“The return of the tragedy of history”: Ukraine, terrorism, the French army… the view of General Pierre de Villiers

General Pierre de Villiers, the former chief of staff of the French armies (2014-2017), the only one to resign in the history of the Fifth Republic, raises new geopolitical issues. Care.

How do you analyze the situation in Ukraine? What scenarios are possible in 2023?

There is an optimistic scenario: the two heroes realize that no one can win this war, and we first manage to find an armed peace.

The second scenario: the escalation continues, and after that we can envisage the use of tactical chemical or nuclear weapons by Russia, or the prolongation of the conflict on Russian territory, or even in a NATO country. Because the dictator in the tunnel will never back down. This is an extreme scenario.

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In the middle is the most likely scenario today: a form of stagnation, as in Donbass since 2014. The Russians are targeting Donbass and this deadly war is not over. However, both sides would already have 100,000 dead, wounded or missing soldiers. It’s big, a real butcher’s shop.

The interest of Europe, of France, is to try to gather the actors around the table as soon as possible, but today it seems difficult, because I believe that this war will continue.

Can Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy take Crimea back from Russia?

I don’t think so, and I don’t think it’s desirable to imagine this solution because it could lead us to the most extreme scenario described, escalation.

War marks the return of powerful nations, remember in Words of Honor…

Yes, after more than 75 years of peace, it is the return of the tragedy of History that we have forgotten. The same collective myopia existed before the two world wars. It is clear that, while our European countries have been enjoying peace since 1989, powerful states have been arming themselves by 5-10% per year for twenty years.

This high pressure/low pressure phenomenon has never been good in history. As Charles Peguy said, you have to say what you see, but what’s more difficult, you have to see what you see.

But China is looking for new silk roads, a 50-year strategy. Turkey wants to rebuild the Ottoman Empire and eradicate the Kurds within 25 years. There is the return of Great Orthodox Russia, India betting on its demographic power…

These are long-term strategies, while our democracies have a view to the next election. As the energy crisis has shown, we have no expectations.

Can popular uprisings in Iran and China change the situation?

When a power is challenged from within, it must be carefully monitored, as it can have important consequences. In an attempt to restore unity in a country, many conflicts have arisen.

In the face of all these challenges, do you think the French army is unable to cope with a high-intensity war? Why?

There, too, because of the unexpected: we have not seen the combination of Islamist terrorism and the return of strong states. We lost 25% of our workforce between 2008 and 2015, and the defense budget has continued to decline for 40 years. We are able to direct ourselves to war operations, but not to wage war with its severity and longevity.

How long can we go on in the war?

It depends on the type of ammunition, equipment, but we have 200 Rafales against 600 fighter jets 20 years ago, we have 220 Leclerc tanks against 600 20 years ago. How many people can leave? As for artillery, we had 80 guns and gave 20 to Ukraine.

When we see the consumption of ammunition, spare parts, logistics in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, we are too far away. We must tell the truth, because we cannot say that we do not see, History is being written before our eyes.

After resigning in 2017, Emmanuel Macron increased the budget of the French army.

I can only rejoice, but protecting France and the French is not our task. It’s time to make a significant budget effort.

France also withdrew from Mali, a failure?

Yes, you need to call a spade, a spade. We have succeeded in the war against terrorists, but we have not succeeded in building lasting peace, and we are leaving Mali with a bankrupt state that can no longer exercise its power.

Is the terrorist threat more important? You are worried about gray areas appearing on the borders.

Yes, terrorists nest in these areas of Africa (especially the “three borders” between Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali) because they are difficult to control. The world has always been dangerous, what is new is that it is more unstable.

I explain this to young people in my book (Words of Honor, Letters to Youth, Fayard). After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, after the emergence of large-scale terrorism in 2001, we have not found our new equilibrium and have probably reached a precipice.

In this multipolar world, the stabilizers that once created a form of global harmony no longer exist. The UN, NATO, EU can no longer keep up with the acceleration of time and the expansion of space.

In this context, why is it important to appeal to young people in this way with this book?

I have made it my mission to pass on what I have learned in the coming years, and I want to convey it to young people first of all. He is thirsty for someone to give him some kind of hope, for someone to stop telling him that everything is going to hell. We talk with him about procedures, where dreams await, we talk about ideology where he wants to be ideal. We talk with him about money, he needs attention.

Young people have suffered from the pandemic and the simultaneous crises, they need to be reminded that they have assets, genius and the worst battles are the ones we don’t want to fight.

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