LV 244 (free): Extended Mediterranean: Italy’s ambitions beyond Europe | Grand strategy in disarray | Lorgnette: Indian elections

Letter from La Vigie, dated 12th June 2024

 

Extended Mediterranean: Italy’s ambitions beyond Europe (LV 244) (free)

Since 2022, Italy has decided to adopt a new strategic positioning in an area stretching from the Gulf of Guinea to the north-western Indian Ocean, which it calls the “extended Mediterranean”. This cross-cutting vision, which includes diplomatic and economic as well as military and security aspects, underlines Rome’s ambitions for a southern flank of NATO and the EU that has too often been neglected. In support of this strategy, Italy is also developing a strong naval base, centred on a major upgrade of capabilities and spectacular growth in volumes, making it an essential partner for France, particularly in the Indo-Pacific.

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Grand strategy in disarray (LV 244) (free)

Grand strategy remains a demanding discipline, combining diagnosis and decision, thought and action. Since its inception, La Vigie has tirelessly explored this method. We note its structural weakening, which reflects the deterioration of political debate. Yet other countries have succeeded in implementing major strategies. If we leave it to the course of events, we will encounter tragedy. Then perhaps grand strategy will be reborn.

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Lorgnette : Indian elections

The elections that have just taken place in India are full of lessons. Narendra Modi did not achieve the triumph he had hoped for, even though his coalition managed to secure a third term in office. Domestic factors played their part: doubts about the Prime Minister’s ultra-Hindu political project, the tarnished aura of a man from the bottom, economic successes (7% growth) that do not redistribute enough (unemployment remains high), and persistent regional disparities.

However, this will give him a free hand internationally to continue his balancing act (LV 240). It will continue to combine its grand strategy: cooperation with the West, notably within the framework of the Quad (United States, Australia, Japan), while benefiting from the indulgence of the Europeans; cooperation with the BRICS and notably Russia, whose oil feeds its economy; pursuit of economic development in support of a globalisation that brings prosperity; attachment to its neighbours in the Indian Ocean; a marked effort towards Africa; maintenance of a degree of tension with China and Pakistan.

What is most remarkable is the decorrelation between domestic political life and foreign policy.

JOVPN

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LV 242 : Decentralised Spain | Tenacious internal fragility | Lorgnette: The Ukrainian turn

Letter frm La Vigie, dated 15th May 2024

Decentralised Spain

A new stage in the rediscovery of France’s neighbours on land: Spain. It is a textbook example of a state where the tension between central government and the regions is critical. This political focus explains its strategic ambition, which bears no comparison with the empire it once was.

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Tenacious internal fragility

After leading to conflicts far away, the attacks of the 2010s brought attention back to the domestic front. But the return of war, particularly in Ukraine, is prompting people to look outside again. Yet the situation at home seems more fragile than ever, as many signs show. We must not forget the home front.

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Lorgnette: The Ukrainian turn

After the failure of the Ukrainian offensive in the summer of 2023, the fighting continued throughout the autumn and winter, with slow Russian pressure which, thanks to a very favourable fire ratio, gradually nibbled away at a few positions and crushed the Ukrainian forces. The symbol was the capture of Avdivka in February 2024 (LV 236), a large suburb of Donetsk where the Ukrainians had been fortifying themselves since 2014.

But after a pause in March, the Russians resumed their push more vigorously from April onwards, whether in Chasiv Yar (a suburb of Bakhmut) or to the west of Avdivka, managing to make clearer progress at a rate of 25km² per week. Since last Friday, in addition to recurring fighting along the entire front, they have launched a major push north of Kharkiv, pushing aside the Ukrainian forces and taking several dozen square kilometres. Ukraine is short of weapons, ammunition and manpower. Western aid remains at a low level and the military situation seems very compromised.

It seems that we are witnessing a military turning point on the ground, even though Moscow has not yet launched all its forces. A turning point is taking place and the words ‘collapse’ are being uttered more and more. Are we close to the end?

JOVPN

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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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JONVP

LV222 : The temptation of bukelism | Vinius empty-handed | Lorgnette : commission uner control

Letter from La Vigie, dated 19 July 2023

The temptation of Bukelism

The recent riots in France showed that society was deeply divided and that the signals it was sending to those in power were not being heeded. While the latter are the guarantors of public order and tranquillity, recourse to Bukelism (in reference to the President of El Salvador) could be considered as a way of “closing ranks” among the population, a necessary condition for the implementation of a national strategy.

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Vilnius empty-handed

The Vilnius summit was billed as a renaissance. It has to be said that the results have been disappointing. President Zelesnky left empty-handed, a sign of the summit’s two unanswered questions: the first concerned the extent of support for Ukraine, and the second the strength of American interest in Europe.

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Lorgnette: Commission under control

The European Commission, headed by Ursula van der Leyen (nicknamed VDL), is once again at the centre of criticism. An American (Scott Morton) has been appointed Chief Economist in the Competition Directorate. Apart from her nationality, the fact that she has advised the likes of Apple, Amazon and Microsoft raises questions, given that one of the challenges facing the directorate will be to examine the weight of the American digital majors. This is problematic, as both Paris and the European Parliament have pointed out. In the end, she will not be taking up the post.

But this affair comes on the heels of several others, such as the text messages exchanged between Ms von der Leyen and Pfizer’s CEO at the time of covid, and the clumsy outbursts from the same VDL on international affairs, which is not her role but that of the High Representative.

Is this simply amateurism on her part? Remember that she was unconvincing in her previous ministerial post in Germany and that Berlin was very happy to get rid of her. Or is it a more or less conscious structural alignment with Washington? Just asking the question is embarrassing.

JOCVP

Photo crédit : https://bulgaria.postsen.com/world/224846/Zelensky-played-the-role-of-the-Jewish-grandmother-at-the-NATO-summit.html

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LV219 (free): An acceptable programming law, in the end | Strategic illusion | Lorgnette : BRICS and NBD

Letter from La Vigie, dated 7 June 2023

An acceptable Programming law, in the end

Hastily decided and prepared, preceded by a mediocre Strategic Review, the Military Planning Law is nevertheless ambitious, although it is still a catch-up law. The €413 billion will enable us to continue to increase the density of our armed forces without falling into the trap of high intensity, which would be the ultimate goal of any strategy. Measured and balanced, it maintains a prudent coherence.

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Strategic illusion

Any inherited power creates a bubble of illusion into which only its friends and allies, or those it considers to be such, can enter. There is no room for conflict, which leads to the denial of the other as a potential opponent and to the watering down of the vocabulary. The common good no longer exists because only one voice is allowed, and neither does strategy, which is designed to defend it. Is the strategist an endangered species?

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Lorgnette: RBICS and NBD

The recent meeting of BRICS foreign ministers in Cape Town can be read in different ways. The Western media focused on whether V. Putin would be granted diplomatic immunity for this summer’s summit, given that he is the subject of an ICC arrest warrant. Officially, the BRICS have made no secret of their annoyance at the way international society currently operates, and especially at the priority given to the war in Ukraine, while “the plight of the poor is forgotten“.

However, that was not the most important issue: the ministers discussed above all the introduction of a common currency “including how it could protect other member countries from the repercussions of sanctions such as those imposed on Russia” (link). To achieve this, the BRICS will use the New Development Bank (NBD), which will be able to grant loans in local currency. This is clearly a sign of defiance towards the United States and the dollar. Finally, Saudi Arabia was invited to the summit, and some twenty countries want to join the circle. A political convergence is in the process of being built: this is new (see dossier n°9).

JOCVP

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LV 216: France as a heritage power | Fighting organised crime | Lorgnette : War in Sudan

Letter from La Vigie, dated 26 APR 2023

France as a heritage power

Controversies about the nature of France’s power continue. Far from its former glory, it is now only an inherited power, managed by expensive and arrogant heirs: it no longer inspires dreams, and the disaffection of its former colonies towards it has spread throughout Europe. Thus appears the real demarcation of the continent: between inherited powers and those who, robbed by the Soviets, have only their future to dream about.

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Fighting organised crime: a strategic priority

In the event of conflict, the capabilities of deliberately infiltrated agents are often mentioned: espionage, sabotage and subversion are part of their panoply. However, there is a drawback to their use: if they have not been infiltrated early enough, they risk being recognised quickly. On the other hand, organised crime, which has the same range of actions, knows the country and its weaknesses perfectly well, because it takes advantage of them. It is therefore strategic to fight against these criminal organisations in peacetime.

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Lorgnette: War in Sudan

Civil war has broken out in Sudan and already civilian casualties are in the hundreds, with evacuations taking place in a chaotic manner as the fighting rages and no ceasefire holds. The country had raised some hopes after a popular revolt that led to the departure of Omar al-Bashir (LV 155). Some people are surprised that these clashes are not between a government and a democratic opposition that is rebelling, but between two forces within the government. Should we see the action of the Russians and their naval base in Port Sudan (LV 123)? That would be giving them too much influence. Is it then ethnic unrest, like that which led to the secession of South Sudan? Or is it religious unrest with Islamists on one side and “pagans” (animists or Christians) on the other? Probably not.Perhaps there are some of these elements, but the background is even crueller: it is the opposition of two similar forces, the RSF (ex janjawid, these tribal militias of Darfur, see post) and the so-called regular armed forces. Two men are fighting for power and if they have foreign support, they want above all to take precedence over the other.

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 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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JOCVP

photo credit: NATO on Visualhunt

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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JOCVP

Crédit photo : awestomestories

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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Photo credit : The White House