LV 237: European Deterrence – Economic Sovereignty – Lorgnette : Elections in Iran

Letter from La Vigie, 6 March 2024

European deterrence

Candidate Trump’s recent comments that American protection in NATO was conditional on a European defence effort have reignited the debate on European deterrence. In the event of a strategic default by the US with regard to its European allies, could the French nuclear force take over to protect EU countries? LV takes a detailed look at this sensitive issue at a time of particularly aggressive pressure from Russia.

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Economic sovereignty

The return to favour of the term sovereignty should not conceal the difficulties it implies: is one sovereign in an area when one does not control all its constituent elements? Does the State have the means to defend the companies it intends to keep sovereign? Can sovereignty ignore the management of companies and their legal form? At a time when the world has changed profoundly, a new understanding of the term sovereignty is needed.

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Lorgnette: Elections in Iran

The Iranian elections took place last Friday and were marked by a record abstention rate (41%), even though the conservatives officially won. To conquer without peril is to triumph without glory. This hostility reflects the country’s disappointment with the results of those in power: aspirations for greater freedom have followed one another with yet another uprising (LV 202) last September after the death of Mahsa Amini, who did not respect the headscarf, an uprising that was once again put down in bloodshed. But economic difficulties are also having an impact (50% inflation).

By appointing the Assembly of Experts, the election is also paving the way for the succession of the “Leader”, Ali Khamenei, who is 88 years old. By locking society down to such an extent, the regime is showing a degree of internal feverishness, despite the fact that its diplomacy is gaining ground, succeeding in renewing relations with Saudi Arabia and avoiding confrontation with Israel while at the same time embodying the camp of refusal. Relations with Russia and China have been strengthened.

So Iran is waiting for the American elections (betting on Trump) and the succession of the Leader. Heaven can wait. So can the Iranian people.


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LV 235 : Portugal or extreme Europe | The EU faced with its contradictions | Lorgnette: the past that won’t go away

Letter from La Vigie dated 7 FEB 2024


Portugal or extreme Europe

Portugal, this small cape of Europe, appears not only as its extremity but also as its extreme example. Proud of a prestigious history, having dominated large parts of the world that it had to abandon, it is rich to have been. It is a fine European symbol.

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The EU faced with its contradictions

In the run-up to the European elections, and with a change of political leadership in the offing in Brussels, the EU is facing up to the far-reaching consequences of the war in Ukraine, as well as the discontent of many Europeans. Can the word ‘sovereignty’, which has ceased to be taboo, really find a definition in the language of the EU?

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Lorgnette: the past that won’t go away

On Sunday 21 January, almost 1.4 million Germans took to the streets to protest against the rise of the AFD (Alternative für Deutschland), the far-right party that advocates the expulsion not only of immigrants but also of “recent citizens”. The AFD is climbing in the polls, both in the former GDR and in the West.

The issue is not simply the attitude towards a political line but the question of the relationship with the past. For decades, Germany has held back politically because of the guilt it carries and maintains about the Nazi past. However, some members of the AFD have no hesitation in forgetting the past and putting the guilt aside.

Basically, the question posed to Germany is a question posed to the whole of Europe: what balance should be struck between the necessary duty to remember and the equally necessary duty to forget? For while we must not forget the totalitarian excesses and the abominable horrors they directed, radical repentance also appears to be abusive in that it handicaps all action. Writing history has always been a political matter, and it is more so than ever today. Should we always put the past behind us?


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LV 215: Germany in disarray | The European issue | Lorgnette : Ill Tunisia

Letter from La Vigie, dated 12 April 2023

Germany in disarray

Year after year, La Vigie studies the evolution of the German question. Chancellor O. Scholz promised a “Zeitenwende” in February 2022, nothing would be the same as before, and behind this catch-all concept, everyone hoped that the situation would improve. What has happened after one year? Let us note that if some profound changes are taking place, notably in the area of defence, German foreign policy has never been so unreadable, apart from being docile to the Americans.

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The European issue

Paradoxically, Europe has emerged from the war in Ukraine little strengthened, despite last year’s thunderous declarations. It seems to be lined up behind a more fragile and febrile America than before, with the prospect of at least three decades of tensions with its eastern neighbour. At the same time, internal tensions are rising while its external image is deteriorating sharply and it is losing interest in the rest of the world. What was a model in the aftermath of the Cold War now seems to have been singularly depreciated.

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Lorgnette: Tunisia ill

Tunisia is sinking into crisis. The hope of the Arab revolts of ten years ago is fading and not reassuring. Ten years of deleterious interplay between political forces and economic decline, not to mention jihadist episodes that have undermined confidence. The election in 2019 of Kaïs Saïed, an inexperienced nationalist, is gradually moving towards an authoritarian system, both to overcome traditional blockages and to serve an obscure policy. The dissolution of the parliament in 2022 followed by the adoption of a new constitution despite a very low turnout was only one step in the political deterioration.

Today, the country is on the verge of insolvency with a huge debt. Spirits are gradually dying down, the president remains inflexible, playing on the support of his Algerian neighbour and advocating economic sovereignty, the reasons for which are hard to see. Wanting to disconnect himself from the West and especially from Europe, he hopes to find external support in China or Russia. But without natural resources, heavily dependent on European tourism and with a long history of European integration, this strategy seems very risky. A worrying stiffening.


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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.


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La Vigie Nr 197 : European security 2022 : to the results | The Chinese question | Lorgnette : Heatwave

Letter from La Vigie, 20th July 2022

European Security 2022: to the results

At the results in mid-2022, the war in Ukraine appears as a major hitch in the trajectory of European security 30 years after the Cold War: a suffering Ukraine, a raw front line in the heart of a continent that is freezing, a postponed European reunification, a Russia that is turning its back on Europe and engaging in new Asian cooperative horizons. France, which cannot be satisfied with this, must retain its freedom of thought and proposal in the face of this strategic discontinuity. This war is first and foremost a question of European security, to be dealt with first and foremost among Europeans. Can we still force Russia to accept a more cooperative framework of cohabitation in Europe through a real and better coordinated strategic containment? It is by answering this question that France will be able to revise its military posture and avoid the anachronistic trap of a massive capability grooming.

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The Chinese question

China is experiencing a sudden economic slowdown, due in large part to a brutal zero-covid policy. This is undermining a system based on successful growth. It affects Beijing’s international posture: less towards the near abroad than the implementation of its global policy. These economic challenges pose political problems that will be at the heart of the next CCP Congress this autumn.

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Lorgnette: Heatwave

What does the recent heatwave in France and Europe tell us? First of all, the reality of climate change, now measurable by everyone, at the level of human experience. The novelty of the current episode lies in its brutality, which makes it a radical departure from the climatic variations that the earth has experienced in the past, which extended over hundreds and thousands of years. The cause is most certainly also human.

It should also be noted that it coincides with the development of globalisation in the 1980s: the emergence of the Third World and the transformation of numerous countries into manufacturing workshops has led to production, trade and consumption. The heat wave is the counterpart of our prosperity. And if China is responsible for 30% of the planet’s greenhouse gases, it is because it produces for the Western consumer.

Symbolically, this heatwave also reflects the political and economic disruption of the world. Wars and conflicts are still raging (Ukraine, Yemen, Sahel) and popular riots are on the rise (Sri Lanka, Panama). Everywhere, the planet is experiencing a heat wave.

This is worrying.

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La Vigie Nr 187 : East from West | War in Ukraine | Nuclear factor (Free reading)

Letter from La Vigie dated 2 March 2022

East from West

Europe did not define its eastern border because it did not reunify at the end of the Soviet era. Little by little, the new Russia has been sidelined by Europe and the Ukrainian issue has become the cause of Moscow’s recent power grab to demilitarise Kiev. For its part, Kemalist Turkey, which was oriented towards Europe, has given way to a frerist Turkey, which is deployed all over the margins of Europe, Western Asia and Africa. Turkey and Russia are competitors of a European Union that no longer knows how to think about its East, which is also the East of the West.

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War in Ukraine

The war between Russia and Ukraine is attracting a lot of attention. It is appropriate to briefly review its causes, both distant and immediate, and the factors that led V. Putin personally to decide to start it, the goals in the war and the possible aims of the war, and finally the global reactions, both from the Atlantic Alliance and from third countries, especially China.

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Lorgnette: The Nuclear Factor

This crisis obviously has a nuclear dimension. Indeed, the Russian aggression in Ukraine is a conventional war fought in an disymmetric framework (Ukraine cannot win on the ground). It is a change from the asymmetric conflicts we have known for the past two decades, which operated below a certain intensity threshold. In this case, that threshold has been crossed. But it does not only operate in the land, air and sea domains: the other domains of multi-milieu and multi-field operations (M2MC, FR equivalent to MDO) are also open: space, cyber, electromagnetic, cognitive…

In so doing, this conflict raises the question of another threshold, the one that overhangs it and separates it from the nuclear domain. Indeed, physical aggression calls for the mechanics of escalation. This is why V. Putin quickly set this limit by threatening reprisals for any attempt to counter his offensive militarily. The French Foreign Minister replied that the Alliance was also a nuclear alliance. This is a reminder of the rhetoric that defines the grammar of deterrence. It is another sign of a return to a new Cold War in Europe.

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Crédit photo :Ministère de la défense d’Ukraine

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 138 : Virus and strategy | Europe and its West | War to virus ?

Letter from La Vigie Nr 138, dated 18 March 2020

Viruses and strategy

Covid-19 reminds us of forgotten notions, such as the “Bacteriological” of the CBRN. Various response strategies have been implemented (fixing, blocking, slowing down) that put in tension the normality of systems in the face of chaos. The crisis is accelerating the current turning point of globalization because, beyond the harsh economic crisis that is coming, new frameworks for a different regulation will have to be installed. The crisis is not only a health crisis, it brings us back to the essential.

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Europe and its West

Europe’s relationship with the West does not only concern the people living along the Atlantic seaboard, all European countries face the West with different strategies. The main issue in transatlantic relations is the relationship with Washington, beyond the Atlantic Alliance.

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Lorgnette: War on the virus?

During his televised speech on 16 March, the President of the Republic called for national mobilisation in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not a question here of criticizing the exceptional measures that have been taken and which correspond to an extraordinary situation. On the other hand, the RP has declared on six occasions that “we are at war“, specifying only once that it was a health war. The search for a theatrical effect to mobilize the population can be irritating. It shows a lack of reflection on war.

At La Vigie, we regularly speak out against the abusive expression “war on terrorism“, imported without reflection from across the Atlantic and constantly used, because it fails to designate an enemy that is primarily political. In this case, the enemy is a virus! If we are at war, will the RP therefore call Parliament to implement Article 35 of the Constitution (The declaration of war is authorized by Parliament)? This is only emphasis, we will be told: a figure of speech. But war is neither a figure of speech nor an artifice of communication. Communication does not take the place of strategy.


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La Vigie Nr 129 (Free) : Europe and the North – Dead NATO – Lorgnette : Social and geopolitics

Letter from La Vigie, posted on 13 Novembre 2019 (free reading)

Europe and the North

The margins of Northern Europe are an area that is not well known in France and yet essential for European balance. We analyse the Nordic countries’ tension between Washington and Moscow as they try to maintain a European foothold. This area is of interest to France in the development of its Arctic strategy and towards Russia, but also and above all in the context of its European strategy.

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President Macron’s interview with The Economist has the merit of saying out loud what was being whispered in small circles: at least the next Alliance summit in London next month will be interesting. These words are thoughtful and not just a short sentence: they are the result of a thoughtful diagnosis of the transatlantic link and Europe’s raison d’être. E. Macron can be blamed for a very French arrogance: but this is perhaps still the French exception, that of saying necessary things even if they seem unpleasant.

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Lorgnette: Social and geopolitics

What does WhatsApp have in common with a metro ticket? Not much: the proposed tax on the former has triggered the largest protest movement in Lebanon in years; the increase in the latter has had the same result in Chile. We have talked a lot about revolts (Algeria, LV 112 and DS 11; Sudan: LV 115 and 123) or social movements (Brazil LV 104; Yellow jackets: LV 106 and 109). Everywhere, demonstrations are mobilizing crowds who no longer have confidence in their governments: in addition to the examples cited, let us mention the cases of Hong Kong, Iraq, Guinea, Ecuador and Catalonia.

There are many reasons for this: the fight against corruption or the rejection of an oppressive system, they all have in common a willingness to be listened and the search for the common good, which the elites in power are accused of not wanting (or being able) to develop.

Let us note a globalization of demonstrations, for various reasons but with mobilizations that are not drying up and that time or repression are having difficulty extinguishing. This is a new factor that cannot be overlooked.


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La Vigie Nr 127 : The incredible Mr Trump – Europe, a continent? Lorgnette: Face to face

La Vigie Nr 127 : 16 October 2019

The incredible Mr. Trump

the American political scene has been shaken for several weeks by cases originating in the country’s foreign policy: here the “Ukrainian case”, there the Turkish offensive in northern Syria. Each time, an initiative of President Trump that provokes uproar inside: a procedure of dismissal is thus launched while the Republican Party is deeply moved by the betrayal against the Kurds. No one knows yet whether this is a turning point, but these events demonstrate the deep distrust of the United States, torn between its interests and its values.

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Europe, a continent?

At a time when the future of the European institutions is more uncertain than ever with the looming Brexit crisis, we are wondering what defines Europe’s geopolitical uniqueness. Europe is not the result of chance, it is determined by constants and France is representative of this Continent which transcends the ups and downs of current events.

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The Lorgnette: Face to Face

The face becomes a geopolitical object. Indeed, many contemporary debates raise the question of the visibility of the face. First of all, here is the question of the Islamic veil and in particular the veil hiding the face, the burka. In an open society, can you hide your face on the street? No,” replied the Hong Kong leaders, who are facing massive demonstrations in which opponents of the pro-Chinese government veil their faces in the name of their democratic struggle: can hiding their faces be a sign of oppression, a sign of freedom?

The question is all the more difficult because, beyond this question of public order, there is another question: that of governments’ control over the social life of citizens. This is basically the debate that Mr Cedric O, Secretary of State for Digital Technology, is asking when he says that manufacturers must experiment with facial recognition and that, at the same time, we need safeguards.

Once again, technology appears to be ahead of the law and there are abuses of civil liberties in China that it could allow.

The face is a subject of freedom.