Barack Obama a pavé la voie à Vladimir Poutine en Crimée

20 août 2012. Derrière le podium de la salle de presse de la Maison Blanche, le président Barack Obama met en garde le régime syrien de Bachar el-Assad de ne pas franchir la ligne rouge que représente l’utilisation d’armes chimiques. Une admonestation dont le président syrien fera fi un an plus tard. On s’attend alors à ce que les Américains entre dans la danse et utilisent leur puissance militaire pour mettre le dirigeant récalcitrant au pas. Il n’en sera rien. Obama tergiverse. L’osmose fait défaut entre lui et son administration sur le dossier syrien. Traumatisé stratégiquement par les péripéties martiales de son prédécesseur, le patron « ne veut pas se retrouver dans la même situation que celle de George W. Bush en Irak […]. »

Devant lui, les Russes et leur président Vladimir Poutine veillent au grain. Pas question de se faire damer le pion pour le maître du Kremlin. Et pourquoi pas tirer avantage de la situation? À ce jeu, il est redoutable, surtout devant la faiblesse des Occidentaux qui peinent à articuler une position solide. Difficile de poser les jalons du changement de régime à Damas, puisque l’opposition est tout autant tétanisée par l’exil que par les divisions.

Diplomatiquement, d’abord, Moscou sauvera la face des Américains en annonçant le « désarmement chimique de son allié syrien ». Le repli décidé dans le Bureau Ovaleaura ensuite des répercussions majeures sur le plan militaire.

Poursuivre la lecture

Les Occidentaux ont poussé la Russie dans les bras de la Chine – Entrevue exclusive avec Vladimir Fédorovski, ancien conseiller de Mikhaïl Gorbatchev

Vladimir Fédorovski (source: Le Temps)

Je suis un grand amateur des livres de Vladimir Fédorovski. Par sa plume agréable et inspirée, cet auteur prolifique et ancien conseiller de Mikhaïl Gorbatchev fait pénétrer ses lectrices et ses lecteurs dans l’âme de l’histoire politique de la Russie. C’est d’ailleurs avec énormément de plaisir que j’ai lu et recensé l’éclairante biographie qu’il a récemment consacrée au dernier président de l’URSS – Le Roman vrai de Gorbatchev, publié chez Flammarion il y a quelques mois. Je m’attaquerai bientôt à sa biographie de Staline. Pour l’heure, voici le contenu de l’entretien téléphonique qu’il m’a accordé le 28 septembre dernier.

Monsieur Fédorovski, bonjour et merci infiniment de m’accorder un entretien. Je vous remercie pour votre œuvre et c’est toujours un très agréable plaisir de vous lire. Sans plus tarder, quelle est votre lecture des relations actuelles entre l’Occident et la Russie?

Il y a une affinité extraordinaire entre l’Occident et la Russie. Je n’accepte pas cette bêtise qu’est la diabolisation. Nous vivons dans un climat pire que celui de la Guerre froide. Sous la dictature du politiquement correct, les médias mentent et croient en leurs mensonges. Parce que nous avons besoin d’un adversaire. C’est inculte. Comme l’affirmait l’ancien ministre français des affaires étrangères, Hubert Védrine, c’est une fatigue intellectuelle. Par rapport à Vladimir Poutine, mon approche est gaullienne. Les chefs d’État comme Vladimir Poutine et Justin Trudeau passeront. Les intérêts nationaux et la paix, de leur côté, demeureront.

Continue reading “Les Occidentaux ont poussé la Russie dans les bras de la Chine – Entrevue exclusive avec Vladimir Fédorovski, ancien conseiller de Mikhaïl Gorbatchev”

Vladimir Putin, campaign manager

A few years ago, I was captivated by Peter Schweizer’s book Reagan’s War: The Epic Story of His Forty-Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism. That fascinating book detailed how the 40th President of the United States used the economic weaknesses of the USSR to bring it on its knees, notably with the help of the Saudis regarding the oil price and the military build-up with which Moscow could not compete with Washington.

Turns out that, while the USSR crumbled, a young KGB lieutenant colonel named Vladimir Putin took good note.  In a recent interview with a former Soviet official, my interlocutor spoke to me about the Russian President’s love of judo – his favorite sport – and the transposition of its techniques in politics. The master of the Kremlin’s dealings in world affairs is a good illustration of his abilities to take advantage of his opponents’ weight to knock them down.

Nowhere is this ability more evident than in the pages of British journalist Luke Harding’s book Shadow State: Murder, Mayhem, and Russia’s Remaking of the West (Harper). In a real page-turner, the author details how the Russian government and its entities are influencing the West’s political life. For example, using Novichok as a calling card in attempting to neutralize Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer who betrayed the GRU (The Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation). Or shabby dealings using banks allegedly to bail out influential people – allegedly like former US President Donald Trump. Moscow is determined to go to any lengths “[…] to return to a nineteenth-century model of great-power politics and to disrupt the ideals-based international order established after the Second World War […].”

Continue reading “Vladimir Putin, campaign manager”

General Milley stood up to Trump

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley. (source Los Angeles Times)

Here are excerpts of Peril, the new book by veteran journalist Bob Woodward and his colleague Robert Costa. I’m not yet done with reading it, but I can already observe that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, wasn’t afraid to stand up to President Donald Trump on several issues.

Reading this book is an excellent antidote to the perception that General Milley is a weak figure.

Two examples.

About Confederate flags:

Trump asked Milley, what do you think?

“I’ve already told you twice, Mr. President. Are you sure you want to hear it again?”

Yeah, go ahead, Trump said.

“Mr. President”, Milley said, “I think you should ban the flags, change the names of bases, and take down the statues.”

He continued, “I’m from Boston, these guys were traitors.”

Continue reading “General Milley stood up to Trump”

Exclusive interview with an avid reader, Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney

Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney, pictured in front of his bookshelves. (source: Alberta Politics)

I have known the Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, for almost 20 years and I’m proud to count him as a friend. As well as enjoying pancakes at the traditional breakfast he traditionally organized as federal Member of Parliament, I fondly remember eating poutine with him when my family and I participated in the Calgary Stampede in 2012. If there’s one thing we invariably always talk about (other than politics of course), it is books. He’s a consummate avid reader, a fellow bookworm.

Like every elected official, the Premier is fighting Covid-19 and its dire consequences in his home province of Alberta, making headlines. These are tough times. But I won’t get into that. Don’t expect anything controversial here. This is about books, which I found to be a source of solace in these difficult months. I was therefore extremely pleased when Mr. Kenney accepted to take a few moments within his brutal schedule to respond to a few questions for this blog.

I hope you enjoy this simple yet insightful exchange.

______________

Premier Kenney, I remember, when you were a federal cabinet Minister, those amazing pictures of boxes from a famous Canadian bookstore filled with books you received. Have your reading habits changed since you have become Premier of Alberta two years ago?

Continue reading “Exclusive interview with an avid reader, Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney”

Countdown bin Laden

Twenty years ago this morning, our hearts crumbled simultaneously with New York’s Twin Towers. Osama bin Laden orchestrated an attack that would scar the face of the Earth and change history forever. After the heartless attacks that left 2977 people dead and countless families grieving, it was inevitable that the terrorist leader would be brought to face justice.

In his new book, Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace offers the gripping story of this historic manhunt and the commendable sacrifices made by those who planned and executed it over a period of 9 months.

In the same manner he wrote his authoritative Countdown 1945, the renowned journalist (with Mitch Weiss) details the nitty-gritty of what will certainly be remembered as one of the most famous and consequential special operation in the history of warfare in Countdown bin Laden: The Untold Story of the 247-Day Hunt to Bring the Mastermind of 9/11 to Justice. Tremendous sacrifices were consented by these intelligence officials who sacrificed their family lives. SEAL Team 6 operators faced their own mortality as they were ordered to descend in the Devil’s Den at the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden had taken refuge between 2005 and May 1st, 2011.

More than the military aspects of the mission to bring back OBL dead or alive, what impressed me most in this book was the decision-making process of the operation. It is easy to associate the warlord tag to President George W. Bush for his decision to launch a war against Al Qaida in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. His successor, Barack Obama, appears as a more dovish character, at least in the public’s perception.

Continue reading “Countdown bin Laden”

Wellington took care of his soldiers

A few months ago, I reviewed the very insightful book Wellington’s Command by G. E. Jaycock. Being interested in anything related to the Iron Duke, it was therefore natural for me to read S. P. G. Ward’s Wellington’s Headquarters: The Command and Administration of the British Army during the Peninsular War (Pen & Sword).

While the objective of the author was to detail and explain the functioning of the Peninsular Army and give a portrait of the overall machinery of war, the most interesting aspect of the book is the portrait of the warlord. Wellington, it is a known fact, was a micromanager. For instance, the author explains that “[…] he was his own Director of Military Intelligence”. One doesn’t need to be a psychologist to understand that he must have been quite a difficult character to deal with – like most famous personalities in history. About the interrogation of prisoners of war, he reduced one of his subordinates, Stewart, to tears because the latter wrongfully thought it fell within the province of his responsibilities.

Continue reading “Wellington took care of his soldiers”

In Afghanistan “with bayonet and kukri”

HRH Prince Harry (right) pictured while he was deployed with Gurkha soldiers in Afghanistan (source: Nepal News Blog)

Having devoured General Sir Peter Duffell’s book The Gurkha Odyssey (which I reviewed here recently) and being interested in anything related to these élite and legendary soldiers, I was extremely worried about the evacuation of the 100 Nepalese Gurkhas who had been tasked with guarding the Canadian embassy in Kabul. I was relieved when I heard that they had been safely taken away from the country.

Nonetheless, the whole episode reminded me of the chapter Sir Peter devoted to the Gurkhas contribution to Britain’s fight in Afghanistan – during the 1st Afghan War (1839-1842), the Second Afghan War (1878-1880), the Third Afghan War (1919) and the Fourth Afghan War (2001-2021). Since 2001, the Gurkhas took part in no less than 24 deployments!

Continue reading “In Afghanistan “with bayonet and kukri””

« Je suis un mauvais tsar; un bon tsar, c’est celui qui tue » – Mikhaïl Gorbatchev

19 août 1991. Il y a trente ans aujourd’hui. Je me souviens de cette journée comme si c’était hier. Fan de Mikhaïl Gorbatchev, malgré mon jeune âge et les admonestations de mon père qui ne voulait pas me voir devenir communiste, j’apprends au bulletin de nouvelles qu’un putsch est ourdi en URSS. Les chars d’assaut ont fait déambuler leurs chenilles dans Moscou et tout peut arriver. Mon héros (avec Reagan et Thatcher) est assigné à résidence dans sa demeure estivale en Crimée. Rien ne va plus dans mon univers. Je resterai rivé aux bulletins de nouvelles, téléphonant – à peu près à toutes les heures – à la salle de rédaction de mon quotidien local pour m’enquérir de l’évolution de la situation.

Gorbatchev m’a toujours fasciné. Et en ces jours où des corollaires sont inévitablement établis entre le retrait américain d’Afghanistan ordonné par le président Joe Biden et celui effectué par l’Armée rouge entre mai 1988 et février 1989 sous la gouverne de « Gorby », le dernier livre de Vladimir Fédorovski permet de mieux comprendre ce personnage adulé en Occident, mais clivant (c’est le moins que l’on puisse dire) chez lui.

Pour tout dire, Le Roman vrai de Gorbatchev (Flammarion) brosse un portrait tout en nuance d’un politicien d’exception. Avant d’endosser les habits du réformateur, le futur chef d’État devait grimper au mât de cocagne de la politique soviétique, ce qu’il sut faire avec brio en annotant avec flatterie les projets de discours de Brejnev ou en dégustant poisson et gâteau au fromage sous la véranda avec le chef du KGB – et futur numéro un soviétique – le redoutable Iouri Andropov.

Continue reading “« Je suis un mauvais tsar; un bon tsar, c’est celui qui tue » – Mikhaïl Gorbatchev”

“If we’re going to withdraw, then my husband died for literally nothing”

This quote from the widow of Special Forces engineer sergeant Matthew McClintock has been haunting me over the last couple of days as I watch events unfold in Afghanistan. “Mick” was killed during his tour while trying to secure the medevac of one of his comrades. I’ve never been to Afghanistan, but I have always been a staunch supporter of the missions deployed there. When Canada sent a contingent of Canadian soldiers from the “Vandoos” (the legendary Québec’s Royal 22e Régiment) to Kandahar, I drove with my wife and daughter to Québec City to applaud them on their departing parade. As we hold our breath in expectation of what will happen in Afghanistan, I have a hard time coming to terms with recent developments.

Just last week, I finished reading Jessica Donati’s excellent but tragic book Eagle Down: The Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War (PublicAffairs). Her exposé is depressing, to say the least. Over the last couple of years, Washington sent the best of the best, the Special Forces, under the guise of “a training and assistance mission” in order to maintain deniability. In reality, they were there in combat mode, although denied certain tools to accomplish their mission properly, such as not authorizing air strikes that could have proven crucial at certain times, or that “no GPS-guided parachutes [which could efficiently deliver supplies in combat zones, ensuring they would not fall into enemy hands] were left in the country because the US military was no longer supposed to be in combat.” These guys fought an enemy that proved adept at using clouds to articulate its strategy (no air support can be offered when skies are not clear, therefore denying Special Forces with much-needed air support). When you ask people to do such a crucial job, the least you can do is give them the tools to do it.

Continue reading ““If we’re going to withdraw, then my husband died for literally nothing””