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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La Vigie Nr 193 : Technologising armies | What is the outcome of the war? | Lorgnette: Taiwan’s defence

Leter from La Vigie, dated 25th May 2022

Technologising armies

The technologisation of modern armies, which is supposed to give them a significant advantage over their enemies, is showing signs of running out of steam with the Ukraine campaign. Already threatened by the asymmetric response of improvised devices, these armies are also facing a strain on their basic components. Supplies and their delivery no longer seem to be secure in a conflict with global repercussions.

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What is the outcome of the war?

Traditionally, wars were concluded with peace treaties because the enemy was not demonised. Since the 20th century, the enemy is often portrayed as an evil that must be annihilated: it therefore seems difficult to deal with him. However, war most often requires an end to be reached, and this is achieved through negotiations: one must know how to end a war.

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Lorgnette: Taiwan’s defence

In response to a question about the US military commitment in the event of a Chinese attack on Taiwan, US President J. Biden said on Monday: “Yes, that is what we are committed to”. This statement is a departure from the usual ambiguity: since the Taiwan Relation Act of 1979, Washington had always left uncertainty as to the nature of its support for Taipei but also its respect for the Chinese doctrine of “one China”.

Is this a new outing to which J. Biden has become accustomed, using words and expressions that are often undiplomatic? In any case, his administration was keen to correct the president’s remarks. Several interpretations are possible: there is a difference of opinion between the President and his administration, or following Ukraine the President wants to assure his allies of the solidity of his support or, even more subtle, to be ambiguous in the exit of ambiguity towards China.

One last hypothesis is not mentioned but is worrying: J. Biden is allowing himself to speak without consulting his entourage, a criticism that was long made of his predecessor. This would be worrying.

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La Vigie Nr 179 : France in 2050 | The American question | Lorgnette : Forgotten Bosnia

Letter from La Vigie dated November 10th 2021

France in 2050

The news is always quick to emphasise the crises of the moment and the seemingly insurmountable challenges: let’s reverse the point of view and consider what assets France has at its disposal to still be what it is in 2050. The picture is less bleak than is often assumed.

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The American question

Trumpism did not disappear after the last presidential election. Just as the Democrats refused to accept Trump’s victory five years ago, the Republicans refuse to accept Biden’s victory. He was badly elected and is struggling to implement his reforms and to unify the Democrats, divided between radicals and conservatives. A defeat in the next elections (mid-term, presidential 2024) is therefore highly likely. A second Trump presidency would deepen the fragmentation of the country.

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Lorgnette: Forgotten Bosnia

Who still remembers Bosnia-Herzegovina? This small country, born in 1995 from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, has never found a political balance. This meeting between a “Muslim-Croat federation” and a “Republika Srpska” has never worked. It is under the supervision of the European Union, which is no longer interested in it. So we see the Serbian leader gradually acting in favour of separation (and eventually the reunion of the Serbian part with Serbia in Belgrade). The population is talking about a possible return to war.

However, this does not worry the international community, especially Europe, which is content with a black hole in the Balkans and has no prospects to offer. The Union is struggling to promote a negotiated solution between Kosovo and Serbia. It is not even certain that a secession of the Bosnian Serb part would be violent. In fact, some may think that this separation is a logical option and that 25 years later, with the help of fatigue, what was considered inadmissible at the time is admitted. But this would open the Pandora’s box of border rectifications in Europe. Which it does not need.

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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 160 : Djibouti, a coveted strategic crossroads | Risks anc conflicts | Lorgnette : A new start

Letter from La Vigie dated 3 FEB 2021

Djibouti, a coveted strategic crossroads

As an established fulcrum at the convergence of the major maritime routes linking Asia and the Middle East on the one hand, and Africa and Europe on the other, which became a strategic crossroads during the Cold War, the Republic of Djibouti’s strategic dimension was strengthened as it entered the 21st century. The subject of massive economic investment from China and home to the military bases of six different foreign countries, with those of China and the United States surpassing those of France (former sovereign power on the territory), this tiny state has engaged in subtle and lucrative diplomacy, not without risks, in order to guarantee its political autonomy, security and development.

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Risks and conflicts

2021 will provide the basis for the 2022 election platforms. The recent publication of an Update to the 2017 Strategic Review is part of this framework. The exercise is classic, well-written and somewhat agreed upon, but it serves above all to justify capacity needs. It lacks boldness in the face of undiscerning risks and a new, ambivalent and below-threshold conflictuality, both external and internal. It does not outline a necessary integral strategy. This is a pity.

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Lorgnette: New start

As soon as he arrived, Joe Biden proposed a five-year extension of the New Start Treaty. Russia agreed immediately. This is good news. New Start was indeed the last arms control treaty in force. Bilateral, it linked Washington and Moscow to limit the number of their nuclear weapons. It was due to expire on 5 February and it is likely that a re-elected Donald Trump would have let the deadline pass, as he had withdrawn from other treaties. This was not the decision of his successor.

The extension means that the bilateral dialogue should resume in a more conventional way, which does not mean that tensions will ease. One recalls the Democratic Party’s obsession with “Russian fraud” and the suspicion of connivance between Mr Trump and Putin. J. Biden will have to take this fringe of his party into account. However, returning to international negotiations is a good signal. Above all, it reopens perspectives on nuclear issues: updating the JCPOA agreement with Iran or dealing with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW cf. LV 87). We will follow this closely.

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LV 159 : On democracy in America | Grozny the new | Lorgnette : Closed sky

Letter from La Vigie Nr 159, dated 20 January 2021

Democracy in America

The events of 6 January in Washington mark a popular emotion, undeniably seditious even if it cannot be described as a coup d’état. It confirms the deep American division between radicals on both sides. It is also the occasion for censorship by the major social networks which questions their place in the democratic system. A heavy task awaits Joe Biden.

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Grozny the new

Chechnya hasn’t been in the headlines for the last 15 years or so, yet what happened to Chechens fighting Chechens in Syria, some alongside Russians, others in the EI? Today, however, let us note the Russian control that has regained control of it ciscaucasian space.

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Lorgnette : Closed sky

Russia declared on 15 January that it was withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty, signed in 2002, which allowed the right to conduct and the obligation to accept observation flights over [the] other party’s territory to verify military activities and installations. Trump’s United States unilaterally withdrew last November (LV 143) to the chagrin of its European allies, who refused to accede to Moscow’s request not to transfer their observations to Washington. The United States had already withdrawn unilaterally from the INF Treaty (LV 112).

Open Skies marked the end of the era of Confidence and Stability Building Measures (CSBMs) that had irrigated international dialogue since the 1970s. The whole system of arms control and monitoring disappears: all that remains is the New Start Treaty (nuclear arsenal control), which expires on 5 February next.

The timetable is important: while Joe Biden will take command of the White House on 20 January, the Russian announcement constitutes diplomatic pressure to prolong New Start while affirming its resolution in the negotiations to come.

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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.

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LV 151 : Behind the wall | What does America tell us ? | Lorgnette : High-Karabakh

Letter from La Vigie n° 151 of September 30, 2020

Withdrawal behind the wall

The construction of walls is accelerating in this world. However, this tactical mode of action has never been able to contribute structurally to sustainable strategic action. Similarly, it reflects a withdrawal into oneself and a fear of the other when we need dialectics.

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What does America tell us?

The American election campaign is particularly abnormal: not only because of Covid, but also because it demonstrates the confrontation, block by block, of two irreconcilable Americas ready to fight, refusing in advance the victory of the other side. Beyond the disappearance of the WASP cement, it is a conception of modernity that is moving away. Finally, this issue of La Vigie looks at the consequences of the victory of D. Trump or that of J. Biden: in both cases, the prospects are not great.

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Lorgnette : Nagorno-Karabakh

Should we be surprised at the resumption of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan? No. First of all, because the dispute is ancestral and we see no negotiated solution to this conflict. Moreover, the outbursts of recent days seem to have been orchestrated more for internal reasons on the Baku side than by the desire to regain military control of this territory. The fact remains that the cannons have spoken and that some are alarmed.

Let us recall here that a frozen conflict does not mean an extinguished conflict: the freezing only means that it does not degenerate, but that it is maintained, on the other hand, by more or less noisy or deadly skirmishes. By this yardstick, the battle of the last few days would be normal.

For all that, it is at odds with Azerbaijan’s skillful policy (LV 134). The two great godfathers of the region, Russia and Iran, should quickly signal the end of the episode in Baku. But this is counting without the Turkish activism, about which one wonders here what he is pursuing: in the complicated multi-band game of the East, this is probably not about the Transcaucasus but more likely a message to Moscow and Tehran.

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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.

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LV 138 : Virus and strategy | Europe and its West | War to virus ?

Letter from La Vigie Nr 138, dated 18 March 2020

Viruses and strategy

Covid-19 reminds us of forgotten notions, such as the “Bacteriological” of the CBRN. Various response strategies have been implemented (fixing, blocking, slowing down) that put in tension the normality of systems in the face of chaos. The crisis is accelerating the current turning point of globalization because, beyond the harsh economic crisis that is coming, new frameworks for a different regulation will have to be installed. The crisis is not only a health crisis, it brings us back to the essential.

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Europe and its West

Europe’s relationship with the West does not only concern the people living along the Atlantic seaboard, all European countries face the West with different strategies. The main issue in transatlantic relations is the relationship with Washington, beyond the Atlantic Alliance.

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Lorgnette: War on the virus?

During his televised speech on 16 March, the President of the Republic called for national mobilisation in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not a question here of criticizing the exceptional measures that have been taken and which correspond to an extraordinary situation. On the other hand, the RP has declared on six occasions that “we are at war“, specifying only once that it was a health war. The search for a theatrical effect to mobilize the population can be irritating. It shows a lack of reflection on war.

At La Vigie, we regularly speak out against the abusive expression “war on terrorism“, imported without reflection from across the Atlantic and constantly used, because it fails to designate an enemy that is primarily political. In this case, the enemy is a virus! If we are at war, will the RP therefore call Parliament to implement Article 35 of the Constitution (The declaration of war is authorized by Parliament)? This is only emphasis, we will be told: a figure of speech. But war is neither a figure of speech nor an artifice of communication. Communication does not take the place of strategy.

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