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due to expire on 5 February and it is likely that a re-elected Donald Trump would have let the deadline pass, as he had withdrawn from other treaties.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 158 : 2021 : Blurred perspective | News from Australia | Lorgnette : those of 14

Letter n° 158 from La Vigie dated 6 January 2021

2021 : Blurred perspective

2021 will see a slow recovery from the crisis, both in terms of health and the economy. It will confirm the demand for policy and weak ideological responses to it; the security fronts will continue to be as diverse as ever. The new American President J. Biden will give a new style but will continue the tension with China, which will remain the main geopolitical trend. In France, in addition to managing the crisis, the year will gradually move towards preparing for the presidential election, which will require a number of clarifications on our strategic posture.

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News from Australia

Few countries have experienced such a rapid change in their security environment as Australia is experiencing as a result of climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, the associated economic crisis and the diplomatic tensions and retaliatory trade measures taken by Beijing. The confrontation between China and Australia has lessons for the world’s powers as far away as Europe and France.

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Lorgnette: Those of 14

With Maurice Genevoix’s entry into the Pantheon, France is of course celebrating a singular author. He is a poet of nature (Raboliot and La dernière harde) but he enters the Pantheon for another work, Ceux de 14, which gathers five volumes of testimonies on the First World War. The heroic virtues of the latter are already magnified by the unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe. The Pantheon needed another way to honour our elders: it would be through literature. Why not?

However, without wanting to belittle Maurice Genevoix, a valiant and talented writer, one may question the decision to place him in the Pantheon. In 33 years, nine illustrious men and women have thus joined the necropolis. There is a kind of inflation, which is in line with the vogue for national tributes in the Cour des Invalides, formerly reserved for soldiers who died for France, now used to celebrate famous missing persons; what should we think of this curious “medal of the victims” which has just been created? If we want to celebrate or commemorate too much, we lose the hierarchy of values. Too much of a desire to magnify levels the playing field.

It is a pity.

JOCV

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La Vigie n° 155 (FREE) : After Hong Kong, Taiwan ? | The new Macron doctrine | Lorgnette : Russian Sudan

Letter from La Vigie n° 155 of 25 November 2020

After Hong Kong, Taiwan?

After the early abrogation of the Basic Law in Hong Kong and the promulgation of the National Security Law on 1 July 2020, Beijing has weakened its international credibility while sending a clear signal on how to settle international disputes, considered by the Communist Party as Chinese internal affairs. In an unstable strategic context, where relations between China and the United States are bound to be tense, the normalisation of Taiwan’s status is a matter for which the best chancelleries must prepare themselves in a concerted manner, at the risk of finding themselves once again without one.

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The new Macron doctrine

The recent interview given by the President of the Republic on foreign policy constitutes a “Macron doctrine”. The diagnosis is clear and bears witness to a fine evolution. The denunciation of a Washington consensus is lucid, the call for European strategic autonomy is clear, the designation of a Euro-African axis is a priority. Nevertheless, this brilliant discourse may lack pedagogy with our neighbours and partners and hardly conceals the limits of the implementation of this ambition.

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Lorgnette: Russian Sudan

Russia seems to be everywhere. It can be seen in Syria, the Caucasus, Libya, Egypt (LV 99) to mention only the Mediterranean rim. It has just signed an agreement to establish a naval base in Sudan. This shows a “grand strategy” that articulates several elements: firstly, the return to Africa that we have been seeing for many years, with actions in CAR and stronger links with various powers on the continent. Secondly, a stubborn opening towards “hot seas”, in this case the Indian Ocean. When China and Japan set up bases in Djibouti, Moscow moved a little further south, allowing a relay to East Africa and the Indo-Pacific. Finally, let us note the consolidation of a reborn maritime power, further densified by the opening of the northern passage.

From the Sudanese point of view, while the transitional regime saw the departure of Omar el Bechir (see note and LV 123), the opening of the game is obvious: it is a question of finding relays outside the American and Saudi sponsors (even if Khartoum has moved closer to Israel). But it is also a question of weighing up against problematic neighbours (southern Sudan, Egypt, even Ethiopia and Chad).

JOCV

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Crédit photo : Le grand continent

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.

JOCV

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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.

JOCV

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LV 142 : Europe and Covid | Otherness at its peak | Lorgnette : German Primacy

Letter from La Vigie n° 142 of 13 May 2020

Europe and Covid

Europe is the continent most affected by the pandemic. However, there are many disparities and these are not mainly due to different responses by the authorities. The unanimous trend towards national retrenchment, the weakness of the EU’s response and the unlikely budgetary solidarity can be observed. In fact, the crisis is the end of a long process of division that requires strategic aggiornamento.

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Otherness at its peak

The global health crisis is causing multiple tensions, both strategic distancing and tactical barrier gestures. The disruption is becoming more pronounced. What could be at stake in this brutal stiffening is the massive rejection of Western hard ways and the expiry of a Euro-Atlantic societal model whose fragility has been shown by the coronacrise. An antagonistic otherness defies the universal claim that governs the world. France must concern itself with a revival of the state of organization of the world to preserve its place in it.

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Lorgnette: German primacy

The recent decision of the German Constitutional Court surprised only the idealists. Indeed, by recalling that the ECB had to explain its quantitative easing programme and by considering that it is acting beyond its mandate, the Karlsruhe court reaffirms in law its constant doctrine: in 2009, it had explained (with regard to the Lisbon Treaty) that “The peoples of the European Union, which are constituted in their (respective) Member States, remain the holders of public authority, including the authority of the Union“. In other words, it affirmed the primacy of the German Constitution, including over the European treaties.

This contradicts a common opinion in France, that of the supposed primacy of the European treaties over the French Constitution. Of course, the latter has been extensively modified since its inception and even more so in the last two decades. No “shaking hand” to change it, then. But this French neglect of the law is not “the rule” in Germany, where the rule is held in high esteem.

This is not national egoism: just law. Whose source comes from the sovereign people.

JOCV

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LV 135 : Europe and the South | Brexit and the end of EU | Coronavirus : Chinese ?

Letter from La Vigie, dated 5 FEB 2020

Europe and its South

Long regarded as the preserve of southern European countries, the southern Mediterranean shore and its hinterland are now becoming an issue for all European countries, whatever they may be. Only a long-term multilateral strategy will make it possible to resolve the many crises in this region that threaten Europe.

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Brexit and the end of the EU

Brexit thus became law and a country left the European Union for the first time. Admittedly, there are still a few months of negotiations to settle the details of future relations, but the essential points have been said. The EU loses much more than just a 28th of its members: in addition to size (population, GDP) or contribution to the common budget (which will have repercussions on solidarity towards poorer countries, often the latest entrants), it loses a strategic player. While the UK may lose out, the EU sees with its departure the beginning of the end.

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Lorgnette: Coronavirus: Chinese?

The Coronavirus epidemic surprises the observer. As well for its treatment in China, which testifies to the feverishness of the government while the growth rate was ebbing away and that the prior takeover was intended to allow President Xi to better control it. The crisis is generating popular discontent that must be carefully monitored, especially if the power fails to stem the epidemic.

Incidentally, there is a massive movement of quarantines: villages, neighbourhoods, entire cities and even countries, as evidenced by the drastic reduction in relations with China and the closure of borders. We can see here the new phase of globalisation, as we have known it for the last ten years: while trade has increased incredibly (including in diseases), the reaction to the negative effects is closure and local repatriation: here protectionism, there health isolation of a suspect country. The coronavirus is symbolic of geo-economic times and beyond, geopolitical times. Let us hope that this disease is controlled before contaminating everything.

JOCV

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New Silk Roads and Central Asia : Shanghai Cooperation Organisation ( SCO) on the frontline… (E.Dupuy)

The convening of the 17th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO founded 15th January 2001) summit , on the 7th and 8th June 2017, in Astana,  Kazakhstan, was an opportunity to highlight the specificity of the only intergovernmental organisation bringing together 5 of the 6 Central Asian States – ex-soviet republics, (with the exception of Turkmenistan)  and the only one created and de facto “influenced” by Beijing.

Source

(article en français)

Beyond that, it is now the geo-economic interactions and geopolitical convergences between the SCO and China’s “New Silk Roads” (One Belt, One Road, OBOR) project that have to be taken into account to realise how this new “Great Game” will deeply unsettle international relations. Continue reading “New Silk Roads and Central Asia : Shanghai Cooperation Organisation ( SCO) on the frontline… (E.Dupuy)”