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° 156: Dying for Warsaw or for Brussels? What does Erdogan tell us? Lorgnette : presidential race 2022

Letter n° 156 from La Vigie dated 9 December 2020

Dying for Warsaw or for Brussels?

Polish politics are often pointed at and the news about the blocking of the European budget is clearly a crisis. But before judging, wouldn’t it be on our side a lack of understanding of a Poland that is more rational than it seems?

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What does Erdoğan tell us?

R. Erdoğan is today portrayed by some as France’s main adversary. Provocation is an art that must be decoded in order not to fall into its trap. The Turkish leader is a skilful politician who has been in power for more than fifteen years and is now changing his internal base. This motivates a large part of his current foreign policy, whose major point of friction is in the Eastern Mediterranean. A good diagnosis of the situation makes it possible to envisage the strategic direction to be taken.

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Lorgnette: Presidential 2022

Of course, as with every such deadline, the elections of 2022 will not affect our diplomatic activity and our external military actions. Obviously, health, social and economic issues on the one hand, and public order, internal security and domestic terrorism on the other, will be the core of the electoral reactor of 2022. For all that, should we consider that everything has already been said by what has been done and that there will be no external issues to consider for the coming election?

Certainly not. The world is changing so fast today, from Washington to Beijing, from Moscow to Tehran and Ankara (see above), from London to Berlin, from Algiers to Bamako…

La Vigie is preparing to take stock in 2021 of the major issues of France’s security and defence, both internally and externally.

It will examine its diplomatic posture in Europe, the Mediterranean and the world, its military capabilities and operational activities, and its general strategy of presence in the world. This work will provide input for future political projects and will help inform the voters’ judgement in 2022.

JOCV

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Photo crédit : US Dpt of State

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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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.

JOCV

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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.

JOCV

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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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Photo credit: French Army

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 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 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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LV 131 : Sahel : just before the rubble | EastMed and gas | Lorgnette : Challenges of DG Defence

Letter from La Vigie dated 11 December 2019

Sahel: just before the rubble

The motives put forward by some (economic interests) or others (fight against terrorism) are struggling to convince of the French strategy in the Sahel. As a result, because we define the enemy poorly, we are stalling, knowing that the authorities in the region do not have the same priorities as France. This addition of misperceptions, false pretenses, miscalculations and misunderstandings hinders many initiatives. It is time to make a real diagnosis and start from the bottom.

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Eastmed (Medor ) and gas

The geopolitics of the eastern Mediterranean is now stimulated by the abundance of natural gas that has recently been found on its seabed. The region’s balances are all the more affected by this as the liquefaction of LNG from this gas now allows its production, diffusion and storage in situ, certainly with heavy investments. This rapid evolution creates a strategic dynamic of competitions, alliances and cooperation that has a strong impact not only on the local residents but also on the region near the Levant and even on the green economy, whose regional situation is changing.

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Lorgnette: challenges for DG Defence

The new European Commission is finally in place and presents its innovations. Among these, a “DG Defence Industry & Space”, named Défis (Defense Industry & Space – Challenges in French) and already named “DG Defence” like the CESDP which was quickly established as a European defence. But collective defence is still NATO for most EU Member States (LV 129), as the President of the Commission pointed out.

The result of the partition of DG Industry, this DG will be a stimulus and an arbiter for the EU’s defence industry. We see it as the spearhead of a reconquest by Europeans of their strategic autonomy, a decisive step on the road to a Security and Defence Union, which is obviously complementary to NATO. With the permanent structured cooperation of the 25/27, the €13 billion FEDEF over 7 years and Galileo, we will thus have a catalogue of structures that will complement the COPS, the EUMS, the EDA and prepare the European army that some see emerging.

To counter the Russian threat and meet the Chinese challenge? We’ll judge on the basis of the evidence. But what has been lacking so far is will and strategy; structures will not replace them.

JOCV

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