LV 163 : The Greek ally | Introduction to multidomain operations | Lorgnette : Senegal in turmoil

Letter from La Vigie, Dated 17 March 2021

The Greek ally

Since last summer’s tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, France has moved closer to Greece. Greece has settled all its differences with its Balkan neighbours. The deep rivalry with Turkey remains, aggravated by the Cyprus question. The rapprochement with France is logical from Athens’ point of view. For Paris, it will be important to ensure that this is not just a diplomatic coup but a lasting alliance.

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Introduction to multi-domain operations

The synergy of multi-domain military engagements has accelerated since 2014. The development of hybrid strategies, combining military and non-military modes of action, by state and non-state competitors or strategic disruptors, led the United States to structure its approach to multi-domain operations (MDOs) and to solicit its allies. As is the case whenever a new strategic and operational concept emerges, each of them is required to appropriate it before considering a common interoperable and coordinated response. France is preparing for this. The next NATO and EU summits could see the adoption of the first concrete multilateral initiatives.

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Lorgnette: Senegal in turmoil

The events of the last few days in Senegal are worrying. Indeed, the arrest of the main opponent to the government, Ousmane Sonko, triggered a series of bloody riots (a dozen dead, nearly 600 injured). Although the situation has since calmed down, it reveals several trends. First of all, Senegalese democracy, often cited as an example, is not immune to upheaval. We need to remember what happened twenty years ago in Côte d’Ivoire. The president, Macky Sall, remains very ambiguous about a possible third candidacy and has succeeded in eliminating the opposition… except for Ousmane Sonko, who is not from the seraglio. He made a name for himself by coming third in the last presidential election by denouncing corruption but also the French influence.

Now, this anti-French sentiment is spreading throughout the former African pré carré. This is to lend a lot of power to France, but the affair comes at a time when the debate is raging around the Barkhane operation. If minds are focused on the Sahel, it is advisable to remain cautious towards the region’s solid supports. A destabilised Senegal would be very bad news for everyone.

JOCV

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LV 161 : Fear and strategy | Algerian bastion | Lorgnette : Asia and democracy

Letter from La Vigie dated 17 FEB 2021

Fear and strategy

Fear is now omnipresent in our societies. It is both a source of great comfort but also a source of deep anxiety. However, this attitude refuses to consider progress and only sees the dangers, where risks should be taken. Fear is defeatist and hinders any strategic project.

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Algerian bastion

Very close to us, Algeria seems to be stuck in a situation of general stagnation which worries all those close to it. The end of non-receipt of the Stora report, the effervescence of its neighbours and the cautious restraint of its major partners are all symptoms of a strategic transition that cannot be found.

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Lorgnette: Asia and democracy

The repression in Hong Kong last summer (LV 146 and 155) highlighted a trend that can be observed throughout the Asian continent: the retreat of democracy.

In the Philippines, for example, R. Duterte was elected in 2016 and his populism continues to threaten democratic gains. For several months now, Thailand has been experiencing regular demonstrations against King Rama X, which gradually aim to break away from the traditional constitutional monarchy to weigh more directly on the country’s affairs. On 1st February, a coup d’état in Burma brought the government of Aung San Suu Kyi to heel and she herself was arrested.

This development is taking place under a double influence: on the one hand, the Chinese example which shows the strong manner  in which the Uighurs have been fought in Xinjiang, or recently in Hong Kong and, from longer time, in Tibet; on the other hand, the exhaustion of the Western democratic model, whether under the American era of D. Trump or under the unconvincing performance of the Europeans.

Let us increase our virtue before giving lessons to the world, because if our model no longer attracts, it is our responsibility.

JOCV

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LV 160 : Djibouti, a coveted strategic crossroads | Risks anc conflicts | Lorgnette : A new start

Letter from La Vigie dated 3 FEB 2021

Djibouti, a coveted strategic crossroads

As an established fulcrum at the convergence of the major maritime routes linking Asia and the Middle East on the one hand, and Africa and Europe on the other, which became a strategic crossroads during the Cold War, the Republic of Djibouti’s strategic dimension was strengthened as it entered the 21st century. The subject of massive economic investment from China and home to the military bases of six different foreign countries, with those of China and the United States surpassing those of France (former sovereign power on the territory), this tiny state has engaged in subtle and lucrative diplomacy, not without risks, in order to guarantee its political autonomy, security and development.

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Risks and conflicts

2021 will provide the basis for the 2022 election platforms. The recent publication of an Update to the 2017 Strategic Review is part of this framework. The exercise is classic, well-written and somewhat agreed upon, but it serves above all to justify capacity needs. It lacks boldness in the face of undiscerning risks and a new, ambivalent and below-threshold conflictuality, both external and internal. It does not outline a necessary integral strategy. This is a pity.

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Lorgnette: New start

As soon as he arrived, Joe Biden proposed a five-year extension of the New Start Treaty. Russia agreed immediately. This is good news. New Start was indeed the last arms control treaty in force. Bilateral, it linked Washington and Moscow to limit the number of their nuclear weapons. It was due to expire on 5 February and it is likely that a re-elected Donald Trump would have let the deadline pass, as he had withdrawn from other treaties. This was not the decision of his successor.

The extension means that the bilateral dialogue should resume in a more conventional way, which does not mean that tensions will ease. One recalls the Democratic Party’s obsession with “Russian fraud” and the suspicion of connivance between Mr Trump and Putin. J. Biden will have to take this fringe of his party into account. However, returning to international negotiations is a good signal. Above all, it reopens perspectives on nuclear issues: updating the JCPOA agreement with Iran or dealing with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW cf. LV 87). We will follow this closely.

JOCV

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LV 157 : Assessment of 2020 | Digital maneuvers | Lorgnette : Brexit, eventually

Letter n° 157 from La Vigie dated 23rd December 2020

AMR 2020: assessment of a year that put the world out of action

In one year a serious health accident overwhelmed the planet and put the whole world out of action. And the year 2020 will enter the list of the great strategic vintages of the century, alongside 1945, 1989 and 2001. Certainly the tensions that presided over the world before the pandemic have subsided, but the strategic situation has changed profoundly, new dialectics are emerging, but no possible balance is in sight on the horizon. Here is an end-of-year review of this extraordinary episode.

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Digital maneuvers

This month of December sees several high-intensity cyber clashes crackle: whether sabotage, subversion or espionage, the powers are clashing in digital space, to a degree rarely known. Cyberspace is indeed in permanent conflict, but below the threshold. However, other confrontations are emerging, this time between States and powers deprived of digital technology: whether in the United States or in the European Union, legal initiatives aim to bring these new operators, with their inordinate means and unknown ambitions, into line.

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Lorgnette: Brexit, finally

Negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union on the modalities of Brexit have frustrated all the envisaged deadlines. We had been told that we could not go beyond October and then November with the cut-off date of 31 December. The two parties went much further, since the agreement has still not been pronounced on 22 December. This is impressive.

On the one hand, one can only admire Boris Johnson who knew how to hide his intention until the end: nobody really knew whether he wanted an agreement or just a pretext to justify a hard Brexit to his public opinion. Perhaps he hadn’t even made up his mind, waiting for the result of the American election to decide. The fact remains that he was able to preserve his freedom of manoeuvre to the end and therefore to constantly weigh on the content of the negotiations.

On the other hand, the strength of the EU is also remarkable. While London had hoped to be able to crack the European bloc, it held out against all odds and withstood British pressure. This shows proven collective nerves that are to be commended. As for Brexit, we shall see in ten years’ time what the real effects will be on both sides.

JOCV

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LV 152 : What does Russia tell us ? | Disunited unities | Lorgnette : Free hostages

Letter from La Vigie Nr 152 (14 October 2020)

What does Russia tell us?

Russia thinks of itself as a power. Master of the land, it is implementing a strategy that knows how to take its time and skillfully play with the new configuration of the world structured by the confrontation between China and the United States and a deregulation of multilateralism. It is, however, a rough partner that does not know how to encourage dialogue, which is necessary for Europe if it does not want to fall prey to predators.

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Disunited Unities

The word unité (both unit and unity) has in French the particularity of designating both the elementary part of a set and the set itself. Depending on the fields to which it is applied, the duality of meaning leads to singularly different values of unity, particularly in terms of a state’s political philosophy or foreign policy. In the era of triumphant individualism, what meaning should be given to the unity of the Republic in a world in the midst of strategic recomposition?

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Lorgnette : Free Hostages

The release of the last French hostage last week has caused several controversies. Did France pay a ransom? Was her release worth the release of 200 prisoners? On these two points, we have few details, but the negotiations seem to have been conducted by the Malian government autonomously, without France. The question of the hostage would have come late, without any question of ransom. As for the terms of trade, some quickly concluded that they were Islamists, when the barter seems to have been based on intra-Malian considerations.

This largely explains the embarrassment of the authorities, faced with a fait accompli and not knowing what to say in the face of the hostage’s words, declaring that he had followed “a spiritual retreat”. Everyone was able to note there the limits of the curious tradition of a President of the Republic rushing to the airport to welcome the freed compatriot. Communication without a message is counterproductive. For all that, no matter the merit or the opinions of each hostage: national solidarity requires that they be sent home, according to the principle of “all for one”. This is basically our national raison d’être.

JOCV

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LV 144 : Getting ahead of the game | Missing : scinetific authority | Bartering in the Sahara

Letter from La Vigie n° 144 of 10 June 2020

Getting ahead of the game

In order for France to cope with the current crisis as the health shock subsides, the strategist recommends that it should give a new, realistic strategic impetus and envisage an ambitious renewal of its national paradigm. These two axes are the keys to a long-term project.

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Missing: scientific authority

The pandemic is not a geopolitical turning point, but it is accelerating underlying trends. Among these, the collapse of the authorities continues. Scientific authority was one of the last remaining. However, the influence of scientists has lost much in the crisis, whether in the analysis of the virus or in the major debates on the different types of treatment for the disease. This does not mean the end of scientific progress, far from it. But the public authority of the word of scientists, thanks to their legitimacy and neutrality, has suffered from the interests they were able to defend. This further weakens the cohesion of societies.

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Lorgnette: Bartering in the Sahara

The death of Abdelmalek Droukdal, an Islamist leader of AQIM in Mali, may be just a tactical success. Perhaps it is also a sign of a broader movement. Indeed, things are moving in Mali as they are in Algeria. In Mali, the last legislative elections have apparently not changed the political balance. However, IBK, the Malian president, has understood that there is a need to move and to do so, to negotiate with both the Tuaregs and the Peuls.

In Algeria, the new President Tebboune has controlled the hirak. He has launched a constitutional amendment that allows Algeria to commit the army across the borders. This does not concern Morocco, but rather the borders to the east, because the situation in Libya is evolving in favour of Turkey’s protégés, which is worrying Algiers.

The south therefore had to be guaranteed. A Droukdal was not only Islamist but Algerian, and he wanted to prevent the subtle bartering in the south. So one can imagine that Algiers let him go, so as to stabilise the Sahara and have a free hand. The fact remains that IBK, the Malian president, has been too late and that large demonstrations are calling for his resignation. Not ideal for negotiating, perhaps enough to finally decide to move.

JOCV

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LV 141 : Europe and its center | Resilience, that magic word | Lorgnette: European disagreements

Letter from La Vigie, 29 April 2020

Europe and its centre

Europe’s centre of gravity, if we refer to a strategic definition, lies in the great European backbone that traditionally ran from London to Milan, via the Rhine. The events of 2020 are changing the situation and brutally highlighting the German question, which will determine the future of Europe. Only a genuine partnership between France and Germany would make it possible to perpetuate a powerful Europe.

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Resilience, that magic word

The pandemic has prompted many calls for “resilience”. In fact, the French  military operation against Covid-19 has taken on this name. Behind the over-mediatization of the word, let us return to the foundations of what it means. Its introduction into the strategic vocabulary dates back to the White paper of 2008 in a context of the fight against terrorism, unsuited to the current crisis. Above all, resilience is built before the crisis: invoking it when the crisis occurs shows above all that one is powerless in the conduct of the crisis.

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Lorgnette: European disagreements

The brutality of the pandemic is suddenly putting the European institutional edifice under strain. For more than a month now, in the Union’s area of economic competence, positions have been clashing very hard. In previous crises, the confrontation was “all against one” (Greece in 2012 during the euro crisis, Germany in 2015 during the migration crisis). This time we are witnessing the formation of two camps, fiercely opposed: the frugals (Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Finland) and the friends of cohesion (Spain, France, Italy).

At stake: the possibility of a common debt, in other words the technical transition to budgetary solidarity, with the richest paying for the least rich. The frugals refuse it, while others (France) see it as a way to progress towards European sovereignty: the “big step” method, so to speak. However, it is likely that the frugals will win because the European political and economic balance suits them. Otherwise, some (Italy) might be tempted to leave the euro. But if there is a transfer, others could leave it: Finland has already communicated to this effect.

This time the crisis is existential.

JOCV

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La Vigie Nr 140 : Coronacrisis : a strategic recession ? | Covid in America : the flip-flop | Lorgnette : truce in Yemen

Letter from La Vigie, 15 April 2020

Coronacrise: a strategic recession?

A few ideas for France and Europe for waiting to prepare for a form of strategic recession on the planet and get out of a few probable impasses. The world according to the coronacrisisremains undetermined for some time.

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Covid in America: the flip-flop

America is now the epicentre of the global pandemic with exceptional figures confirming that it remains the country of all extremes. The political, economic, military and diplomatic consequences are already numerous. However, this crisis is accelerating the turning point that has already begun in the 21st century, that of leaving American centrality.

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Lorgnette: truce in Yemen

Coronacrise precipitates events. By a trick of history, the pandemic that strikes the royal families of Saudi Arabia causes in Riyadh a notable evolution: that to stop the expenses in Yemen.

Everyone knows that this war was ordered by the impetuous Mohamed ben Salman, who believed he could easily and by force resolve the Yemeni imbroglio. This conflict, which has been going on since 2015, has led to the intervention of a Saudi coalition. It has never managed to achieve its goals, including that of driving the houthists out of their positions in the North of the country. The conflict has caused more than 110,000 deaths and the worst humanitarian crisis of the moment.

That is why the Kingdom offered a ceasefire last week, which was rejected by the houthis, who never believed the Saudi offers and are in the process of retaking Marib province. They are in a position of strength and de facto, Arabia finds that it has lost the war. The issue at stake is how to settle the accounts and manage relations with Iran. But a first case of Covid 19 in Yemen risks accelerating things and pushing the Saudis to withdraw unilaterally.

JOCV

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La Vigie Nr 139 : Face to the virus : first lessons from Asia | Forgotten strategic vocabulary | Withdrawing forces

Letter from La Vigie, 1st April 2020

Face to the virus: first lessons from Asia

Two weeks after the lockdown of the entire French population, much has been said about the measures adopted in some Asian countries to contain the Covid-19 epidemic. If the successes met by Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea or Japan to deal with the first wave of the epidemic are undeniable, they are due to a high level of preparedness of the administrations, the response forces and the populations to manage a probable crisis with potentially severe consequences. The rapid spread of the pandemic, incomplete information from China and hampered international cooperation have left most European countries with no choice but to confine themselves. These initial lessons from Asia will have to be quickly learned by all, individually and collectively, to prevent such a strategic surprise from being repeated in the new world to be built the day after.

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Forgotten strategic vocabulary

The health crisis we are facing reminds us of a number of terms that have been forgotten or neglected in strategic vocabulary: strategic surprise, weak signals, strategy of means, defence and innovation, freedom of movement, resilience… some are losing interest, others are regaining an importance that should not have been given up.

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Lorgnette: Withdrawing forces

The coronavirus is a good excuse. Or it can be very useful. For example, Iraq has decided on very strict border restrictions. The Americans took the opportunity to redeploy their force, in fact to abandon two of the three bases they had in the North and West of the country. That this decision came at a time when the Shiite militias had relaunched their campaign of harassment against American troops, following (post) the assassination of General Souleimani is of course completely fortuitous.

Unsurprisingly, many followed the American decision: the British and Czechs announced their decision to stop the training mission. France too, thus dismantling the Iraqi component of Operation Chammal, but also (discreetly) the special forces detachment operating in Syria. Officially, it is of course concerned about the strengthening of the Islamic state in the region. But it is in fact very happy to find a timely way out, since the objectives of this mission were no longer very clear. Above all, this will make it possible to lighten the system and strengthen the military resources in France. We have to relearn how to complete an operation.

JOCV

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LV 136 : Nuclear deterrence : the satus quo | Ecology and strategy | Mali : speaking the truth

Letter from La Vigie, 19 FEB 2020

Nuclear deterrence: the status quo

An analysis of the nuclear deterrence discourse of the current legislature shows an assumed continuity and a fairly theoretical openness to a European strategic nuclear perspective. One will readily subscribe to this agreed caution. The reactions recorded reveal a rhetoric whose meaning is fading and priority is fading despite the current disorder.

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Ecology and strategy

The preservation of the environment is a global priority, yet it is rarely mentioned by strategists. However, when it comes to managing scarce resources, there is an opposition between a political vision (ecology) and an economic vision (economy), despite the ideological excesses of some. A response to this global problem should logically be multilateral: the American withdrawal from the Paris agreements hinders this approach. Something else must be imagined, all the more so as the strategic factor will weigh more and more heavily in tomorrow’s conflicts, a prospective that must be examined today.

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Lorgnette: Mali: speaking the truth, the end of denial?

By confirming the offer of direct contacts with Iyad Ag Ghali and Amadou Koufa, two emblematic jihadist leaders, IBK, the Malian Head of State transcends the inclusive national dialogue. What does he have to offer?

Probably little, if not a real sharing of political and social views and even local responsibilities. In fact, the military framework has been well renewed: French reinforcement (600 men for Barkhane and G5 Sahel) after the Pau Summit (LV 134), the symbolic and negotiated return to Kidal of an element of the reconstituted Malian army (based on 2/3 of local paramilitaries) on 16 February, the integration into the FAMA of 500 men from the MSA for Menaka and the launch of Maliko, a vast autonomous Malian military operation to reconquer the territory whose eastern theatre covers Gao, Menaka and Kidal.

At the same time, General (ex-captain putschist) Sanogo was released without trial. It is an attempt to bring together all the Malian actors in a Malian military coalition against AW. Al Saharoui (EIGS) designated to all as the terrorist intruder to be eradicated. Then we’ll talk about everything (political, social, religious) But we’re speaking French too. To be seen, up close

JOCV

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