Red on blue stripes and white, stars through the perilous fight?
Ladies and gentlemen, we return to Twilight Struggle: New Moon, Turn 12 of Team Red on Team Blue! It's been about a month of fervent plotting from our present-and-wannabe superpower contestants since the end of the last Turn, but the gears of history turn when they must; those who make it are not immune to its final call, and it is perhaps thus fitting that the new Turn begins in memoriam of two icons of an era past. It's Team Red to the table first, then, to play their Headline!
Turn 12, Headline Phase (Team Red)
You got 'bout thirty years before the counter-reformation, bud!
[N.B. Also, if the aliens come, I've got ya back.]
(Original sources: twilightstrategy.com, timesofisrael.com)
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (1931 — 30 August 2022), Last Leader of the U.S.S.R., (and the face of Turn 10 in the board game, if you've forgotten), final full General Secretary of the Communist Party and President of the Soviet Union and part-time Pizza Hut promoter, passed away in Moscow at the age of 91, towards the end of August. What more appropriate than the demise of the man who ended the old Cold War, then, to herald the new? Whatever else, the world probably owes him a debt for overseeing a relatively graceful dissolution of Team Red v1.0; it could have gone far more badly for all involved.
All this does not hide the fact that, to the current Team Red players, he was simply a loser.
There will be no state funeral for the one who destroyed Russian pride and dismantled Russian empire, to the lasting disdain of many of his countrymen. To those in charge of the People's Republic of China, Gorbachev is remembered as an object lesson in what not to do; the CCP knew him as a "gravedigger" for the Red cause, Deng saw him as a "traitor" amongst other, less savoury, names, and while Xi's Foreign Ministry has sent the (unconvincing) form condolences, it isn't very difficult to guess at his verdict on Gorbie: F, for Failure.
Tienanmen, about concurrent with the tame Soviet collapse, was the proof - the CCCP might yield; the CCP would not. If Deng had blinked then, Team Blue might well have swept the board, for awhile at least. But, in a secret bunker beneath the White House, George H. W. Bush rolled a one after succeeding to the position of Team Blue head honcho, and the Coup failed. Oh well, can't win 'em all.
Feels slightly desperate, but at least shows some awareness
[N.B. According to the neighbourhood uncles at the funeral, it's "Covid is a bioweapon" lah; and do these fine chaps look like Nazis to you?]
But before continuing with Team Red's assignment of their Influence bounty (that last-round Space Race lead was for a reason, after all), some Hard Truths about The Greatest Game might be cleared up. By and large, America and Team Blue didn't win Cold War I (and the World Wars before that) because of democracy or liberty or inalienable rights or any deity's will or any of that piffle, really. And if you're talking about courage or resolve or those sorts of human intangibles, there was plenty of those to spare on all sides, to be fair.
No, your rank-and-file recruit ain't sustained on abstract ideals, or if so, not for long, anyway. Now, loyalty to his buddies in the trenches beside him, his Ancient Motherland, the ashes of his fathers, his flesh-and-blood family, food in his belly, gold, treasures, good iron tools, the G.I. Bill with VA healthcare and dental - all these are what men actually fight for - and more fool any cockanaden administration that pretends elsewise. Reduced to the lowest denominator, WW2 and Cold War I were won more in the factories of Detroit and the wheat fields of Kansas, than in any single grim, blood-soaked battlefield at Kursk or Vietnam. Oh, don't get me wrong, I quite like democracy too, but it was at best an indirect causal factor at work.
If we accept the above realpolitik on logistics and the providence of resources and staple goods (see: the Marshall Plan) being the primary determinant of winning friends and allies in both hot and Cold Wars, the geopolitical calculus suddenly looks a lot less clear. The G7 and European Union are currently putting up a brave front in imposing a price cap on Russian oil (to which one might realize that this implies continued imports), only for Team Red to call their bluff in announcing a halt in exports if that goes through (alongside OPEC sniggering while cutting production in tandem, after fistbumperino with POTATUS).
While The Reformer forestalls future Team Red Coups in Europe, it was pretty remarkable that they managed to pull Bulgaria off in the first place, given Europe's especially-stringent DEFCON requirements. In return, they have 6 Influence to spread here, as General Winter tightens the screws for Russia, as usual.
2 Ops: +2 Influence in Czechoslovakia (3/2). It can be amazing how quickly Control can be lost in a country, and when you have some seventy thousand enraged citizens protesting for a neutral stance in the Ukraine conflict (and against the European Union and NATO) in Prague, it's fair to say that the Czech nation is contested, at least.
1 Ops: +1 Influence in Italy (1/2). Being brutally honest here, "Italy" and "not switching sides" don't really belong in the same sentence (technicalities notwithstanding), from past conflicts. A former - and quite likely soon-to-be - minister has already come out against sanctions against Russia, with China having already quietly partnered up with their domestic media. Having mostly-monolingual strategists might suck in some ways.
1 Ops: +1 Influence in Turkey (sorry, Türkiye; 3/3). The Turks are considered part of the Western European polity in Twilight Struggle, but with President Erdogan loudly accusing the West of provoking Russia, it's quite clear that they're not considering themselves part of Team Blue, not without a really special offer. Russia for their part will probably be happy enough to send some goodies down the Black Sea route.
2 Ops: +1 Influence in [West] Germany (5/1), +1 Influence in Sweden (3/1). NATO may be picking up Finland and Sweden (with the Finnish PM recently in hot water for partying - though really, that's par for the course once basically puppeted into The Greatest Game), but there's many ways to skin a beaver. Sweden and Germany are already feeling the (lack of) heat from the energy and I-thought-it-was-transitory inflation woes, and have announced relief packages to quell social unrest - for the time being and while the Treasuries hold up, at least. Sweden also seems to be belatedly realizing that diversity ain't all it's cracked up to be, against the Team Blue globohomo narrative.
Some good news for Team Blue here, maybe - if they want some of that sweet, sweet gas, China and India have joined the Saudis as resellers of stuff that they just happened to find by the roadside, with Modi stating that he's keen to boost ties with Russia, including on energy. It's incredible how half a million canisters of LNG just falls off the back of a truck, these days.
Turn 12, Headline Phase (Team Blue)
Elvis the First, of course.
(By: Twilight Struggle Card Generator)
Elizabeth II (1926 — 8 September 2022), by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, died peacefully at her estate of Balmoral Castle, Scotland, about a week after Gorbachev. This came as quite the shock, from how she had been standing to receive the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss*, a few days ago, and was moreover apparently more than alert. The Queen Mother had made it past 100, mind, so one figures that she might have had a good few years yet - but on such matters at least, Mann tracht, un Gott lacht.
[*Once a supporter of ending the monarchy, but for once there's probably nothing in the conspiracy theories of Truss being very efficient in putting her ideas into practice.]
Even more than Gorbachev, Elizabeth II's passing has been recognized as marking the end of the twentieth century era, which should be fair given how immersed she had been in history's tides for that long period. To put this in some perspective, the to-be-Queen's photo was on the wall of Anne Frank's Secrete Annexe when the latter was in hiding (about concurrent with some peppy broadcasts on the BBC), and her reign encompassed some 30% of U.S.A. history, including 14 of the 46 Presidents thus far (some greater than others)
Said U.S. of A had, of course, seceded from Great Britain in the (totally-illegal) Insurrection of 1776 (with some help from Team Red:France, in Twilight Struggle: Napoleon Edition), which they're still rubbing in to this day by celebrating Insurrection Day every July 4. But as the old saying goes: success requires no explanations, failure permits none; it was all so long ago, like nearly a century before Elizabeth II's grandfather George V was born, and they're all getting along swell nowadays, as part of the Anglo/Five Eyes Team Blue core.
Home sweet home
(Original source: wikipedia.org)
In the Singaporean context, for locals above the age of about sixty, it might be noted that Elizabeth II was, for a time, indeed their Queen, as British subjects (a legacy that lives on to the present day with Commonwealth citizenship); Singapore had been a British colony from its 1819 founding till 1963 (barring a few years of Syonan-to-ing), which means that she had been monarch here from 1952 till our (completely non-insurrectiony) independence. Given this, it's only to be expected that a bunch of places have been named after her, most prominently the Queenstown region (formerly Wuweigang), but also assorted promenades, schools, and the obligatory orchid (everybody gets one, it seems). The government has ordered our state flags at half-mast for the funeral, which seems a nice gesture given the longstanding association with the U.K. and Commonwealth.
The sun might not have quite set on the British Empire, but it's honestly getting mighty dark, as twilight falls and a new moon rises (with five stars, in our case). The Prince of Wales has finally become gainfully employed as King Charles III the Patient (third time's the charm, hopefully) through instantaneous succession, beginning his career proper at 73 years of age, after an extremely long apprenticeship. The problem, however, is that he doesn't seem nearly as popular as his mother (or his sons, for that matter), in large part a consequence of the Princess Di saga**. This has revived the periodic calls to abolish the monarchy*** - or at least for Charles to abdicate (which was never realistic) - but the passage of time might yet endear him to his subjects, who have some new lyrics to get used to.
[**While Diana aced the media, the story of Charles III and Camilla (now Queen Consort) might be somewhat more sympathetic in that she was always Charles' first choice, but their pairing was blocked because Camilla was considered "too experienced" (i.e. possibly unwilling to play the role of simpering figurehead ornament), and she was moreover not nearly aristocratic enough, as her grandpa was merely a Baron ("why can't you marry that nice Spencer girl instead, her dad's an Earl, now that's passably respectable". Prince Harry might count his blessings in being the spare, then.)]
[***Look, you can't buy a better tourist attraction than the Royal Family. And frankly, the kingdom needs the income.]
Well, not like he's really in charge anyhow...
Elizabeth II's reign in Singapore had seen Cold War I propaganda run its course here, and as our Prime Minister in waiting has again emphasized in a chat with his Malaysian counterpart, "the golden age of globalization we have enjoyed for the last three decades is probably over, and we are entering a new order, one marked by increasing geopolitical conflicts and a potential fragmentation of the global economy". DEFCON falls back to 2 with the loss of the stabilizing force that was Her Majesty - shouldn't be any more obvious Coups in the near future, then - and four precious Influence for Team Blue.
1 Ops: +1 Influence in Syria (3/3). Team Blue suddenly remembers why they were in on the old proxy war in Syria in the first place, as they expand their presence in the al-Omar oil fields to liberate the petrochemicals - which is only logical, we have got to say. Fell off the back of the other truck there.
1 Ops: +1 Influence in Israel (5/2). Wait, the Iran nuclear deal is off the table again? Wasn't it Bad Orange Man who scuppered the agreement? How can this be so difficult to conclude?
1 Ops: +1 Influence in Pakistan (2/1). No matter how much the likes of the NYT and related Team Blue FAKE NEWS blares it, it remains that India was never a U.S. ally - and let's get real, as and when India actually gets their act together, Uncle Sam will create trouble for them to keep them down... eh, they already have. That leaves leveraging Pakistan with a US$450 million F-16 deal, to try and pressure the Indians. Let's just hope the goods don't end up with the Taliban or Kashmiri terrorists, then.
1 Ops: +1 Influence in Germany (6/1). Team Blue absolutely cannot lose the Germans in this Game, without going into what happened the last couple of times they felt they were getting a raw deal. It's been going okay so far on this end, as the Germans join in on the... what was the acronym... yes, the PBP in entering Pacific waters. The Kriegsmarine is back, baby!
Next: Before The Cold Comes In
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