LV 154 : Tumultuous elections | (De)frozen conflitcts | Lorgnette : Secularims misunderstood

Letter from La Vigie n° 154 ; 11 November 2020

Tumultuous elections

The US presidential election has kept the world’s media on tenterhooks. Many on that occasion decried American democracy. However, other recent elections (Belarus, Côte d’Ivoire) have shown unconvincing processes. On closer inspection, the American election shows a great democratic vitality, even if politically (but that is another matter) the transition crisis is likely to continue.

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(De)frozen conflicts)

Frozen conflicts were an unwelcome legacy of the Cold War. Nevertheless, they are warming dangerously, one after the other, and the case of Nagorno-Karabakh is fuelling strategic thinking around hypotheses of symmetrical high-intensity conflicts.

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Lorgnette: Secularism misunderstood

It must be said that following the Islamist attacks of the last few weeks, secularism has been much talked about, rarely understood. First of all in France, where some people who take advantage of it understand it only as a kind of State atheism, which it is obviously not. But above all, the notion seems to some people to be the symbol of a “French universalism”: it must be said that this universalism is indeed French and very poorly understood outside.

This is true among our European and American friends. One only has to look at the journalistic treatment of the “big” American media, it is true that it is strongly influenced by the post-colonial, woke and communitarian ideology. Even Le Monde implies that this is excessive (here). But this famous “French model” is not understood by Muslim countries either, and the French reaction has been seen (and instrumentalized by some, notably R. Erdogan) as an official persecution of Muslims. Let us recall that French Muslims are those in Europe who feel best integrated into their country. And let us deplore the fact that our secularism is so badly assimilated, first of all by us, unable to explain it simply.

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LV 153 : The strategist’s dilemma | Repression of terrorism | Elections in Bolivia

Letter from La Vigie Nr 153 (28 October 2020)

The strategist’s dilemma

The strategist’s dilemma at the end of this extraordinary year is both to preserve France’s strategic personality and to accept new rules in a complex game to which it does not hold the keys. To do this, one must first try to unclutter its strategic posture from a large number of implicit biases and perverse enrollments that weaken its relevance and often make it illegible.

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Repression of terrorism

Following the last two attacks, we can see that anger is rising in France. Let us note that we are facing a domestic terrorism which is not the fact of all French Muslims, but of only a part of them, supported, moreover, both by tacit internal allies and by external support. From now on, there is no longer any time to avoid this internal conflict. Before talking again (once again) about toughening the laws, the authorities must have authority and firmly apply those that exist in order to reverse the balance of power imposed on us. It is only time.

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Lorgnette: Elections in Bolivia

The recent general elections in Bolivia gave a large majority to the left-wing candidate Luis Arce with 55% of the votes in the first round. This election came after the institutional crisis of 2019, which saw the controversial departure of Evo Morales. Morales had won the first round of the 2019 elections (with 47% of the votes) but there had been a debate about holding a second round. Demonstrations on the one hand, and a council of the Organisation of American States on the other, had prompted the army to abandon Evo Morales, who had had to go into exile.

The party of E. Morales won the elections twice in a row and the accusations of irregularity in 2019 may have been (?) excessive. This puts into perspective the accusations of authoritarianism that flourished at the time. Incidentally, we see that the international community does not always make happy choices in Latin America, whether it be support for Luis Guaidó in Venezuela or opposition to Morales in Bolivia. Like it or not, the left remains well supported there and outside interference can do little in the long run.

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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.

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LV 151 : Behind the wall | What does America tell us ? | Lorgnette : High-Karabakh

Letter from La Vigie n° 151 of September 30, 2020

Withdrawal behind the wall

The construction of walls is accelerating in this world. However, this tactical mode of action has never been able to contribute structurally to sustainable strategic action. Similarly, it reflects a withdrawal into oneself and a fear of the other when we need dialectics.

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What does America tell us?

The American election campaign is particularly abnormal: not only because of Covid, but also because it demonstrates the confrontation, block by block, of two irreconcilable Americas ready to fight, refusing in advance the victory of the other side. Beyond the disappearance of the WASP cement, it is a conception of modernity that is moving away. Finally, this issue of La Vigie looks at the consequences of the victory of D. Trump or that of J. Biden: in both cases, the prospects are not great.

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Lorgnette : Nagorno-Karabakh

Should we be surprised at the resumption of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan? No. First of all, because the dispute is ancestral and we see no negotiated solution to this conflict. Moreover, the outbursts of recent days seem to have been orchestrated more for internal reasons on the Baku side than by the desire to regain military control of this territory. The fact remains that the cannons have spoken and that some are alarmed.

Let us recall here that a frozen conflict does not mean an extinguished conflict: the freezing only means that it does not degenerate, but that it is maintained, on the other hand, by more or less noisy or deadly skirmishes. By this yardstick, the battle of the last few days would be normal.

For all that, it is at odds with Azerbaijan’s skillful policy (LV 134). The two great godfathers of the region, Russia and Iran, should quickly signal the end of the episode in Baku. But this is counting without the Turkish activism, about which one wonders here what he is pursuing: in the complicated multi-band game of the East, this is probably not about the Transcaucasus but more likely a message to Moscow and Tehran.

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LV 150 : Turbulent return from hollydays | New strategic oscillation | Lornette: 5 questions to the reader

Letter from La Vigie, Nr 150, dated 16 Sept. 2020

Turbulent return from hollydays

The summer allowed the Frenchman to regain a certain normality. The world, for its part, has rather aggravated tensions: between a worrisome America, an ambiguous China, an Africa that is still going badly, a Mediterranean that is warming up, a painful European East, the return to school is turbulent and agitated. Let’s agree that our diplomacy has difficulty ordering these disorders and printing clear lines.

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New strategic oscillation

The current strategic disorder is stimulated by the double opposition between actors : the rooted and emancipated ones within the states on the one hand, and the imperial and tributary ones in international society on the other. The states are hard hit by this. But the risks of a global security crisis are framed by powerful new regulators. How can we get out of this situation?

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Lornette: 5 questions to the reader

As we entered the seventh year of publication of our bimonthly strategy letter, we wanted to know what our readers had to say about it. The following are five questions that will require two minutes of our readers’ attention and allow us to serve them well.

When you receive the announcement we send out (10,000 of you receive it twice a month), all you have to do is to reply (by email) with five numbers that will show your appreciation. We are counting on you.

  • Question n°1: Is the format of 6 pages and 2 articles suitable for you? Yes= 1; increase = 2; decrease = 3, indifferent = 4
    Question n°2 : Is the periodicity of publication convenient for you ? Yes = 1; increase = 2; decrease = 3.
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    Question n°4: thematic, indicate 2 preferences among 6; geopolitics = 1, geostrategy = 2, geo-economics = 3, general strategy = 4, national security = 5, crises = 6.
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LV 148 : Bonds, democracy, Europe | Algeria-France : asymetries and potentials | Lorgnette : Covid and politics | Holiday readings (free)

Lettre from La Vigie Nr 148, 5 August 2020

Bonds, democracy, Europe

The recent EU agreement on common debt was praised by enthusiasts as a historic step forward, by sceptics as contrary to the interests of the country. Far from being a Hamiltonian moment (a federal leap), it is simply a very long agreement to negotiate, one that has exposed Europe’s tears but has had the merit of existing, albeit a small step. The fact remains that, once again, we will regret the absence of real democracy, not to mention this flamboyant French panache that can be read both as the rest of a sense of the universal and as proof of an indescribable candour, for better or for worse.

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Algeria-France, asymmetries and potentials

The Elysée Palace entrusted an academic with a mission on the Algerian War, with an Algerian academic being in charge of a similar mission in Algiers. These two exercises seem a little vain as they focus on a single period. Above all, on the one hand, the French do not want to hear about it any more and are turned towards something else while the subject is for the Algerian executive an imprescriptible moral drawing right from the beginning, even if the population of the country is connected to the world and dreams above all that they are told about the future and not the past. It would be better to prepare for the future and imagine how the destinies of the two shores can be made to converge better.

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Lorgnette: Covid and politics

In the end, the Covid will have deeper political effects than expected. In Israel, thousands of demonstrators are marching against B. Netanyahu, accused of having deconflicted too quickly and of not installing social measures in the face of the economic crisis. In Belarus, in anticipation of the elections on 9 August, a trio of women are gathering crowds and questioning the absolute reign of the autocrat, accused of not having taken any measures against the pandemic. In the United States, the flip-flop that we were detecting (LV 140) seems to be confirmed as the epidemic explodes and the erratic reactions of D. Trump, who seems to be in a very bad position for re-election. However, nothing is decided yet, but the incumbent has fallen behind. Finally, in Scotland, pro-independence supporters feel that their country has done better than the United Kingdom and polls regularly show a yes vote for separation.

These are all signs that statesmen’s ineffective handling of the COVID crisis can have lasting effects, including on political balances. This is not surprising.

Holiday Reading (Free)

For this sixth summer issue, here are a few miscellaneous readings to entertain you or help you delve deeper into complex subjects which the Covid 19 pandemic has taught us to rediscover the taste and necessity. Enjoy reading these 17 reviews. Don’t forget to re-subscribe and distribute them widely.

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Crédit photo : German Federal Government/Bergmann

Libya : The first Mission for an EU Battlegroup?

We are pleased to publish an essay by Wolfgang Pusztai, an Austrian security and policy analyst, specialist of Libya.His thoughts are challenging indeed. HAve a good read. La Vigie.

In Libya there is an ongoing civil war since 2011 with different phases of intensity. The prospects for a lasting ceasefire as a precondition for a political solution were never ever bright over the years. An international military mission to ensure compliance would have been technically next to impossible anyway. All this might change now.

source

The current situation in Libya

Continue reading “Libya : The first Mission for an EU Battlegroup?”

LV 147 : Media country, real country | To the south | Lorgnette: Ministry of the Sea

Letter from La Vigie dated 22 July 2020

Media country, real country

Contemporary media are disappointing, caught in the vise of immediacy, emotion and moral indignation. They therefore contribute greatly to the era of “post-truth” and now constitute a disconnected and subjugated class. Worse, they distance political leaders from their long-term mission and reinforce the drift towards polarization, at the risk of radicalization and therefore division. The strategist cannot remain indifferent to this deleterious development.

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To the south

A strategic vacuum has set in in the Mediterranean, which Turkey and Russia have taken advantage of by arbitrating the inextricable Libyan question in their own way. The time has come for the southern Europeans to take the lead and to conduct with their vis-a-vis a truly trans-Mediterranean strategy to preserve their interests and contribute to the development and security of a Southern flank that is carrying risks that are drawing closer together.

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Lorgnette: Ministry of the Sea

After two unsuccessful attempts (81/83 and 88/91), the recent creation of a Ministry of the Sea is raising hopes for a dynamic sector at the service of an overall maritime strategy. France’s maritime assets are well known (LV 145), as are the pitfalls on which the previous ministries ran aground.

The great complexity and cross-cutting nature of maritime issues requires a strong ministerial and political role, building on the achievements, while the stakes and opportunities offered by the oceans are considerable:

  • a common good to be protected, studied and exploited sustainably;
  • economic prosperity and development of our society drawn from our EEZs by an eco-responsible commitment;
  • integration of our maritime sectors, to lead the world in the wake of our blue growth, by building an innovative economic and ecological force (fishing, food, construction, transport, propulsion, marine energies, ports, river sector);
  • guarantee the safety and security of our activities and maritime spaces with regard to international law.

These objectives, taken from the PR’s speech (Montpellier, 3/12/19), are reflected in the remit of the new ministry (15/7/20). May it become, with everyone’s help, the sought-after strategic accelerator.

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LV 146 : Maverick states | There is no more West | Lorgnette : Hong-Kong mastered

Letter from La Vigie dated 8 July 2020


Maverick states

The Westphalian international order, which was intended to be egalitarian, has ended up degenerating into the law of the strongest: some States, using leverage, will try to compensate for their weakness by adopting an original model that should guarantee their survival. We shall call them the mavericks’ and here we propose a typology of their strategies.

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There is no more West.

The West was at the same time a civilization, a way of thinking marked by doubt and science, a world domination and a geopolitical device focused on the alliance between Europe and America. But both America and Europe are in deep disarray as the link between the two sides of the Atlantic inexorably unravels. The West is no longer, if not as a remnant of an ancient but already extinct world. Let us become aware of this in order to build a new system.

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Lorgnette: Hong Kong mastered

China finally decided to take over the Hong Kong enclave, despite a special status negotiated in 1997 that was to last fifty years. The “one country, two systems” theory has just been shattered a quarter of a century ahead of schedule.

This decision does not really surprise even if Beijing takes a risk, that of seeing the financial and commercial place that HK was and of tarnishing its image. But the ceaseless demonstrations, at a time when the Chinese power has been stiffening for several years in the face of difficulties, constituted an internal challenge that could not last any longer. Indeed, China is first of all obsessed with maintaining its unity, guaranteed by sustained growth rates that were fading away, a trend that accelerated with the pandemic. The Chinese decision must first be understood along that way. Yet Beijing felt strong enough to challenge the international community, especially the United States.

Beyond that, it reinforces the bad image given by China that has spread throughout the world over the last six months. It seems to ignore it, confident of its power and negligent towards the rest of the world, in line with its ancestral attitude.

Taiwan now remains to be watched.

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Friedrich Nerly. 1807-1878. The Piazzetta in the moonlight. The Piazzetta in the moonlight. Cologne. Wallraf Richartz Museum

LV 145 : Japan and France: maritime strategies | Army’s strategic vision | Lorgnette: Sino-Indian tensions

Letter from La Vigie Nr 145, dated 24th June 2020

Japan and France: maritime strategies

France and Japan, comparable G7 countries, linked by an exceptional partnership, are similarly confronted with the economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis. In search of new levers to revive their economies, they are among the world’s leading oceanic powers and can count on their national maritime strategies to make the most of their assets. The global, bilateral and inter-ministerial maritime dialogue, which opened in Noumea in September 2019, is a pioneering tool enabling them to launch open projects at the scale of the maritime spaces of Europe and the Indo-Pacific, in the service of the reasoned development and preservation of the world ocean.

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Army’s Strategic Vision

The central argument of this reflection is the return to high intensity. It goes without saying that after thirty years of land-based operations of all kinds (peacekeeping, counter-insurgency, etc.) we are seeing a hardening of land-based armed conflicts outside. In order to cope with this, the army will have to be toughened up. It should be noted that this global vision does not cover the national territory.

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Lorgnette: Sino-Indian tensions

China and India clashed on 15 June in a high valley in Ladakh, on the Himalayan borders of the two countries, on the shores of Kashmir, itself the object of friction between India and Pakistan (LV 113). In a valley at more than 4000 m., unarmed border guards clashed with stones and sticks, causing the deaths of about twenty Indians and perhaps forty Chinese. It is believed that the Chinese set up tents in a disputed area. Both countries have since increased their appeasement measures.

Yet the affair is worrying: firstly, because Kashmir is the other explosive region in Central Asia (apart from Afghanistan) that involves three nuclear powers, in a context of state claims (which we note in this issue). But also because China seems to want to apply on the banks of the Galwan River the fait accompli policy it has practised in the South China Sea. The only difference is that here it is challenging not middle powers but India, itself a nationalist, which can use this as a pretext to make up for poor economic results.

This is worrying.

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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.

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LV 143 : MBS the squanderer | Religion as a strategic factor | Lorgnette : Open skies closing in

Letter from La Vigie n° 143 of 27 May 2020

MBS, the squanderer

Mohamed ben Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and de facto master of the country to an extent unrivalled since his grandfather, founder of the dynasty, exercises power in an authoritarian manner, convinced that the country must be radically reformed. The results are hardly convincing, especially for his calamitous foreign policy, to the extent that he gives the feeling that he has made his country more fragile than prepared for the future.

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Religion as a strategic factor

While some considered that the religious fact would become marginal in the 21st century, the importance of religion remains paramount in many countries; it is therefore a strategic factor not to be neglected.

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Lorgnette: Open skies closing in

President Trump recently announced that his country will withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty in six months. This follows the withdrawal from the INF Treaty (LV 112) with the same type of argument (it is the Russians’ fault) and the same calculation: to find room for manoeuvre against the Chinese and above all to disengage from any arms control system. For the American President, he belongs to the old and multilateral world that hinders the freedom of the United States (cf. the withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran, LV 95).

For once, the Europeans are not happy… Eleven countries, including France and especially Germany, officially regret the American decision and declare to remain in the treaty (as does Russia). The Alliance is under strain. Eyes turn to the latest arms control treaty, New Start, which expires in 2021. The Americans would like to include the Chinese who do not see the point.

The Europeans can either preserve the European strategic theatre with local negotiation (assuming Moscow is willing to do so and Washington does not stand in the way), or follow the Americans in a general negotiation with Russians and Chinese, but where they would have little weight.

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