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Sunday, Aug 14, 2022 - 00:45 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Picture Break

There's a piece on the quite breathless progress in computer art/illustration from text due, but for today, it's just the intermission between Turns 11 and 12, in The Greatest Game.

A word to the wise, for the Nation
(Original source: belloflostsouls.net)

It's critical to know the true history, instead of what gets shilled in revisionist textbooks and the FAKE NEWS, to properly understand the development of current affairs; for today, we have the etymology of perhaps the most-storied reference to a U.S. Presidential administration ever (for now, at least), from the Society for Very Creative and More Recent Anachronism:

And why stop at the Second?
[N.B. History has arguably been kind to JFK (two carriers so far), since personal charisma and a tragic, premature death goes a long way.]
(Source: thesun.co.uk)

The torch may finally have been passed, however, to one of quite similar personal characteristics:

10% off with purchase of five or more burgers, condiments gratis
[N.B. Gearing up for Remember The A-Lago]
(Source: newyorker.com)

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Tuesday, Aug 09, 2022 - 22:24 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Turning In A Widening Gyre

The first Turn of Twilight Struggle: New Moon is about to come to a conclusion - but first, a public service announcement from the game organizers their United Nations lackeys:

And ignore all the past theories that actually came true
(Original sources: unesco.org, mangakakalot.com)

That settled, it's not been a great month for the Globohomo Old World Order establishment, with yet rising recognition that the Cold War Game is back in town - and possibly just entered into the oceanic arena, and the Indo-Pacific region in particular. With the opening innings close to over, armchair generals are questioning the wisdom of Pelosi's blatantly intentional (and entirely avoidable) provocation over Taiwan, which has had the Chinese Foreign Ministry fuming at Team Blue (literally) "playing the Taiwan card" (i.e. Formosan Resolution, as covered last week), and their state media calling it their Cuban Missile Crisis (a hint that DEFCON is now at 2?)

The immediate response from China has been a near-total suspension of dialogue with Team Blue leaders the U.S.A., with the Pentagon unable to put calls through to their PLA counterparts, which is probably understating the desired level of escalation from domestic nationalists - and with a population of some 1.4 billion, there's a lot of them to placate. This play has in turn surely driven China only closer to Russia, with a gas pipeline from Siberia to Shanghai - that will mitigate their energy vulnerabilities by sea - well under way. Not that Russia's having too many issues selling their oil, it seems - they just have to launder it through the Saudis first.

The collision course between Team Red and Team Blue has been nervously acknowledged by our leaders for our latest National Day, but to be honest one figures their hands are tied to a large extent. The dim prospects for Globohomo have only been underscored by how its greatest proponent - America - has been unable to get their own house in order, with the FBI raiding fair and fabled Hamalot on what's looking like trumped-up charges, as opposed to investigating associates of those actually in office, despite actual photographic evidence (but, that may be changing). As it is, despite some pretty flagrant banning/manipulation of betting odds (N.B. compare medians/averages to outliers in rankings), DeDonald remains far and away the GOP's frontrunner for 2024 - and the obvious ticket with DeSantis as V.P. is looking a locked-on winner.

That D&D tag-team victory will certainly spark a ton of anguished screeching in the hallowed halls of D.C., but first, they've to get through this Turn, in The Greatest Game!

Turn 11, Action Round 6 (Team Red)

(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com, voanews.com)

The U.S. Secretary of State has belatedly made a foray into Africa - with BRICS mainstay South Africa a particular target - in what the Voice of America* and CNBC amongst other Team Blue media outlets have described as "echoes of the Cold War", and "vying with Russia for Influence" (2 to 4 Ops, in this case). The mask seems to be slipping, folks. Oh wait, this is Team Red's Action Round, and they certainly aren't about to let this pass, if they are able to. That's The Voice of America diverted to the Space Race, then, as China rolls a 2. Remember, low rolls are desirable for this track, and this gives Team Red 2 VP for Earth Satellite success (with their commercial CERES-1 vehicle just placing three into orbit), for a -1 VP lead overall.

PRC mouthpiece Global Times has taunted that the U.S. has poor chances of turning Africa against them and Russia, and on this statement, I would have to largely concur with their analysis. It is broadly true that Africa has been grossly neglected by the colonizing slavers self-styled "enlightened defenders of democracy", and whatever one thinks of the local dictators, most of them have to be canny enough to distinguish between actual, concrete roads and bridges on the ground - if with strings attached - as opposed to righteous lectures delivered from on high (also with strings attached anyway). No additional Influence gained by Blinken here, as the Africans (correctly) await actual goodies instead of yet more speeches - and payment on delivery only.

[*A bit of history on the VOA; it is the oldest U.S.A.-funded international broadcaster (since 1942), and was responsible for good ol' radio propaganda to Soviet client states, through Cold War I. The infusion of woke messaging and general decline in credibility of the American mainstream media is seriously affecting their effectiveness in the new edition, however, and it remains to be seen if Team Blue will correct course.]

Turn 11, Action Round 6 (Team Blue)

Ohnonono, who could have imagined this would happen?
(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com, scmp.com)

Pelosi's scooted from Taiwan after declaring that China's real reason for being mad at her is because she's a woman (and no, I suppose they can't date her), leaving behind a conflagration the likes of which have not been seen across the Straits for decades. The cessation of dialogue and other cooperation aside, China has deployed what has been widely recognized as a full-on Blockade of their rebel island province (so they say), with their massive military drills now extended past the original Sunday deadline. Taiwan's complaining that the drills appear to simulate an attack on their main island, which is the point.

Here, it might be noted that Blockade takes place during Team Blue's Action Round, which is thematically sound, given that one would be hard-pressed to deny that it was their action that provided the catalyst for the development. Team Blue's play of Blockade for Ops was their go-to move, given that the alternative was Quagmire extending into the next Turn, and they duly (happily) discard Quagmire to the Event (with the befuddled West German delegation wondering what this has to do with them). Best hope they not draw it back next, eh.

As it stands, some have cast this play as yet another milestone for the New Cold War, and given how the U.S.A. is having their carrier strike group stick around - and perhaps even make a transit - it almost feels like Team Blue are trying to instigate a full-blown war (as forecast by the Wall Street Journal), to which it should be noted that nukes were very much on the table, during a similar situation in 1958. The strategic calculus isn't all that complicated: China likely has the wherewithal to enforce a de-facto Blockade of Taiwan indefinitely - if perhaps not an amphibious assault - barring external interference. The U.S. of A likewise certainly can try to bust such a Blockade if it comes to that (the Formosan Sealift?), but then aircraft carriers do make very large targets for hypersonic missiles. Can enough Dongfeng-17s sink a Nimitz-class carrier? Personally, I'd rather not find out, but the U.S.A. seems to be cranking up the temperature to thaw out the frozen Cold War...

On the bright side, China does have quite a lot of less-destructive means of engagement, the most accessible probably being simple trade sanctions, with specific measures such as sand export bans able to directly target their construction and semiconductor industries. Keeping up the (technically legal) military exercises would also make shipping insurance for voyages to Taiwan a lot more expensive - or even unavailable - and make it somewhat trickier for outside parties to get themselves involved. Let's see.

1 Ops: Team Blue attempts Realignment in South Africa (1/2), probably since 1 Influence isn't much to play with anyhow. They are at a slight disadvantage, with Team Red having a +1 modifier from their initial Influence lead, with Angola (0/1) and Botswana (3/1) split between the Teams - but one senses that Team Blue is happy enough to just shake things up here. Team Blue rolls a 5, but Team Red rolls a 4, and it's a wash. The Influence situation in South Africa remains unchanged, Blinken gets their Foreign Minister to make some vague motherhood statements on resolving the Ukraine conflict through diplomacy, and a photoshoot with a jeans designer.

End of Turn 11, Cleanup Phase

With that, Turn 11 comes to a close, with Team Red in the lead by 1 VP thanks to their Tech/Space Race headstart, with the Required Military Operations satisfied for both due to Bulgaria (3 Ops) for Team Red, and Pakistan (4 Ops, grandfathered in) for Team Blue. Formosan Resolution is however deemed to have dropped DEFCON to 2, which means that it should be raised back to 3 only at the beginning of the next Turn. The Russia Card, a new feature of the New Moon expansion, remains unrevealed. This may be a good time to catch a breather, before the Teams put down their Headlines for Turn 12...

It's all about The Game and how you play it/
All about Control and if you can take it!

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Thursday, Aug 04, 2022 - 22:26 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Play By Play

A week and a half has passed since the last update for The Greatest Game, and here we return to Action Round 4 for both teams, where we left off on July 11. Recall that Team Red gained knowledge of Team Blue's remaining cards in hand through Lone Gunman then: Blockade, Formosan Resolution, Quagmire and Grain Sales to Soviets. With this in mind, following a brief Xi-Putin huddle, their next card is... Nuclear Subs for 2 Ops, resolving the Event after Ops.

Turn 11, Action Round 4 (Team Red)

(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com, newsweek.com)

Russia has, of course, just taken delivery of a chonker of a "research" submarine that just happens to be armed with second-strike capable underwater nuclear drones, curiously as New York begins broadcasting Duck and Cover nuclear preparedness commercials out of nowhere. Teammates Iran and North Korea* have upped their nuke talk too in the past week in unison, with an emboldened Russia officially expanding their goals past Donbas, with hints at Georgia (if later walked back). Fairly ambitious, if I do say so myself.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Syria (2/3). For all the far-fetched pronouncements in the Western media, it appears that Putin is hardly as persona non grata as they are attempting to make him out to be, with Vladdy scooting back to the Middle East for a sit-down with Raisi and Erdogan, with the latter beckoning enticingly on the fence. As for concrete aid to the region, China has it under way, with Syria the object of their largesse this time. It's not nice to ignore the old proxy war just because a shinier new one has just started, no?

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Malaysia (1/2). Concurrently, China can flaunt a five-point consensus agreement with our northern neighbours, with their commitment for the BRI and GDI seemingly secured. The "Malacca Dilemma" has of course long been a thorn in the side of Chinese planners, and let's just say that money talks very persuasively, especially if applied consistently over a long time (and to the right targets). This came right on the tails of a warning by their Foreign Minister that Asian nations should not become chess pieces for big powers (sorta-acknowledging The Greatest Game), which could sound a little ironic but for the rider that "The future of our region should be in our own hands" (i.e. this pawning does not apply to Asian powers, such as us truly)

Event resolves, allowing Team Blue to Coup Battleground Countries freely for the rest of the Turn - but given the recent backlash to their Coup admissions, one understands if they were to be more circumspect. Perhaps why Team Red decided to go with the card at this moment? Of course, if they were to, say, assassinate the President of Haiti (as happened last year) or meddle in Tunisia (both with 0/0 Influence), nobody would care too much. I'm sure the Haitians and Tunisians are delightful people by and large, but that's how it is. Sorry.

[*In the case of North Korea, something's generally up when they're not threatening to explode a nuke; a few quiet years from Kim should merit a courtesy call, although the best hopes for sincere reconciliation appear to have evaporated together with the previous U.S. admin's more personal approach.]

Turn 11, Action Round 4 (Team Blue)

(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com, aljazeera.com)

That had to merit a firm response by the Blues, and they go with the best card they have in hand: Grain Sales To (From) Soviets. Turkey had brokered a grain export deal between warring nations Russia and Ukraine towards the end of July, which had to come as some relief to poorer states dependant on Ukrainian wheat. Lebanon (1/0 Influence) has for one apparently just appropriated grain supplies bound for Syria, but one can hardly blame them given how their economy is currently in the gutter. Expect to see more such acts from desperate countries, if the ongoing food shortages persist.

Team Blue plays the card for its Event, and draws from an unhappy Team Red's hand... Nuclear Test Ban! It looks like they have struck the jackpot here, with four Ops! They're certainly not about to play this for the Event, having just withdrawn from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty a few years back, so here goes the Influence:

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Saudi Arabia (3/1). Moving away from fossil fuels to combat climate change sounds cool and all, until gas begins to top five bucks a gallon at home. After hitting up Venezuela to little avail, Biden had seemingly realized that the Saudis remain his best bet, and had therefore returned to the Middle East to contest the region. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sure looked just a bit smug when fist-bumping POTUS and being welcomed by an embattled Macron, to me. When it comes to energy against principles, it's no contest every time. This also makes it somewhat awkward keeping a straight face at the "democracies" vs. autocracies presentation of Twilight Struggle: New Moon by Team Blue...

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Israel (4/2). You might think Israel is blue as Blue can be, but really there's only one entity they're looking out for, first and foremost. While it remains quite unlikely that they'll switch camps, Iran actually getting the bomb might trigger some existential decisions that we'd best not get to see. Better safe than sorry for Team Blue in giving some attention to their Middle Eastern mainstays, then.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in India (3/2). Likewise, there doesn't seem much realistic prospects for pulling the Indians into the Blue camp permanently for now, but having them lean the "right way" is very possible - for a price. It's been quite a profitable period for the Indians, frankly, what with discounted Russian oil, renewed Sri Lankan Influence** (with their Minor Coup-ed ex-President cooling his heels in Singapore, I suppose also with free kopi if he wants) and a foot very much in both Teams. The added Influence sees India proceed with their annual joint exercise with the U.S. near their disputed border with China, though if the payoffs stop coming...

1 Ops: +1 Influence in the United Kingdom (6/1). While the U.S.-U.K. Special Relationship has probably been as closely-aligned as any two (non-vassaled) nations have been in the modern era, and one really doesn't see the U.K. flipping - especially after Brexit - they ain't taking any chances either. BoJo's gone (for now), and while he can hardly be accused of skimping on support for Ukraine (or exploiting them to bleed the Russians, depending on which side you're listening to), his would-be Tory replacements have only cranked up the rhetoric against Team Red, with Sunak proposing to close all of China's Confucius Institutes in the U.K., swiftly matched by main rival Truss. With the U.S. also just ratifying the U.K.-sponsored push to let Sweden and Finland into NATO, one has to imagine Team Blue has Europe Scoring in hand - except they don't.

[**With Joseph Stalin arrested for protesting. You gotta admire his commitment to historically-accurate reenactment.]

Turn 11, Action Round 5 (Team Red)

(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com, brics2021.gov.in)

Losing the Ops of Nuclear Test Ban will have to smart for Team Red, but they do have possession of The Russia Card (to be revealed), which affords some protection against such hand size attacks. It's Flower Power for 4 Ops, then.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Algeria (1/1). BRICS+ continues taking shape, with Algeria ("Africa's largest natural gas exporter") being the latest downtrodden victim of colonialism (so goes the neo-Soviet line) to seriously consider joining up. Africa might not be as rich as the major regions in terms of available VP, but it sure as heck is easier to Dominate if the other Team's not careful - which Team Blue arguably hasn't been.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Hungary (1/2). Team Red can't let Europe go that easily, and while they may have lost Poland, there's no shortage of alternatives. Serbia (i.e. much of the old Yugoslavia) probably remains tilted towards them, for one, and Hungary has all but leapt at the opportunity to secure gas supplies from Russia. Resources talk, bullshit walks.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Italy (1/1). Italy's always been a prime Coup/Brush War target to deny Europe Domination in vanilla Twilight Struggle, and it's not looking all that different in the expansion pack. Draghi's resignation has reignited worries about them leaving the Eurozone, if (probably) not the European Union itself, and let's just say that the Fed's profligacy*** has seen the Yuan look increasingly tempting, especially to Europe's more financially-troubled members. Winter will surely see national resolves tested, with the grey and red of Russian gas and Chinese cash dangled against the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian cause.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Pakistan (1/1). We had observed that Imran Khan's popularity at home was and remains very high (and noted the dangers of playing both sides before that in March), and Khan's party has already retaken the important province of Punjab, weeks after the not-a-Coup. Khan's demand for early elections (in which he would have to be the favourite) has been hobbled for now by accusations of foreign funding, but one just can't see him remaining on the sidelines for much longer, despite all these little tricks.

[***Apparently after attempted infiltration by China. The CCP needn't have bothered - the Fed bankers are doing a pretty damn fine job of mismanaging the U.S. dollar by themselves.]

Turn 11, Action Round 5 (Team Blue)

(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com, lemonde.fr)

One would have to be blind as a bat not to have seen this coming from April, but that certainly didn't detract from how huge of a hoo-ha it caused. Team Blue plays Formosan Resolution for its Event, as U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi touched down in Taiwan (after a brief stop here) on the third of August, despite numerous "final warnings" from the mainland Chinese authorities, including semi-official (and not very credible, especially with a carrier group lurking) threats that her plane(s) could be downed.

With the latest Biden-Xi virtual kibbutz not having yielded any progress on the Taiwan question (and truthfully, nor was it expected to), Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS would break the news of Pelosi's arrival, leading to her (supposed) ride being tracked by hundreds of thousands of curious spectators, crashing the Flightradar24 website. Although American congressional delegations have routinely visited, this remained the highest-profile flouting of Beijing's thin red line in twenty-five years, what more in an already-tense geopolitical climate. There would be no direct aggression as the CCP stewed, to the dismay of WW3 cheerleaders, as China's response would be limited to stern commentaries, ambassador summonings and a more reciprocally-provocative and larger-than-usual military live-firing exercise, technically inside Taiwanese waters.

This retaliation appears within expected (and acceptable) parameters by the White House, but the recklessness of the act has had some suspect that they had not fully sanctioned the trip (all the more with Pelosi sprinkling the feminism). Playing the card for the Event isn't unreasonable in the sense that spending Ops to Control Taiwan through Influence could well tip DEFCON to 1, though the situation's still spicy enough that the President of South Korea has declined to meet Pelosi, despite being very much on the same Team. Nonetheless, the 2 Influence could have been well-received elsewhere, but I suppose Team Blue's out to send a signal.

From another perspective, Pelosi's visit - a quarter-century after Gingrich - could be interpreted as an acknowledgement that American rapprochement through trade and cultural exchanges had failed, with China determined to strike out on their own, whilst their stars are aligned/rising and concurrent with (relative) U.S. decline (notably, a topic that our Foreign Minister skilfully sidestepped, alongside a call for restraint). More seriously, however, while the odds of it all blowing up might have been correctly ascertained to be low this time, one would be expected to eventually hit snake eyes, if he insists on continually rolling the dice. But that's The Greatest Game for you: you might not be interested in The Game, but The Game is sure as heck interested in you!

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Sunday, July 24, 2022 - 23:56 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

The Game's Afoot

With some apologies.

A little clarification on the Twilight Struggle frame game used to help explain current affairs here - it's not quite the vanilla version introduced last month, but an expansion set of sorts (in the vein of Turn Zero and related promotional cards); we may see some new cards eventually, but rest assured, all the old favourites are here, and still make up the bulk of the deck, because let's be honest - nobody learns much from history.

We will introduce the new stuff gradually, and by the way, this was how it all began, for this edition:

Turn 11, Headline Phase (Team Red)

All the cool guys call it "special military operations" nowadays
(By: Twilight Struggle Card Generator)

Team Red plays Russo-Ukrainian War, to kick the New Moon scenario off. Notably, Ukraine isn't represented in the original Twilight Struggle game map, being part of the U.S.S.R. then, but let's be frank - this was never really much about them anyway. Remember that cards in the Headline Phase have to be played for their Event and not Ops, which guarantees at least one Event setting the tenor at the beginning of each Turn. By the looks of it, the world would be seeing a lot more Coups by the big players soon - which was how it turned out.

Speaking of Coups, former Team Blue national security adviser John Bolton (quite possibly of Red Wedding fame) raised some hackles after remarking* in passing that he had been involved in planning Coups for the United States, in particular for Venezuela (currently with 0/3 Influence, recall). Venezuela (quite justifiably) and China among others have pounced on Bolton's statement as evidence that Team Blue's "rules-based international order" is merely window-dressing for self-interest, but frankly, all those past Coups were never really a secret.

[*More bragging than confession, really; a former CIA officer has all but accused Mr. Walrus Mustache of stolen coup valour (which we're imagining, goes something like "That amateur keeps rolling ones and twos on his throws, they must hate him at the craps table"), with Mother Jones doing an in-depth analysis of which U.S.A. Coups he might actually have been involved in (conclusion: not all that many).]

Turn 11, Headline Phase (Team Blue)

Team Blue plays Reagan Bombs Libya for its Event, except for "Reagan" read "Dubya/Obama/Trump/Biden", and for "Libya", read "Syria" (guess what, it was never really about Libya or Syria either, one 2-Influence Middle East state looks much like another, for purposes of The Greatest Game). There is some heated discussion with Team Red over whether the card text has to be followed for scoring purposes, not that it matters since Team Red happens to have 2 Influence in both Libya and Syria anyway. Team Blue takes the lead with 1 VP, then.

[To be continued...]

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Saturday, July 16, 2022 - 20:08 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Month Before, Month After


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Monday, July 11, 2022 - 22:27 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Updating The Update!

Turn 11, Action Round 3 (Team Red)

One supposes it's all out in the open now
[Transcript of "NATO as systematic challenge to world peace"]
(Source: youtube.com)

There's a small kerfuffle before this action phase, as Team Blue's chief administrator of NASA abruptly accuses China of seeking to place Influence on the moon (recalling Russia's own pledge to return). Team Red would naturally deny it, even as they reveal their next card: East European Unrest. Will they spend it on the Space Race track, to avoid granting Team Blue its beneficial effects in Eastern Europe? Decisions...

Team Red plays East European Unrest for 3 Ops, resolving the Event after Ops.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Iran (0/3). It's hardly a secret that Iran's relations with Team Blue have been in free-fall, what with informal JCPOA negotiations between themselves and the U.S. having just broken down again; but frankly, it's not like Team Blue was realistically going to get Iran on their side. Iran's membership in Team Red is only solidified by their recent application to join BRICS (currently with China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa, in about that order of significance)

Geographically, Iran happens to be a major chokepoint between the Middle East and Asia, directly guarding the approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan (and thence, India). Well, it's not like Team Blue has any boots on the ground left in the former, after their disastrous withdrawal.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Argentina (1/2). What's that, Argentina has applied to join BRICS too, with China's support? Well, given their increasing trade and currency swap deal for transacting in Yuan, this has to make economic sense; Uncle Sam won't be happy, but he hasn't been delivering the goods, so...

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Saudi Arabia (2/1). What's that, are the Saudis also looking to diversify? Although Saudi Arabia has been at loggerheads with Iran for ages, the gradual U.S. retreat from the region (probably welcome, actually) in preparation for a pivot to Asia, combined with some rather frazzled thinking from the White House on oil production, has had them ready to buy some geopolitical insurance. Oh, Team Blue can probably re-exert Control if they are of a mind to, but they seem to be under pressure from all fronts currently...

...in the form of BRICS+, the burgeoning new international grouping aligned against the establishment G7/West. To be sure, the original five-nation BRICS certainly had a weight of its own even without any additional members, containing as it does some 42% of the global population, two U.N. Security Council permanents, about a third of the world's GDP (by purchasing power parity) and food production, and maybe half of the extant stockpile of nuclear warheads.

The open competition between international cliques (as predicted in May) has seen Team Red eager to recruit new friends, especially if they can be poached from the G20 (which might be considered the G7's "minor leagues"). Seen in this light, Indonesia (note, the fourth-most populous country globally) would be a pretty big catch, with feelers reportedly already put out to others such as Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. One might imagine the UAE (a major non-NATO ally, recall) would demur, but the example of Saudi Arabia might bear some consideration.

From another perspective, BRICS+ as an anti-G7 vehicle might be seen as Team Red's attempt at reframing the Cold War II narrative; rather than some idealistic battle of "democracies versus autocracies", as Biden has been trying so hard to promote, BRICS+ against G7 lends itself to another framing: that of mostly-white imperialist Colonial Rear Guards, against a multi-ethnic coalition of scrappy up-and-coming underdogs bravely resisting Western domination. Now, I'm not saying that this story is or is not particularly convincing; just that one can very well imagine smaller countries willing to believe it, if it were in their national interest (like everyone else)

Team Blue does get to play the Event to "remove 1 Team Red Influence from three countries in Eastern Europe" after the fact, as a consolation; the region's probably not quite as significant as it was in Cold War I, but every scrap of free (net) Influence helps...

-1 Team Red Influence in Finland (4/0). NATO assures the Finns (and Sweden) of protection as their accession process begins, and given that Finland are the ones with nearly all of the Nordics' border with Russia, this should mean the most to them. Team Blue de-facto Controls Finland, as their Prime Minister attends a rock festival. Might as well.

-1 Team Red Influence in Romania (2/1). Support for Team Blue's view has been relatively sparse there, which the U.S. is addressing with a troop redeployment from Germany.

-1 Team Red Influence in Bulgaria (0/1). Team Blue certainly couldn't let Team Red's successful Coup - with the PP alliance failing to form a new government - go unanswered, which has resulted in a propaganda blitz by the Bulgarian secret service, on supposed Russian interference. Additionally, a large number of Russian diplomats have been expelled, with Russia duly reciprocating... but really, why is a "constitutionally mandated vote of no confidence" so problematic?

Turn 11, Action Round 3 (Team Blue)

(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com, nypost.com)

Team Blue plays Lone Gunman for 1 Ops, resolving the Event after Ops, with DEFCON at 3. Unexpected, but if they were ever to get rid of this card, now's as good a time as any.

Former Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, was publicly assassinated last Friday, having formerly led the major Team Blue power from 2006 to 2007, and again from 2012 to 2020. The deed would rightly stun the global leadership (including our PM), and soon sprout conspiracy theories about the motivations of the shooter, and possible external Influence (with the initial miss recalling JFK, the aftermath RFK, and also another prominent Abe kicking it by being shot from behind, some 157 years ago). The official tale is that the shooter wanted revenge for Abe promoting the Moonies, who had supposedly bankrupted his mother through cultivating donations - but seriously, this is like basically all the major religions out there, to some extent.

The late Abe's Liberal Democratic Party has cruised to a large majority in the Upper House elections likely in part due to the sympathy vote, and while Team Blue might be loathe to admit it, he will be a big loss to their ambitions, if only in pulling strings from behind the curtain. Abe's tenure had been marked by a revival of Japan's security potential, largely in lockstep with the previous POTUS, with whom he had by all reports a warm working relationship - extending to an unprecedented trip to New York even before his formal inauguration, and then a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Domestically, his defining contribution would probably be "Abenomics", and a continuing (mostly unsuccessful) effort to arrest his country's declining birthrate.

One man's security is another's militaristic jingoism, however, and Abe's familial connections to the Japanese Imperial Army on top of that would win him few pals in China. Despite the customary condolences being offered, the assassination appears to have been broadly welcomed on domestic social media, with clubbers moreover arranging the more-celebratory type of memorial for the departed. I suppose everyone has the right to mourn in their own way...

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Taiwan (2/1). Despite more jiao wei at the G20 conference, it seems fairly clear that Team Blue and NATO have turned their sights squarely on the Indo-Pacific - involving Taiwan, for better or worse. Attempting actual Control here is probably a red line for China, but there's no hiding Team Blue's push for Influence with Taipei.

Event resolves for Team Red, who get to peek at Team Blue's hand: Blockade, Formosan Resolution, Quagmire and Grain Sales to Soviets. Not too many Ops there, this explains why they were willing to risk Lone Gunman prematurely. Team Red gets to play their own Ops, then:

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Laos/Cambodia (0/3). There's no protection like overprotection, and China surely won't let their ASEAN blockers - and alternate outlet to the ocean - be pried loose. Deeper cooperation has been pledged, including a high-speed rail corridor possibly also including the Battleground State of Thailand, itself looking very much swayable after a recent change in leadership. The ball's in Team Blue's court here.

Two great leaders appreciating nature, in a more peaceful time
[N.B. Also united in staunch religious observance]

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Sunday, July 03, 2022 - 13:54 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Game Status Update II

They're even adopting Twilight Struggle terminology now...
(Source: globaltimes.cn)

Back to business, I suppose, and to follow up on the previous The Greatest Game update, about a month and a half ago - the involvement of bloc-specific "alphabet soup" cliques appears happening as projected, with the NATO/Shanghai Pact conflict expanding into a G7 vs. BRICS matchup (the twain notably sharing no members between them) too. But, before that, we might translate the developments into Twilight Struggle terms:

Turn 11, Action Round 1 (Team Red)

Nicaragua to Team Red

Team Red plays NATO for 4 Ops, resolving the Event after Ops.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Nicaragua (1/2), gaining Control for Team Red; Russia stations troops in Nicaragua, raising shades of the Cuban Missile Crisis and frontrunning a nascent Coup by Team Blue. This also maintains a foothold in Central America, enabling potential future Influence spreads to Cuba (watch out for overtures by Team Blue), Honduras and Costa Rica.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Brazil (1/1), further weakening Team Blue's hold on South America, who are already disgruntled with U.S. hypocrisy on democracy/development in the region.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in India (2/2), balancing Team Blue's attempt to draw India into their orbit through the Quad and IPEF, by re-emphasizing Team Red's Indian connections via the Shanghai Pact and BRICS etc. One suspects India would be happy enough to remain courted by both blocs, as they start paying for Russian coal with Chinese yuan.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in South Africa (1/2), pressing Team Red's current Domination advantage in Africa.

NATO event resolves for Team Blue, with the declining alliance reactivated and given new purpose. NATO officially declares China a challenge/enemy for the first time, to expected protest* from Team Red. Foreign Policy becomes the latest major pundit to declare a new Global Cold War era.

[*China Daily has further identified the choice of Madrid as host, as a sign of further NATO expansionism from what happened after the last time the Spanish capital held the Summit in 1997 (having already complained about Singa-proxy-hosting** the Shangri-La Dialogue in the interests of Team Blue, as explained here in May. Nothing much resulted from the Dialogue, but good kopi & mineral water was indeed to be had.)]

[**And to be honest, we have our fair share of Putin/Xi authoritarian-lovers here. But what could one expect, given the acceptance of arrests for holding up a smiley face?]

Turn 11, Action Round 1 (Team Blue)

Team Blue plays NORAD for 3 Ops; Canada pledges US$40 billion over 20 years to upgrade the continental defence system, but it remains to be seen how much of that will come through. Team Blue needs the Influence badly for now.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Turkey (3/2), yielding concessions on Kurdish terrorist groups towards the lifting of their veto on Finland and Sweden's request to join NATO.

2 Ops: +1 Influence in Sweden (3/0), +1 Influence in Finland (4/1). Both historically-neutral Nordic states are now close to falling under Team Blue's Control, as the Anglos make their push to Dominate Europe, despite economic disaster looming over the continentals. There has then been an effort by the Anglos to smooth matters over with their vacillating European allies, with Australia settling with the French over their aborted submarine deal, with things getting all too real.

Turn 11, Action Round 2 (Team Red)

That's +3 on the "military operations other than war" track
(Source: euractiv.com)

Team Red plays Socialist Governments for its Ops.

Coup! (3 Ops): -2 Team Blue Influence in Bulgaria (0/2), after Team Red rolls a 5; Pro-American Bulgarian government collapses, after losing a no-confidence vote. Coup, what Coup? What's good for Pakistan is good for Bulgaria, so they say - we did point out that Eastern Europe's always exciting. DEFCON degrades back to 3 (alternative ruleset in play here). Russia warns the Anglos that London is first up on their nuclear hit-list, with Warsaw now also mentioned alongside Berlin and Paris (as foreshadowed); Don't see Madrid/Rome/Athens coming under threat just yet...

Turn 11, Action Round 2 (Team Blue)

Team Blue plays Marshall Plan for 4 Ops; the Event allowing one Team Blue Influence in up to seven non-Team Red Controlled Western European states had to be very tempting, but alas, Europe is not where Cold War II will be won or lost. Instead, it will be the G7 to raise US$600 billion to compete directly with China's Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), which should be well worth 4 Influence, to the right client-states. Despite Team Blue indeed "coughing up some medals" (to much unspoken pain; well, we did warn that it won't be cheap), however, there do remain doubts about whether they will be able to actually execute these infrastructure plans, from how the BRI had been largely motivated by excess and abundant Chinese labour - a specific advantage that doesn't apply to advanced G7 nations.

Moreover, this move should embolden developing countries to try and play both sides to an even greater extent, with the Alliance of Democracies now having shown a willingness to spread the moolah to preserve the failing Liberal World Order; but eh, 4 Ops now is 4 Ops now:

2 Ops: +2 Influence in Poland (5/0). Permanent U.S. military base established in Poland. If Team Blue is going to save what remains of Ukraine, they're going to have to send a lot more help through Eastern Europe - and fast. It might not be enough.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Australia (5/1). Similarly for the Pacific, overprotection is the name of the game. Team Blue has just proposed a "Partners in the Blue Pacific" (PBP) pact consisting of the Aussies, U.S., U.K., N.Z., Japan and some say France, to counter Beijing in the region.

1 Ops: +1 Influence in Kenya (1/1). Team Blue figures they might as well play something into Africa, and who better than proxy-Singa to do the scutwork? This was what the Forum of Small States (FOSS) had been ordered to be formed for anyhow, with our PM expectedly name-dropping it during his Rwandan visit***, in which a Singapore-Africa Partnership Package under the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP) was announced.

[***Interestingly, right on the heels of the U.K. signing an agreement with Rwanda, to deport their illegal immigrants to the African country. The modern "Space Race"?]

Pretty by the book for these couple of months; hope it stays that way, for fewer... unfortunate misunderstandings. Nice to see Dr. Mahathir keep up with his prizewinning trolling at his age, nonetheless, with his latest suggestion that Singapore and the Riau Islands should be returned to Johor, simply a work of art. That's what keeps him up and (sorta) sharp, I reckon.

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