LV 208: The second 21st century | The words that trap | Lorgnette: Benedict XVI, the last modern

Letter from La Vigie, dated 4 Jan 2023

Happy new year 2023 !

The second 21st century

The conjunction of the global pandemic and the war in Ukraine has tipped the world into a second 21st century with confusing contours. The unleashed conflictuality is now self-sustaining and the planet of 8 billion inhabitants no longer benefits from the regulators inherited from the 20th century which had allowed us to approach the end of the Cold War in relative safety. This dangerous shift into the strategic jungle seems irreversible. France must take this new strategic reality into account.

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The words that trap

In strategy and international relations, words count. However, contemporary discourse constantly uses words that are based on past conceptions and that do not help to understand, and therefore to resolve, the conflicts of the moment: war, peace, the law of war, victory, territory, negotiation are the most striking examples.

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Lorgnette: Benedict XVI, the last modern

The death of Joseph Ratzinger marks the end of an era. Here is a pope who will have been the last modern.

The progressive intellectual of the post-war period, an influential player in the Second Vatican Council, was gradually transformed into the rigorous guardian of a firm Catholic tradition. Elected Pope without having wanted to be, uncomfortable with the media, he chose the name Benedict in reference to Benedict XV and his attempts at peace during the First World War and to Saint Benedict, patron saint of Europe: a very European Pope, in the end, not very much in tune with the planetary world around him.

He is basically the last modern: he lent his pen to John Paul II for the 1988 encyclical Fides et ratio, which perfectly reflected his rational spirit. He was destabilised by the contemporary, post-modern world, where emotion and media hype predominate over the search for truth. This is why we will remember above all his “renunciation” of the papal state in 2013, leaving the chair of Peter to a successor more at ease with the new conditions of the moment. This intellectual was neither a full-fledged pastor nor a true man of power. A rare example of a man who reached the top without having sought it.


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LV 143 : MBS the squanderer | Religion as a strategic factor | Lorgnette : Open skies closing in

Letter from La Vigie n° 143 of 27 May 2020

MBS, the squanderer

Mohamed ben Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and de facto master of the country to an extent unrivalled since his grandfather, founder of the dynasty, exercises power in an authoritarian manner, convinced that the country must be radically reformed. The results are hardly convincing, especially for his calamitous foreign policy, to the extent that he gives the feeling that he has made his country more fragile than prepared for the future.

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Religion as a strategic factor

While some considered that the religious fact would become marginal in the 21st century, the importance of religion remains paramount in many countries; it is therefore a strategic factor not to be neglected.

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Lorgnette: Open skies closing in

President Trump recently announced that his country will withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty in six months. This follows the withdrawal from the INF Treaty (LV 112) with the same type of argument (it is the Russians’ fault) and the same calculation: to find room for manoeuvre against the Chinese and above all to disengage from any arms control system. For the American President, he belongs to the old and multilateral world that hinders the freedom of the United States (cf. the withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran, LV 95).

For once, the Europeans are not happy… Eleven countries, including France and especially Germany, officially regret the American decision and declare to remain in the treaty (as does Russia). The Alliance is under strain. Eyes turn to the latest arms control treaty, New Start, which expires in 2021. The Americans would like to include the Chinese who do not see the point.

The Europeans can either preserve the European strategic theatre with local negotiation (assuming Moscow is willing to do so and Washington does not stand in the way), or follow the Americans in a general negotiation with Russians and Chinese, but where they would have little weight.


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