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?


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LV 229: The United States and the new world | Strategic issues for the seabed | Lorgnette: Spanish turmoil

Letter from La Vigie, dated 15 November 2023


The United States and the new world

Faced with the upheavals underway, America is redefining its priorities. Despite its domestic political difficulties, and backed by a buoyant economy, it is returning to the Middle East, closing the Ukrainian question and renewing its ties with China. This pragmatism should come as no surprise, but we need to draw the consequences.

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Strategic issues for the seabed

The seabed, whose relatively long-standing exploitation has been facilitated by the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is becoming a major strategic territory. With the growth in economic activity and the energy and digital transitions underway, they are home to critical infrastructures that need to be able to monitor them and intervene if necessary.

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Lorgnette: Spanish turmoil

Spanish politics never ceases to surprise us. After a party of vacuums (LV 180), the Catalan question is back (LV 94). Last May, the Left in power (LV 117) suffered a debacle in the local elections. P. Sánchez decided to dissolve the assembly and won his gamble in the July elections, where his party held its own. But to stay in power, he needed to secure a majority, which he could only find among the independentists, particularly the Catalans. This agreement was reached on 9 November in exchange for a highly controversial amnesty law, which allows Catalan leader C. Puigdemont, who has been in exile (on the run) in Brussels since 2017, to return to the country. In 2017, the country experienced one of the worst political crises in its modern history (LV 80).

However, Mr Sánchez did not come out on top, and if he is able to reach this agreement, it is because the right-wing leader, A. Feijóo, was unable to build a coalition. So here we have the PSOE, a weakened party, which only manages to find a coalition in a minority situation by reviving the question of independence.

Unsurprisingly, demonstrations organised by the right have multiplied since the announcement of the agreement. Spain is set for another troubled period.

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La Vigie Nr 180 : Air and space environments: displaying power | FR CHOD strategic vision | Spain : party of the void

Letter from La Vigie, November 24, 2021

Air and space environments: displaying power

Air power implies mastering technology, which has led to certain excesses in the thinking of the air and space community that are now being questioned. The need for a return to deployable mass and the contribution of drones seems to be a method for achieving this. But the Franco-German projects (SCAF) are uncertain. Finally, the air environment has logically extended to space which is becoming a demanding environment where challenges abound.

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FR CHOD Strategic Vision

The public launch of the new Chief of Defence Staff’s strategic vision is a good opportunity to give the military a voice to specify their contribution to the country’s security. Three sensitive issues emerge: high intensity confrontation, strategic surprise and the need for a global security policy for France.

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Lorgnette: Spain, party of the void

Contemporary Spain (LV 172) is, like Italy, adept at political innovation. It had invented Podemos, a far-left party. Founded in 2014, it obtained 20% of the vote in 2015 and has participated in a coalition government since 2019. Ciudadanos, a liberal party, originally Catalan, spread throughout Spain from 2014. But these good electoral results of 2015 and 2016 have not been confirmed. These political parties want to get out of the alternative between PSOE, PP and independents.

A new attempt is emerging, that of the Party of Emptiness (España Vaciada: Emptied Spain), formed in September. A poll already promises it 15 deputies. It brings together the neglected territories, neither capital nor rich coastal region (i.e. Catalonia and the Basque Country). They are disconnected from the networks (motorways, TGV, high-speed Internet). They are reminiscent of the Yellow Vests, but above all of the French “Diagonal of Emptiness”, that scarf of underdevelopment crossing the hexagon from the North-East to the South-West.

We must be attentive to this non-ideological but territorial political experiment, bringing together the “somewhere” against the “anywhere”. The return of the local (LV 94) will perhaps be the next surprise.

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La Vigie Nr 117 : China and the heart of the earth | A look at North Africa | Lorgnette : Spanish elections

La Vigie, Strategic letter, Nr 117 ( 8 MAY 2019)

China and the heart of the earth

China, which is re-emerging, is, in the eyes of the United States, the challenger. Yet, despite its need for revenge on unequal treaties imposed by “barbarians” and felt as a humiliation, it has no desire for power. Certainly, its “Belt and Roads” initiative to refocus across Asia is a major geo-economic ambition: it can be seen as a re-reading of the founders of Anglo-Saxon geopolitics and the intention to control the heartland. This requires us to renew our strategic calculations.

A look at North Africa

North Africa is a strategic area that is poorly identified and agitated by multiple rivalries. In the centre, torn Libya is experiencing a strong east-west push that is having a negative effect on the adjacent Maghreb. France must be careful not to encourage this perverse dynamic and promote an autonomous Maghreb area based on the MENA concept.

Lorgnette: Spanish elections

The Spanish general elections on 28 June did not quite resolve the country’s deep political crisis. Certainly, the Socialist Party comes first and if it allies itself with Podemos (radical left), it arrives at 11 seats of the majority necessary to govern. Faced with it, the Popular Party lost many seats, a loss badly compensated by Vox, a radical right-wing formation born of a split. This right-wing bloc is reportedly supported by the centrist, liberal and anti-independence party, Ciudadanos.

In other words, no “classic” left-wing majority is possible without the support of small parties. The Catalan secessionist parties obtained only 39% of the votes, which puts the independence issue into perspective in a context of electoral mobilization. P. Sanchez, the socialist leader, could rely on the ERC (Catalan left) or on a Basque party and some independents.

Nevertheless, P. Sanchez will not want to launch a referendum on the independence of Catalonia (even if we wait for the regional elections on 26 May to check the intensity of the independence movement, which fell on 28 June, see LV 94). It is to be hoped that the fragile coalition that will be put in place will help to cool the secessionist crisis.

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La Vigie n° 94 – 9 May 2018 : Regionalisms in Spain – The Vietnamese track – The Libanese democratic challenge

Letter n° 94 – 9th May 2018

Regionalisms in Spain

The self-dissolution of ETA in the Spanish Basque Country does not only mean the end of an armed struggle, but above all it marks the end of an outdated ideology: that of revolutionary independence. It reveals the internal geopolitical balance of Spain, a country that has little known a strong state and which, in favor of democracy in 1975, invented an original way of decentralization that is not a federation. This helps to understand the current tension between Madrid and Catalonia. This does not mean that regional issues are over, in Spain as in Europe, because they are also responses to the furious globalization.

The Vietnamese track

Vietnam suffers the presence of a cumbersome neighbor which he must accomodate since ages. While imitating his politico-economic model, he must be careful not to fall into his orbit. To do this, it deploys a subtle strategy of the right balance and seeks through multiple partnerships the strategic depth it lacks. The strategy of balance that it deploys must enable it to preserve the centrality of the party, to satisfy an expected development and to contain a nationalist public opinion.

Lorgnette : The Libanese democratic challenge


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Indecisive decisions

Observers of international affairs sometimes have trouble understanding the scope of the decisions announced with much communication.

Last week, two examples of these « indecisive decisions » were offered up to us.

A savoir avant de se décider Source

The first is that of Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the Catalan independence movement. After having been constantly maximalist these past five years, always choosing the most radical way, he’s hesitating. While he had just organized a referendum, albeit very controversial and foregoing any democratic guarantees we can expect from any State, be it African or fallen under the watchful eye of the « International Community », here he is balking at the ultimate hurdle. Declaring without really declaring, but declaring Catalan independence and provoking dissatisfaction from everyone, Spaniards and Catalans alike whether they are anti-independence, or fairly to vehemently pro-independence… Mind boggling. In fact, the Spanish PM, Mr Rajoy asked Mr Puigdemont to clarify what he meant by his obtuse declaration…

The second is the declaration of D. Trump voicing all the bad things he had to say about the Iranian nuclear deal, and then in the end asked Congress to seriously think about it even if he thinks they shouldn’t certify the deal. Do you understand ? We don’t. Is he for it ? Against it ? He’s against it, but not enough to it, just enough to not say he’s for it.  So here we have a non-decision that only has disadvantages : It aggravates the Iranians, turns the International Community against him, doesn’t weigh in the balance, leaves it up to Congress…(see Thomas Flichy de La Neuville‘s article).

Many examples of these non-decisive decisions could be given.

They illustrate the contemporary difficulty with doing real politics. The end of ideologies and collective causes prevents the formation of new divides that orders society and incites them to regulate themselves. An impression of disorder and inefficiency then follows due to the gap between a system that is too complex and the peoples aspiration for cut and dry simplicity. Non-completion becomes the norm and clogs up situations in unsatisfactory middle ground.

Deciding ?  An illusion !