As entirely expected, the annexation referendums in Ukraine concluded with a supermajority of voters in all four involved regions apparently in favour of joining Russia, despite the "special military operation" still very much a work in progress. Astonishingly, it was only the 1% who objected in Donetsk and Luhansk, with no dodgy voter access issues as supposedly prevalent in the U.S. and other democracies - in to-be-Soviet Russia, ballot box come to you!
Despite early suggestions that annexation proper might not be rushed, the necessary paperwork would be signed by Putin before September ended, alongside the expected declaration that attacks on their new territories would be considered as attacks on Russia proper - theoretically allowing any and all means of defense, up to and including nuclear strikes. The land-grab would expectedly be wholly rejected by Team Blue and its G7 powerbrokers, while the response from Team Red's BRICS in the U.N. Security Council vote would be: Russia veto; China, India and Brazil abstained (South Africa not inside)
Well, it was not as if Russia were going to be persuaded out of it, continuing military reverses aside, and as open battle continued to rage in Ukraine, shadows moved:
Turn 12, Action Round 2 (Team Blue)
Thanks for what? Nobody did nothing!
(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com, twitter.com)
Right about when the sham-or-not referendums were ending, three of the Nord Stream undersea gas pipelines connecting Russia to Europe offed themselves, in a single day - or that was the initial story. It wouldn't take long before German federal authorities confessed that "their imagination no longer yields a scenario that is not a targeted attack", corroborated by the Swedes detecting unnatural explosions in the area. With initial indications that the pipes are damaged beyond repair, it's looking like Europe might not have access to piped Russian gas, for the foreseeable future. The only consolation for the Ruskies, then, might be that the burst pipes didn't detract from their electoral process, unlike in America.
Of course, once sabotage was confirmed beyond reasonable doubt, it became a game of Cluedoesque whodunit ("The [CIA/Russians/Poles/U.K./Illuminati] did it with the [Frogmen/Submarine/Drone/Hijacked Airliner/Coke & Mentos] in the [Baltic Sea]"); to nobody's surprise, Team Blue and associated organizations would hint at Russia kneecapping themselves, despite no official accusation from the Pentagon and European Union nations. The CIA has raised its recent warning against just such an eventuality as evidence that they couldn't have done it, which I gotta say is not very convincing.
While suspicions about the Agency (and America) have been denounced as Kremlin disinformation by Team Blue outlets, it would probably have helped their defence had their Secretary of State not described it as a "tremendous opportunity" that eagerly, as they seek to up their LNG exports to the continent - and at a very dear price. POTUS promising that there would no longer be a Nord Stream 2 by hook or crook earlier in the year can't be helping the U.S.A.'s case much either, without entering into the preexisting motives and circumstantial evidence. Russia's main argument has been that it doesn't make sense for them to bomb their own investment when they could just turn the tap off, but one supposes a Team Red false flag to confuse the Blues and quell internal dissent is not out of the realm of possibility - if just barely.
The immediate geopolitical consequence of the pipelines being busted is a dramatic reduction of Russia's energy leverage over Europe - can't tempt countries to your side when you can't supply appreciable quantities of gas to them, after all. In this way, popular demonstrations towards capitulating to (some) Russian demands in exchange for supplies would become naturally untenable - especially important given how vaccines as Influence-granting "medals" have shown much less lasting power than good ol' natural gas, as hinted in May's intro to The Greatest Game. There's no turning back for Germany, then, as Europe spirals down into Anglo-American vassalage.
Sounds like a challenge!
Well, if Team Red knows who did it, they're not saying it yet either (hint: the See-Aye-Eh), and we should really be getting around to Team Blue's move by now. They're taking a lot longer than usual at the table, Blinken appears to be haggling on some point of contention in "the rules", and it's getting rather heated. An elderly Chinese delegate is vigorously hammering the desk with his palm now, with quite impeccable form at that - haven't seen the likes of it since Khrushchev innovated his shoe-banging technique back in 1960! The argument goes on for awhile, and finally Team Blue announces their play: CIA Created for its Ops, Coup Iran. Wait, isn't DEFCON at 2, making this a MAD suicide move? Eh, somebody moved the DEFCON counter to 3 when no-one was looking? Well, it's not cheating if you aren't caught...
Coup! (1 Ops): It looks like Team Blue are hoping their opponents draw the CIA Event and be forced to play it in future, as John Bolton steps up to roll the dice, grinning like a Cheshire cat - Iran is the classic first-turn Coup in Twilight Struggle, after all. But no! Bolton gets shoved out of the way by Victoria Nuland! She gives the dice a couple of purposeful swirls in the cup, and comes up with a 4! That added to CIA Created's 1 Ops goes up against Iran's Stability of 2, resulting in -1 Team Red Influence in Iran (now 0/2). Could have been worse.
In case you haven't heard, Iran is (again) in the grip of protests after a young lady collapsed and died, from being detained for not wearing a hijab. Team Blue media has attributed it to severe injuries from a beating; countering that, Iran has released CCTV footage supposedly suggesting (unfortunate) heart failure. That does not appear to have prevented the biggest uprisings in the country since January 2020, which the Ayatollah has duly attributed to a U.S.-Israeli standard-pattern colour revolution. Sadly, mass protests appear to be falling in effectiveness in general, and these really aren't up to par quite yet. Team Red retains Control of Iran with some inconvenience for the present, and one quite expects them to answer in kind - and soon.
[N.B. Since we're on three (or five)-letter agency machinations, it appears that the U.S. government is investigating A.I. to identify anonymous writers on the Internet (i.e. "linguistic fingerprinting"), through an IARPA initiative. Well, brief experiments on Reddit data from some years back suggests that this may be surprisingly tenable, with the accuracy of getting the correct author from a thousand accounts as high as 80%]
Next: With Allies Like This
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