LV 241 : Raids in the Middle East and the threshold of disuasion | NATO’s decoupling | Lorgnette: 7 years on

Letter from La Vigie, dated 1st May 2024

Raids in the Middle East and the threshold of disuasion

The reciprocal attack by Iran and Israel in April was the first direct aggression against the Hebrew state for decades: a threshold of escalation has been crossed. But it pits two powers on the nuclear threshold against each other: does the classic grammar of deterrence still apply?

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NATO’s decoupling

The entry of the first Russian troops into Ukraine prompted NATO member states to support the invaded country. European voices then proclaimed that the Alliance was being strengthened, as evidenced by the accession of Sweden and Finland. However, decoupling mechanisms (not just transatlantic) are at work, threatening the Alliance’s very survival.

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Lorgnette: 7 years on

7 years after the 1st speech at the Sorbonne (LV 107), 3 pages of text later, where does France and Europe stand? A list of successes, still implacable observations, progress to be made, incentives to build the European pillar of the Alliance, to implement common strategies, to apply the strategic compass, to rethink energy and agricultural policies, to use France’s nuclear weapons to protect Europe…

There’s nothing fundamentally new here, apart from the fact that we can guess at the impact of farmers’ protests against rising energy prices. We have already dealt with these issues in a previous issue (LV 237), which gives this speech a surprising tone. Can we keep repeating the same observations and the same proposals, betting on our listeners’ amnesia? Some of the German press echoed this perplexity, while French columnists did not hesitate to evoke a “strategic rupture”… Europe is thus at a turning point in the face of uninhibited powers, the risk of falling behind, and the battle of the imagination. “I have come to talk to you about Europe”, he said 7 years ago.

What if we were now to take action?

JOVPN

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LV 238: Deterrence and circumvention | Impossible victory | Lorgnette : The implosion of ECOWAS?

Letter from La Vigie, 20 March 2024

Deterrence and circumvention

The very nature of the war in Ukraine raises questions about the relationship between deterrence and conventional action. The search for a complete integration of military actions, through an approach based on physical environments and immaterial fields, paradoxically offers greater possibilities of circumventing deterrence at the lower end of the spectrum. This question of possible circumvention is becoming increasingly critical for the Atlantic Alliance, with the issues of credibility of resources and solidarity between Allies at stake in the run-up to the American elections.

Impossible victory

Victory may seem an obvious word, but it is fraught with pitfalls because it is so strongly influenced by history and the Western model of war. Yet the conflicts of the post-Cold War era and the most recent wars show how unsuitable this concept is. We need to rethink victory and see it as an illusion: other objectives need to be pursued.

Lorgnette: The implosion of ECOWAS ?

These are difficult times for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). This “sub-regional” organisation (as the African jargon puts it) brought together 15 members from West Africa and the Sahel, from Nigeria to Senegal and Niger (but without Mauritania, which left in 2000). Originally an economic organisation, at the end of the 1990s it added a security mission (creation of Ecomog). It tried its hand at crisis mediation (Mali 2013, Gambia 2017). From 2019, its members will be discussing a common currency to replace the CFA franc. In 2017, Morocco and Mauritania asked to join.

But coups d’état from 2021 onwards hampered the process. Mali and Guinea were suspended, followed by Burkina-Faso, while Niger saw its trade transactions excluded and some people spoke of military intervention by the organisation to reinstate President Bazoum. The split became even more pronounced in January 2024, when Burkina, Mali and Niger announced that they were leaving the organisation. The heart of the Sahel is moving away from the Gulf of Guinea. The future is uncertain, as if suspended.

JOVPN

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LV222 : The temptation of bukelism | Vinius empty-handed | Lorgnette : commission uner control

Letter from La Vigie, dated 19 July 2023

The temptation of Bukelism

The recent riots in France showed that society was deeply divided and that the signals it was sending to those in power were not being heeded. While the latter are the guarantors of public order and tranquillity, recourse to Bukelism (in reference to the President of El Salvador) could be considered as a way of “closing ranks” among the population, a necessary condition for the implementation of a national strategy.

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Vilnius empty-handed

The Vilnius summit was billed as a renaissance. It has to be said that the results have been disappointing. President Zelesnky left empty-handed, a sign of the summit’s two unanswered questions: the first concerned the extent of support for Ukraine, and the second the strength of American interest in Europe.

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Lorgnette: Commission under control

The European Commission, headed by Ursula van der Leyen (nicknamed VDL), is once again at the centre of criticism. An American (Scott Morton) has been appointed Chief Economist in the Competition Directorate. Apart from her nationality, the fact that she has advised the likes of Apple, Amazon and Microsoft raises questions, given that one of the challenges facing the directorate will be to examine the weight of the American digital majors. This is problematic, as both Paris and the European Parliament have pointed out. In the end, she will not be taking up the post.

But this affair comes on the heels of several others, such as the text messages exchanged between Ms von der Leyen and Pfizer’s CEO at the time of covid, and the clumsy outbursts from the same VDL on international affairs, which is not her role but that of the High Representative.

Is this simply amateurism on her part? Remember that she was unconvincing in her previous ministerial post in Germany and that Berlin was very happy to get rid of her. Or is it a more or less conscious structural alignment with Washington? Just asking the question is embarrassing.

JOCVP

Photo crédit : https://bulgaria.postsen.com/world/224846/Zelensky-played-the-role-of-the-Jewish-grandmother-at-the-NATO-summit.html

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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.

JOCVP

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La Vigie Nr 196 : NATO: Renaissance or mere respite? | The drone-cannon couple | Lorgnette: Supreme division

Letter from La Vigie, 6 July 2022

NATO: Renaissance or mere respite?

The Atlantic Alliance summit held in Madrid at the end of June showed a renewed unity of the Allies after three difficult years. The war in Ukraine has simplified the common approach, which has resulted in a new concept, the accession of two new members and a strengthened defensive posture. However, structural differences remain and the proclaimed renaissance may be no more than a respite.

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The drone-cannon couple

The recent conflicts in the Caucasus and Ukraine have revealed the complementarity of the drone and the artillery gun. However, this tactical innovation, which is based on known and potentially cheap components, raises new questions. How are our armies preparing for these new threats? Is it still possible to extend the drone’s field of action? Is autonomous production of each component of this couple possible?

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Lorgnette: Supreme division

The recent decision of the US Supreme Court has already caused a lot of ink to flow. The Vigil will not comment on the legality of this court decision, let alone the substance of the problem.

On the other hand, it must be noted that it reinforces de facto the creeping division of the country. We in LV have long signalled the end of the ‘consensus on consensus’ in American politics. Until now, institutions have always triumphed over partisanship. However, it was a close call on 6 January 2020 when, unlike 6 February 1934 in France, the crowd entered Parliament.

Another institution with recognised legitimacy, the Supreme Court, is reviving a debate that shows no signs of abating. By referring the decision to the local constitutions, it justifies in advance the local decisions that will be taken on the outcome of the elections. All that is needed is for them to be close (all indications are that they will be) and the coup that almost took place will this time be legalised.

American disunity threatens and this should worry us, much more than all the strategic shifts of the moment, even if they are particularly numerous.

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JOCVP

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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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Dead NATO

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.

JOCV

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La Vigie Nr 119 : Innovation and prospective | A European army ? | Lorgnette : changing era in Japan

La Vigie, Strategic Letter, Nr 119, 5 June 2019

Innovation and prospective

Innovation and prospective studies are two methods to understand the future. They contribute to the strategy in a different way. They are not exclusively technological, contrary to a common perception. Useful, they must also give way to a change in approach to strategic thinking: an innovation, in essence.

A European army ?

The European army generates interest again even if it remains a tight conjecture between NATO and EU. Despite multiple attempts, it will probably emerge only from a deep reflection on the European geostrategic space. But it could already begin with a local security neighborhood coordination within the flexible framework of a European guard.

Lorgnette : changing era in Japan

A calendar is also a representation of the world. Muslims date their years from the Hegira, the Japanese speak in eras… Thus, Japan has just changed imperial era on the occasion of the advent of the new emperor, Naruhito, who succeeded his father Akihito. The land of the rising sun thus passes from the Heisei era to the Reiwa era, which can be translated as “beautiful harmony”, which is intended to herald a new spring.

However, this change is still a challenge, given Japan’s seemingly unchanging nature. Having become the bridge between the Far East and the West, anchored in the Western camp, downgraded to 3rd world economic power (thanks to China’s rise and 30 years of unfavourable economic conditions), the leading conservatism keeps Japanese society very far from Western standards.

Paradoxically, it is in tune with the new international mood, which is undoubtedly very attentive to the roots to be preserved in the face of the standardization of globalization. This permanence goes hand in hand with advanced technology and a certain market economy. A formula to be observed because it may herald spring.

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JDOK

La Vigie Nr 110 : Demographic impact | NATO : friend’s discord | Lorgnette : The Aachen chapel treaty

La Vigie Nr 110 (30 JAN 2019)

Demographic impact

The strategic impact of the demographic revolution that has seen the world’s population triple since the end of the Second World War is considerable. To go around is to evaluate the new geopolitics of the peoples, to question the African trajectory and to worry about the residual relevance of a world governance that this revolution has jostled.

NATO : friend’s discord

The Atlantic Alliance was born out of war, in the face of the Soviet threat. It had then been recycled, between European unification and an expeditionary model. But threats to the east or south were no longer enough to maintain its cohesion, while European disunity and D. Trump’s anti-atlantic instinct dissolved it deeply. The Alliance seems to be at the end of its rope.

Lorgnette : The Aachen chapel treaty

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JDOK