the front make it an exceptional war and a mostly industrial war, both classic and contemporary. We have described it at length on our site, whether in our articles or in the weekly situation reports, but also in the book War in Ukraine published in November (here).

But this war can still last. We do not believe in the victory of one of the two, so much so that this term is a misleading word (LV 208). Given the progress made here and there and the tenacity of the parties, this is a war that is not frozen, the outcome of which is still undetermined. The longer the conflict goes on, the less possible it seems that negotiations on an equal footing are possible, as neither of the two belligerents is willing to settle their losses with a bad compromise. The consequences of the war would be long-lasting: a thorn in Europe’s side for decades to come. In addition to the losses, the wounded and the injured, in addition to the massive destruction, it is a European balance that must be rebuilt as quickly as possible.

JOCVP

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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…

JOCVP

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