La Vigie Nr 175 : 20 years after (9/11) | Land domain : what future ? | Lorgnette : war in Tigray

Letter from La Vigie of 15 September 2021

Twenty years after (September 11)

Who remembers September 11? Far fewer people than one might think, even though it was the first event with immediate global resonance, a strategic victory for the aggressors. It marked a turning point for America, which is not as definitive as it is said to be; political Islam has emerged as central, though no one knows if it is really sustainable. Finally, September 11 marked the beginning of European disillusionment from which we have not emerged.

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Land domain: what future?

The French Army has not necessarily been in the spotlight lately. According to its own words, it is preparing for increasingly tough wars and its increase in power, particularly in terms of capabilities, is consistent with its new doctrine. However, given the dangerous nature of the world, we will have to find reliable allies.

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Lorgnette: War in Tigray

Since November 2020, war has been raging in northern Ethiopia. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his reconciliation with Eritrea, has embarked on a policy of centralising this federal country. He quickly wanted to bring Tigray, the northern province that had played a major political role in past decades, to heel: it was the Tigrayans who had brought down the regime of Mengistu (the Black Stalin), and had led the country since 1991.

A minority (7% of the 110 million people), they had allied themselves with the Oromo ethnic group but had to leave power three years ago because their management was considered too biased. Their successor, who appeared to be a man of compromise, was even more so when he launched hostilities last year. However, after initial setbacks, the Tigrayans regained the advantage and repelled both the Eritreans who were attacking in the north and the Ethiopian army coming from the south. Since then, they have allied themselves with other ethnic groups and the federal model is in danger of breaking up, while massacres and exactions are on the increase.

The second most populous country in Africa is risking its survival.

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LV 157 : Assessment of 2020 | Digital maneuvers | Lorgnette : Brexit, eventually

Letter n° 157 from La Vigie dated 23rd December 2020

AMR 2020: assessment of a year that put the world out of action

In one year a serious health accident overwhelmed the planet and put the whole world out of action. And the year 2020 will enter the list of the great strategic vintages of the century, alongside 1945, 1989 and 2001. Certainly the tensions that presided over the world before the pandemic have subsided, but the strategic situation has changed profoundly, new dialectics are emerging, but no possible balance is in sight on the horizon. Here is an end-of-year review of this extraordinary episode.

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Digital maneuvers

This month of December sees several high-intensity cyber clashes crackle: whether sabotage, subversion or espionage, the powers are clashing in digital space, to a degree rarely known. Cyberspace is indeed in permanent conflict, but below the threshold. However, other confrontations are emerging, this time between States and powers deprived of digital technology: whether in the United States or in the European Union, legal initiatives aim to bring these new operators, with their inordinate means and unknown ambitions, into line.

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Lorgnette: Brexit, finally

Negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union on the modalities of Brexit have frustrated all the envisaged deadlines. We had been told that we could not go beyond October and then November with the cut-off date of 31 December. The two parties went much further, since the agreement has still not been pronounced on 22 December. This is impressive.

On the one hand, one can only admire Boris Johnson who knew how to hide his intention until the end: nobody really knew whether he wanted an agreement or just a pretext to justify a hard Brexit to his public opinion. Perhaps he hadn’t even made up his mind, waiting for the result of the American election to decide. The fact remains that he was able to preserve his freedom of manoeuvre to the end and therefore to constantly weigh on the content of the negotiations.

On the other hand, the strength of the EU is also remarkable. While London had hoped to be able to crack the European bloc, it held out against all odds and withstood British pressure. This shows proven collective nerves that are to be commended. As for Brexit, we shall see in ten years’ time what the real effects will be on both sides.

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 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.

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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La Vigie Nr 140 : Coronacrisis : a strategic recession ? | Covid in America : the flip-flop | Lorgnette : truce in Yemen

Letter from La Vigie, 15 April 2020

Coronacrise: a strategic recession?

A few ideas for France and Europe for waiting to prepare for a form of strategic recession on the planet and get out of a few probable impasses. The world according to the coronacrisisremains undetermined for some time.

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Covid in America: the flip-flop

America is now the epicentre of the global pandemic with exceptional figures confirming that it remains the country of all extremes. The political, economic, military and diplomatic consequences are already numerous. However, this crisis is accelerating the turning point that has already begun in the 21st century, that of leaving American centrality.

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Lorgnette: truce in Yemen

Coronacrise precipitates events. By a trick of history, the pandemic that strikes the royal families of Saudi Arabia causes in Riyadh a notable evolution: that to stop the expenses in Yemen.

Everyone knows that this war was ordered by the impetuous Mohamed ben Salman, who believed he could easily and by force resolve the Yemeni imbroglio. This conflict, which has been going on since 2015, has led to the intervention of a Saudi coalition. It has never managed to achieve its goals, including that of driving the houthists out of their positions in the North of the country. The conflict has caused more than 110,000 deaths and the worst humanitarian crisis of the moment.

That is why the Kingdom offered a ceasefire last week, which was rejected by the houthis, who never believed the Saudi offers and are in the process of retaking Marib province. They are in a position of strength and de facto, Arabia finds that it has lost the war. The issue at stake is how to settle the accounts and manage relations with Iran. But a first case of Covid 19 in Yemen risks accelerating things and pushing the Saudis to withdraw unilaterally.

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 123 (double issue) : Lassitude | Miscellaneous | Sudan : end of games | Commanding space | Reading stickers

La VIgie Nr 123 ( 31 JUL 2019)

Strategic fatigue

In the face of approximations and inconsistencies, weariness becomes the strategist’s fatigue. It must recall some obvious facts: the false concept of weapons of mass destruction, which combine special tactical weapons and weapons of strategic superiority in a catch-all; the vicissitudes of arms control; and finally, the strategic confusion of inclusiveness, a new French strategic dogma that mixes everything up without really deciding anything.

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Lorgnette 1: Political Miscellanea

The first half of the year was full of political reflections, those prompted by the Treaty of Versailles or the 75th anniversary of the D-day. We also enjoyed reading the Tocqueville Conversations, which this year dealt with the future of nations and the debates on Brexit and European disorder. As is often the case, it is a question of the past and the future, the contours of which are difficult to define in the present. But if history never repeats itself, it always continues. To ignore it would be a mistake. The nation-state of the 20th century is transformed into a connected state of the 19th century. But then what to keep from the past? What European, Community and strategic achievements should be preserved? What lessons can be learned from missed appointments and peace? The time for the collective heroism of peoples has passed, but their dispersion in singular trajectories will not be progress. In Europe more than elsewhere, inter-state disasters have been experienced. We need different rules of the game on the Eurasian continent to manage our nations, which are being blamed for inclusive globalisation. So instead of claiming innocence, i.e. to a justice without force, let us try to be a little stronger, even at the risk of being a little less just (Pierre Manent).

Sudan: end of game?

The death of the Tunisian president reminds us that popular pressure can change the system. The Algerian victory in football delays the blocking of this pressure. Finally, the agreement in Sudan gives the illusion that the system is changing: it is probably only an illusion, the dual regime put in place probably allowing the extension of the power system.

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Lorgnette 2: Commanding space

France will soon have a military space command: The new space strategy recently presented provides for a real space force (new surveillance satellites, nano-satellites, small reactive launchers, power lasers). Everything would be launched from 2023 (next five-year period). 700 million have been generated on the current LPM, €1.5 billion on the next. The doctrine would be aligned with that of deterrence: active but not offensive and “not first engagement”, in order to protect and defend our space interests. Of course, this will be done in a Europeanised framework (no one notes the German delay in this area). The new space command will be installed in Toulouse while the 2008 Space Operations Act will be reviewed to allow for genuine military specificity.

This new strategy acknowledges the ongoing arms race, driven both by the proliferation of state actors (Japan, China, India) and private actors. Space was placed between deterrence and intelligence: it is now becoming autonomous. The Air Force is in charge of it.

Reading stickers :

Some books we read : Les défis chinois (E. de La Maisonneuve) – La mesure de la force (M. Motte) – Vision(s) du monde (Ch. Grataloup) – La puissance au XXIè siècle (P. Bühler) – L’orthodoxie (N. Kazarian) – L’affolement du monde (Th. Gomart) – L’archipel français (J. Fourquet) – Le désert et la source (R. Cagnat) – La France et l’Otan en Syrie (R. Hureaux) – Les guerriers de l’ombre (JC Notin) – Babel minute zéro (GP Goldstein) – Piège au levant (R. Pietrini) – La bombe d’Alger (M. Bowman) – Les invasions allemandes (N. Isigny).

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