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 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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La Vigie Nr 118 : France and her new Armée | Trump and the Middle-East | South-African disappointment

La Vigie, Strategic Letter, Nr 118, 22 mai 2019

France and her new Armée

The relationship between France and its armed forces is evolving. A global army emerges, integrated, combatant, jointed, served by an experienced high command supporting a policy whose presidential centralization is constrained to short-term by a short mandate. The preservation of the eco-systems of the various armies is essential to feed this new armée as well as the maintenance of a  strategic military ecosystem to preserve the long-term military posture of France.

Trump and the Middle-East

Some are beating the war drums in Washington against Iran. Does this mean that the conflict is inevitable? Probably not for two reasons: first, D. Trump is not a supporter of military commitments: if he is brutal, he is not a falcon unlike many in the establishment. Basically, he wants to raise the stakes to push the Iranians to negotiate a new agreement in a weak position. Not sure if they will fall into the trap…. Because Trump becomes predictable…

Lorgnette : South-African disappointment

Twenty-five years after the end of Apartheid in 1994, South Africa has seen new elections, marked by an expected but disappointing victory for the ANC, N. Mandela’s heir party. It certainly obtains 57% of the votes (down 4.5%) but it is more a vote of habit than of conviction, still less of results.

The result was greeted by a discreet and silent embarrassment: here is indeed the first power in Africa that is slowly collapsing in all areas, especially economic with an “official” unemployment rate of 28% and a GDP in free fall. The country has not made the necessary investments to maintain its industrial and mining park and security is one of the worst in Africa, a continent that has references in this field.

Certainly, the new leader, C. Ramaphosa, who succeeded Jacob Zuma in 2018 as a matter of urgency, managed to ignore the enormous corruption scandal that affected the latter. The new elite has been more predatory than reformist. The announced land reform is likely to break the last sector still operating a little. Behind the disappointment is the concern. Few say so….

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JDOK

 

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)”

Persistent nuclear background noise

As the summer is drawing to a close, the pressure around North Korea’s nuclear power is monopolizing attention (as is Iran’s request, to a lesser degree). Their lead correspondent being the United State’s, the world’s biggest nuclear power. But in the beginning of summer, we remember the resignation of the « C.E.M.A »(Chief of the general staff headquarters of the Armies) during a budget related controversy due to, amongst other things, the renewal of our strategic nuclear arsenal.

Let us not forget that the nuclear issue is a passionate one, and that from Hiroshima to Fukushima to Chernobyl, it rouses the sciences as much as consciences.

Source

So where does our reluctance, nay our overall hostility for the exploitation of the atom come from? The answer is well known: From it’s first use which was a military one, and a tragic one.

The military use of the atom stems from the great scientific adventure of the 1920’s that was then put to use by the military necessities of the 1940’s. The atomic bombs that were then dropped on Japan revealed the unequalled power of unbridled nuclear energy, but also indefinitely branded it with the hallmark of inhumanity. Indeed, the atomic bomb combines power and lethal lasting damage, never before seen with another explosive. As no shield can protect from it’s effects, no war based on an exchange of nuclear strikes was therefore winnable in a useful way.

Thus, after 1945, the emergence of the atomic bomb  contributed to the progressive change in the way we wage wars now. If the victors of 1945 made war illegal with the U.N Charter, the atomic bomb made it unwinnable and those that had it, untouchable.

The dynamics of strategic nuclear deterrence progressively developed on this basis at the end of the Second World War to then establish itself at the heart of the strategic equation of the Cold War. Then it was perverted in the world in crisis that succeeded the bipolar balance of terror.

Continue reading “Persistent nuclear background noise”