Matters of Honour (Earth II)

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Founded: Feb 10, 2020
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Matters of Honour (Earth II)

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Sat Oct 24, 2020 12:26 am

His Royal Highness The Archduke of Austria
Evergreen Palace, Royal District of Bainbridge
Duchy of Washington, Kingdom of Apilonia
Sunday 1st November 2020, 2300hrs Local Time

Although the Evergreen Palace was not as large and majestic as the Hofburg in Vienna, the Apilonians had never been quite as indulgent or decadent as their European cousins, it was still a building worthy of the name and could throw a celebration with the best of them. It was a great day for a celebration after all, given that it marked the official foundation of the Apilonian Commonwealth; the brainchild of President Jonathan Mulder of South Africa and wholeheartedly embraced by the Kingdom of Apilonia. It was a day that had been long-awaited and was being celebrated all over what was now the Commonwealth; Austria, East Africa, South Africa, and of course Apilonia herself. After gathering for the signing of the Treaty of Cape Town, several weeks previously, the heads of government from each of what were now Commonwealth Realms had again come together in the Royal District of Bainbridge (the capital district of the Kingdom, a part of Greater Seattle) for a great ball and celebration. Outside of high society it was remarkable how quickly the general populous, both in Apilonia and in all of the Commonwealth Realms, had latched onto the idea and run with it.

For King William V of Apilonia, now also bearing the title of Head of the Commonwealth, it was a moment that he had never thought he would live to see. After several decades of decline, followed by more decades of stagnation, the Kingdom had started to reassert itself on the world stage and to take a more active role in the fortunes of its former colonies, but the King had been privately concerned for the long-term prospects of a resurgent Apilonia. Now, seeing the Commonwealth come to life, the King was far more reassured that Apilonia would survive and prosper after he was gone; which he feared would be sooner rather than later, given his age. It was also very encouraging to see that Apilonia had not only learnt from the excesses of its colonial period but was actively working to fix the mistakes that had been made during the Crisis of Confidence and to work together with its daughter states (and others, such as the Archduchy of Austria) for a better, brighter and more prosperous future. For a King that had been born at the height of the old Apilonian Empire, and essentially presided over its decline as its King, the feeling was indescribable.

Ever since the Commonwealth had been in the offing, and particularly since the signing of the Treaty of Cape Town, the King had been filled with an energy and a drive that belied his advanced years. Few would say that King William V was ever a slouch, and he had a stern and dominating presence that served him well as King both domestically and internationally, but in recent years those closest to him would describe him best as ‘weary’ after a long reign… but that now was a thing of the past. In addition to being personally involved in the extensive discussions that had taken place to put the Treaty of Cape Town together, an involvement that all the other delegates had been more than happy to see, the King had spent most of the last few weeks since the signing travelling around the new Commonwealth on public relations trips and had already agreed to become patron of dozens of charitable organisations in what were now the Commonwealth Realms. He had also instructed the Keeper of the Privy Purse to ensure that each of these charities benefited from their new Royal patronage.

George, Archduke of Austria and one of the King’s grandsons, he had not seen his grandfather quite so energised and enthusiastic in his lifetime; having been too little to remember a time before the Terror, which had taken its toll on the King’s demeanour. Although George had known that the King loved all of his grandchildren, if he was reluctant to show it overtly, the time that he had spent with his grandfather when he had visited Austria shortly after the treaty signing had been the best he could remember. Although still stern and an intimidating presence, the King had shown a gentler side of a doting grandfather on his grandson and his new granddaughter-in-law during his time at the Hofburg. He had also been far more engaged with the public, both at home and abroad, than he had been previously; whilst he had never been rude and had been more than capable of carrying on a conversation with anyone, regardless of class or age, he had always been a little more noticeably detached than any other Royal or member of the nobility. Since the birth of the Commonwealth, and in particular in the new Commonwealth Realms, the King had been far more accessible to his newfound peoples in a way that was more familiar in the Prince of Cascadia.

Not that George, or anyone else for that matter, was complaining… except perhaps the Household Cavalry, who provided the close protection details for the Royal Family, alongside the Foot Guards who provided for the physical security of Royal Palaces and other residences.

The King’s newfound gregarious side had been on full display at the Commonwealth Ball. Where previously he would have remained at the top table presiding over the affair, but only interacting with others when required, the King had descended onto the floor and spent his evening engaging countless courtiers, nobles, and other dignitaries from across the Commonwealth. It was a role that was expected of the Apilonian Monarch, given that they maintained a hands-on role in the governance of the Kingdom this sort of networking remained essential, particularly for building a political consensus in the House of Lords, but was one that King William had largely neglected instead relying on his son, the Prince of Cascadia. The Apilonian Establishment, the vast majority of which was present at the Commonwealth Ball had been surprised, but pleasantly so, by the King’s return to his traditional role. There were still boundaries of course, and the King was treated with the great respect due his rank, but it was a positive change none the less.

Nevertheless, not wanting to put a damper on the further celebrations, the King had invited the other heads of state and select courtiers, to retire with to one of the Palace’s drawing rooms for a more intimate end to the evening whilst the rest of the guests were able to enjoy themselves as dancing got underway in the Great Hall. In addition to the King and Queen of Apilonia, the Prince and Princess of Cascadia were present, with although George’s older brother Prince Alexander had remained in the Great Hall at the request of his fiancé, the Cottish Princess Tyra, to preside over the rest of the ball. George and his own wife; Sophia, Archduchess of Austria, were present of course, as was President Mulder of South Africa and Sheikh Mohammed bin Ahmed al-Sufi of East Africa, along with the Apilonian Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Sebastian Barnes, and the just-appointed Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Sir William Ecclestone, who had of course played a vital role in the development of the Treaty of Cape Town as the former HM Ambassador to South Africa. In short, it was a veritable who’s who of the newly founded Commonwealth.

Nevertheless, despite the jollity of the occasion, both George and Sophia seemed distracted now that the group had withdrawn into more private surroundings, and it did not take long for the ever-observant King (and his son, the Prince of Cascadia who had inherited that particular trait) to notice. After a silent conversation between the King and Prince, in which they exchanged concerned looks at the Archduke and Archduchess who sat talking quietly away from the group, the two older men stood and moved over to sit in chairs close to them. The rest of the group did not pay much attention at this point, engaged in various other conversations around the room, with Queen Suzanne particularly interested in discussing the proposed Commonwealth Foundation with Sir William.

“My powers of observation, renowned as they are across the Kingdom and beyond, tell me that something is bothering the two of you,” The King said wryly, prompting a brief smile from the pair. “To be distracting you on a day like this, it must be pressing… so we’re all one family here, by blood or by Commonwealth, so let’s work it through together.”

George and Sophia glanced at each other before both signing heavily.

“We’re worried about Hungary,” George admitted eventually.

Although few in the room knew the exact details of the situation between Austria and Hungary, it wasn’t their concern and had not been asked for assistance so they had only a general knowledge of what was going on, the mention of the situation was enough to bring the conversation in the drawing room to a halt as the rest of the group listened into the conversation.

“Ah, I see,” The King nodded thoughtfully. “Or, more accurately, you’re worried about Yugoslavia.”

George nodded grimly. Hungary was a constituent province of the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, an authoritarian socialist that controlled the bulk of the Balkans. The vast majority of it had had been, at one time, under the control of the Austrian Empire or one of its satellite states. Hungary, by contrast, had been Austria’s one-time partner for a period as the Austro-Hungarian Empire and had always been the black sheep of the People’s Republic as a result. Now, with Yugoslavia finding itself embroiled in turmoil due to increasing unrest due to a combination of an inability to raise the basic living stipend (the welfare payment made to the poorest class of citizens in the People’s Republic, to which they had become reliant and started to demand steady increases) and more and more information making its way past the Yugoslavian censors about the quality of life for even the poor in the outside world. As such, Hungary had been involved in talks with Austria for several months now, since the successful Austrian defeat of a military uprising by the disgraced Margrave of Istria, about returning to the fold. Highly secretive of course, but intelligence indicated that the Yugoslavians were aware or at least suspected.

“Okay, so you expect the Hungarian leadership to request to be voluntary annexed into the Archduchy, without consulting the People’s Government in Belgrade because permission is unlikely to be forthcoming,” The King replied thoughtfully, seeing this as an opportunity to demonstrate his son and grandson his thought process. “Whilst I assume you’ll hold a plebiscite to confirm the popular support for annexation in due course, I imagine your concern is that Yugoslavia is unlikely to take it lying down, even if the Hungarians want it.”

“Exactly, the Hungarians have support of their local brigade commanders, the senior officers of which are largely Hungarian,” Sophia explained. “However, we’ve reports of other Yugoslav brigades mobilising to the south, so we strongly suspect they’ll try and stop us.”

“Almost certainly,” The King agreed. “Meaning that you’ll have to immediately, and decisively, enforce your annexation.”

“And that’s the ball game,” George sighed. “At that point, we’ll be in a general war with Yugoslavia, which is what our MOD has started to prepare for.”

“What is your real concern, George,” The King pressed with a frown. “Obviously we assume you win the war, especially with our support.”

“Our concern is the post-war situation… even if the Yugoslavian people are less and less enamoured with authoritarian socialism and will likely welcome a regime change, we suspect that they’ll be much less inclined to accept such a change if it’s done by us,” George sighed. “There is still a lot of bad blood there as a result of the crackdown by Austrian troops following the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914, and of course the Balkans War that followed and led to the formation of the People’s Republic… even if we can install former nobles of the right ethnicity to administer the province, I just can’t see the people accepting Austrian rule, and yet…”

“And yet you can’t just leave Yugoslavia alone even once you’ve fended off their attempt to prevent your annexation of Hungary,” The Prince of Cascadia commented. “Even if you neuter their military, they’d still be a simmering threat on your southern border.”

“Exactly,” George sighed heavily. “You see our dilemma; we let them get away with it, they remain a threat, we take them out we’re saddled with an almost inevitable decades-long insurgency.”

“We do, and you’re right that you’d be stuck between a rock and a hard place, so you make sure you don’t end up in that situation,” The King said firmly. “We defeat them militarily, then you sign a peace treaty with them, and help them rebuild… it’ll almost certainly be a new regime by that point, and you have an opportunity to build a new relationship.”

“You be magnanimous in victory,” The Prince of Cascadia agreed emphatically. “Break the cycle, and you’ll be surprised how positive the future can seem.”

“That’s dangerous,” Sophia said cautiously. “Yugoslavia has been a threat to Austria for over a century.”

“That’s why someone has to take the first step, even if it’s to the backdrop of a military conflict, to break the cycle as His Majesty said,” Sir William commented as he joined the conversation. “Once the first step is taken, if they are receptive, we can leverage the resources of the entire Commonwealth if needs be… imagine it, not having to live in fear of Yugoslavia…”

Sophia nodded thoughtfully for a moment before laughing, breaking the tension that had filled the room over the past few minutes.

“I can see why you ended up as the Commonwealth’s Secretary-General, Sir William,” Sophia said wryly.

“You are too kind, Your Royal Highness,” Sir William smiled graciously.

“It’ll be challenging, but one I think we can rise to,” The King said, then sighed. “As it’ll affect you, we should probably talk about Greece…”

His Royal Highness The Duke of Sparta
The Kastello, Rhodes
Disputed Territory of the People’s Republic of Greece
Monday 2nd November 2020, 0900hrs Local Time

Rhodes, largest of the Dodecanese Islands and their traditional capital, was technically part of the People’s Republic of Greece; a polity that had been setup following a socialist revolution in the 1924, heavily backed by the larger People’s Republic of Yugoslavia to the north, overthrew the King of Greece. However, although the socialists revolutionaries had captured and executed the King of Greece for ‘crimes against the people’, they had failed to capture the King’s only son and heir; Prince Alexander, Duke of Sparta, who had fled with a number of loyalists across the Aegean Sea to the Royalist stronghold of Rhodes where he had established a resistance movement dedicated to freeing Greece from the socialists and restoring his family to the throne. Although several attempts to gain a foothold on the mainland were unsuccessful, the Royalists had a solid base of support on Rhodes and across the Dodecanese, with additional support on a number of other Aegean islands, the Royalist caused remained alive and was able to repel several attempts by the socialist regime to destroy the Royalist resistance.

On the last occasion, in 1937, the People’s Republic’s attempt was repulsed with the assistance of the Kingdom of Apilonia, in which the Apilonian dreadnought Warspite, two cruisers, and a screen of destroyers had intercepted the socialist Greek invasion fleet and turned it back, with an implicit message that Apilonia would protect the Royalists on Rhodes. This had occurred for two reasons; the first being that Apilonia had enjoyed a long presence in the Mediterranean in the form of the Crown Colony of Malta, and as such had significant national interests in the region. The second reason was that Prince Alexander was the grandson of King William III of Apilonia, and therefore a relation of the current King, Francis III, following the marriage of one of William III’s daughters, Princess Elizabeth, to a Greek Prince. It was not uncommon, amongst the world’s royalty and nobility, for many of the current Kings, Queens, and high nobles, to be distantly related as a result, and had proven to be particularly fortuitous for the Greek Royalists. Although the Greek Socialists would not attempt another invasion of Rhodes, or the Dodecanese, Apilonia continued to supply and finance the Greek Royalists, in the hopes of one day returning them to the throne and securing a solid ally in the Mediterranean.

This support had not come without consequence for the Kingdom, however, as a combined Greco-Yugoslav force attempted to invade the Crown Colony of Malta between 11 June 1940 and 20 November 1942, in what became known as the Siege of Malta. Despite a siege of nearly two and a half years, during which Apilonian defenders stalwartly held their positions whilst a succession of convoys resupplied the beleaguered colony, the attempt failed when an Apilonian fleet destroyed the combined Greco-Yugoslav fleet at the Battle of Malta and enforced terms on their opponents. In an ideal world, Apilonia would at that point have moved more proactively to make an attempt to put the Greek Royalists back in power, however the Siege of Malta had proven exceptionally damaging to the Kingdom’s economy and was just one of a number of threats that the Kingdom would face during the 1940s. As a result, the Kingdom found itself taking an increasingly cautious approach and supporting a Greek Royalist invasion directly was a very risky proposition, and with the election of a Liberal Party government in the 1950s, which had a mandate for extensive domestic reform, rapid decolonization (to the detriment of the former colonies in many cases, a mistake that was only now being rectified), ended any serious discussions in the Kingdom on the matter.

Although more conservative voices within the Apilonian Parliament, particularly the House of Lords, was able to ensure that the Kingdom would continue to support the Greek Royalists with supplies, funding, and implicit protection against invasion, direct involvement short of this latter eventuality seemed very unlikely. Moreover, by this point, many Greeks were still enamoured with the ‘socialist experiment’ and appetite for a return of the Monarchy was low in mainland Greece, even if the Royalists maintained a following across the Aegean. In time, Prince Alexander passed away and was replaced by his eldest son, Prince George, who took the title of Duke of Sparta; committing to never taking the title of King until he was restored to his throne; a tradition that was followed since. Although there would be limited progress on reclaiming their throne, Rhodes (and the Dodecanese) would develop into a thriving tourist economy, as did much of the Aegean, which were seen as more attractive holiday destinations for foreigners than the socialist mainland. This economic strength allowed the Royalists to remain relevant in the Greek mindset, as although the People’s Republic of Greece fared better than Yugoslavia, which was under a far more strict regime, it lagged behind Rhodes and other Royalists holdouts in terms of economic strength per capita.

Prince George ruled over Rhodes, and its other holdings, until 1970,, when he died and was replaced by his son, Alexander, who would in due course be replaced by his own son, Constantine. As compared to his father, who had been brought up in Greece before the fall of the Monarchy, all Constantine had known was life on Rhodes, although he shared his family’s desire of a return to fortune. After a childhood on Rhodes, and in a desire to gain military training for any potential return to the mainland, Constantine applied for and was accepted into the Apilonian Army’s officer training program at the Royal Military Academy, Kingston, eventually accepting a commission and serving several years in the Apilonian Army in order to gain practical experience as an officer in the Household Cavalry, although he never saw combat. After returning to Rhodes, he was appointed Colonel of the Royal Army although it would be several years before he took over from the professional officers, as he learnt the practical skills necessary to be an adequate commander. During this period, Constantine employed his contacts within the Apilonian Army to ensure that the Greek Royal Army received the best possible training, and was committed to ensuring that, although small, the Royal Army would be as formidable and capable as possible.

After succeeding his father as Duke of Sparta in 2010, Constantine had embarked upon an ambitious program of military spending (heavily subsidised by his Apilonian backers, of course), in an effort to boost his cause’s functions. Although he knew that he would not be able to defeat the socialists in a straight-up engagement he was fed-up of simply cooling his heels on Rhodes, particularly as the rise of social media began to reveal to the Greek people just how restricted their political, social, and economic liberties actually were. As part of this program, the Royalist received twelve (plus four replacements, plus spare parts) Hawk 200 light combat aircraft, giving the cause organic air combat capability for the first time, along with two Roussen-Class fast attack craft allowing the Royalists to more effectively police and patrol the waters around the Dodecanese. Perhaps most importantly, given that Apilonia consistently made it clear to the socialist regime in Athens that it would protect Rhodes, these additional military assets allowed the Royalists to conduct several high profile confrontations with the socialist forces; whether they be by intercepting their fighters which occasionally patrolled the southern Aegean, or by intercepting their own fast attack craft when they made mischief in Royalist-controlled waters.

In short, and given that news of these encounters spread quickly in the age of social media, it made clear to an increasingly dissatisfied population that there was an alternative to the authoritarian regime in Athens, even as it tried to crack down on increasingly frequent protests, similar to the situation in Yugoslavia.

At the same time as the Apilonian Commonwealth was celebrating its birth in Seattle, Constantine, Duke of Sparta, sat in his study looking out over the old town. The forty-two-year-old had been watching the development of the Commonwealth with a great deal of interest, particularly given that there was a Commonwealth member in the region in the form of the Archduchy of Austria. Although painfully aware that there was a great deal of work that needed to be done before he could dictate how Greece was run, but he could at least consider his options for when (if) that glorious day came. Assuming that he was able to reclaim his throne, it stood to reason that Yugoslavia would not be tremendously happy to lose what could charitably be called a puppet state in the People’s Republic of Greece, joining the Commonwealth was something that he was strongly considering, given both the defensive benefits and the economic advantages and investment to help rebuild Greece. Moreover, as he was a descendant of an Apilonian King, and therefore a relation of the current King, it made a great deal of sense and the people would likely largely not be too bothered if it resulted in prosperity for them.

Constantine was pulled from his thoughts by a knock on the door and turned in his chair to watch as a man wearing the tropical undress uniform of the Apilonian Royal Navy entered the room. Officially speaking this man, bearing the rank insignia of a Lieutenant Commander, was a ‘naval observer’ to the Royalist cause. In reality, Constantine knew that the man was in fact an operative of the Apilonian Royal Intelligence Service (RIS), and as such served as his primary communication link to the Kingdom; although Apilonia recognized and supported his existence they avoided a diplomatic incident by only maintaining a consular affairs office on Rhodes to support Apilonian tourists and never interacted with Constantine. All actual communication was done under the counter, as it were.

“Commander Sherington,” Constantine said in way of greeting.

“Your Royal Highness,” Lt. Commander Preston Sherington replied with a nod. “How was your weekend?”

“Uneventful, spent it reading intelligence reports, please do repeat my thanks to the RIS for sharing them with me, they are encouraging,” Constantine replied. “This Commonwealth business has Yugoslavia, and therefore Greece, in a barely concealed panic by the looks of it.”

“The Commonwealth, and the developing situation between Austria and Hungary for that matter, Yugoslavia is running scared right now,” Lt. Commander Sherington agreed. “Between the Commonwealth, and the expansion of the Pact, Yugoslavia is increasingly isolated.”

“They’re not the big bully of a small playground anymore,” Constantine observed. “They’re just a small part of a much bigger one.”

“Just so,” Lt. Commander Sherington agreed.

“So, what can I do for you, Commander?” Constantine asked, leaning back in his chair, as a footman arrived with iced water.

“The Ministry of Defence wanted me to make you aware that it is our belief that Hungary is coming to complete its defection from the People’s Republic in the very near future, and that we believe that Yugoslavia is not going to take the matter lying down,” Lt. Commander Sherington replied. “As such, we expect Greece to become increasingly unstable as a result, particularly if the unrest continues to increase and the likelihood of a crackdown by the regime, particularly with Yugoslavia distracted, increases and may offer you an opportunity.”

“Sounds intriguing,” Constantine smiled. “Tell me more.”
Last edited by The Kingdom of Apilonia on Mon Nov 23, 2020 8:16 am, edited 2 times in total.
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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The Kingdom of Apilonia
Posts: 144
Founded: Feb 10, 2020
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Thu Oct 29, 2020 11:01 am

His Royal Highness The Archduke of Austria
Sándor Palace, Budapest
People’s Republic of Yugoslavia
Wednesday 4th November 2020, 1200hrs Local Time

Sándor Palace, once the primary residence of the Kings of Hungary (a title eventually held by the Habsburgs), was modest as far as palaces went and it was probably for that reason that it had been chosen to be the workplace of the President of the General Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Hungary (SRH), currently Balázs János, despite its links to the ‘decadent past’. Of course, the fact that the Hungarians had always been… reluctant ‘comrades’ in the socialist revolution spearheaded by Yugoslavia probably played a role as well, for much the same reason as the fact that the Hungarians were about to be the first overt true crack to appear in the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia in a century. A crack, many observers suspected, that could potentially shatter Yugoslavia entirely depending on how events played out. Given the nature of what was happening, and despite attempts at secrecy, it had not been long before whispers of what the Hungarian National Assembly, believing themselves (accurately) in touch with the general consensus amongst the Hungarian people, was intending to do reached the outside world. Afterall, it wasn’t like the sheer number of visits by Austrian diplomats could go unnoticed, even if efforts were made to keep them low profile, nor could the increased military preparedness amongst the Hungarian Brigades of the People’s Army.

As a result, all of eastern Europe had been tenterhooks as they watched to see both when the Hungarians would make their move, and what kind of response it would draw from Belgrade.

The first indication that something was about to happen was the low-key arrival in Budapest of the Archduke of Austria; completely without fanfare or official acknowledgement but dutifully reported by various intelligence agencies, not the least of which was the infamous Yugoslavian Committee for State Security. This wasn’t confirmation of course, but given that the Austrians had been careful to conduct all of their previous negotiations and discussions through diplomats, without the kind of attention that a dignitaries arrival would result in, it was certainly a significant indicator that something was going to happen. At much the same time, the various regional security apparatus of the SRH began to provide as much obstruction to their nominal Yugoslavian masters, in an effort to reduce the amount of accurate on-the-ground intelligence that Belgrade would have at its disposal. It would not take long for this obstruction, along with the arrest of a number of key Yugoslavian officials within the SRH, to provoke a response from Belgrade on its own, but they would soon be overshadowed by a far larger provocation as far as the Politburo was concerned.

Shortly after noon, the Archduke of Austria and the President of the General Assembly appeared before television cameras in one of the reception rooms of the Sándor Palace and almost immediately the gathered journalists and TV crews knew immediately what was about to happen and broke out into surprised and excited whispers as they reported the situation back to their newsroom. Almost before the two men started to speak, their press conference was quickly becoming breaking news on regional and international news programmes due to the expected content of their announcement. Indeed, both men stood a few steps back from the two podiums that had been set up, speaking quietly away from the microphones, in a move that the journalists recognized as one intended to give time for the news programmes to do just that and break into their normal programming with news that would significantly alter the balance of power in this part of the world.

“Good Afternoon, thank you all for coming, it is always my great honour to speak to you, and to the Hungarian people, from this most august of settings, a testament to our heritage, it is also my honour to be jointed today with my guest, His Grace the Archduke of Austria,” President János began, speaking Hungarian. “We have come before you today to make an important announcement regarding the future of the Hungarian People, and the matter of our continued relationship with the federal government of Yugoslavia in Belgrade.”

If there had been any lingering doubt about the subject of this press conference, it was not put beyond question.

“For many years, Hungary has held to the socialist ideals that spread across the Balkans and Eastern Europe in the first half of the last century, and for many years these were largely successful in many respects, however in recent years as the world has become much smaller we have found ourselves increasingly confined within Yugoslavia when it comes to truly seizing the birth right of our people,” President János continued. “Where once the Socialist Party was the vanguard of the people, entrusted with its betterment, charged with carrying the revolution forwards, it is now only concerned with holding onto its own power, and amplifying all the worst traits of a one-party state, the brutal crackdowns within Yugoslavia is evidence enough of that, and points to perhaps a far too narrow view of the world in favour of ideological ‘pureness’.”

János paused for a moment.

“Let me be clear; neither I nor any other member of the General Assembly are advocating the abandonment of the poorest within our society, however we can no longer in good conscience follow the path favoured by the Politburo in Belgrade, which has taken the working class to its knees; totally reliant upon the basic living stipend which has simultaneously proven inadequate and ruinously expensive,” János explained. “As such, following a vote of the General Assembly, the Socialist Republic of Hungary formally secedes from the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia…please allow me to finish, however it has been made clear to us that Belgrade will not allow our decision to stand on its own right, and intends to take military action against us… as such, we have turned to our old friends in Austria.”

János paused once more, again having to raise his hands to appeal for quiet as he was bombarded with questions.

“As you are all doubtless aware; during the days of the Kingdom of Hungary, the Hungarian Crown was held by the Emperor of Austria, and the nation was ruled together as Austria-Hungary; it is to that heritage and that longstanding friendship and kinship that Hungary now turns today; although both the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary are long gone, our friends in Austria are not,” János continued. “There will be some, particularly in Yugoslavia, who would decry Hungary getting into bed with Austria the ultimate betrayal of the revolution; and whilst it is ruled by a hereditary Archduke and Archduchess, it also has a fully representative Parliament, responsible for changing the law; with democratically elected representatives, something that Yugoslavia could never claim to have possessed.”

“Moreover, although a firmly capitalist economy, Austria also enjoys an extensive and well-developed system of welfare that supports the most needy members of society without making the entire people reliant upon the state; indeed as many of the protesters in Yugoslavia have accurately stated; the average worker within Austria is significantly better off than the average worker within Yugoslavia, and the poor are far better cared for and supported in their attempts to climb of poverty, rather than allowed to fester,” János explained, having clearly thought about this a great deal. “It occurs to me, as it has to many of my colleagues, and many of our people, that a one-party state exemplified by Yugoslavia is an anachronism in the modern age; centred around an ideology that declares that only the state can solve the problems facing the people, and that the state knows what is best for the people without giving them a voice or allowing dissent, and that is not something that Hungary can further allow… I know hand over to the Archduke to speak further.”

President János gestured to George with a smile and a nod.

“Thank You, Mister President; let me firstly say that it is a great honour to be here for this momentous day for the Hungarian people, and it is a great honour that you have entrusted the future prosperity and security of your people to a partnership with us; as many of you will know I am not Austrian myself, and yet I have developed a great love for the Austrian people, and everything that they stand for, and that the people of my homeland share many of the same principles and beliefs as Austria,” George began, speaking in English although he had learnt some Hungarian. “The President is absolutely correct when he says that, in many respects, the poor and the working class are cared for better in the Archduchy than they ever could be under a socialist regime; we seek to support those who need it and raise up those that can, rather than condemn and entire class to an squalor and poverty; such us the risk when those in power believe that only they know the correct way forward; whether they be in their position due to the circumstances of their birth, or their ‘loyalty’ to a political party.”

Although a ripple of surprise passed through the journalists, few had expected the Archduke himself to so explicitly denounce the ideology of the People’s Republic, but for those that had followed his career this really ought to be hardly surprising. The Archduke, like the rest of the Apilonian Royal Family (and most of the Apilonian nobility), was a strong supporter of liberal democracy, and was amongst those that believed that the Government did have a responsibility to the most disadvantaged. Indeed, even the Apilonian Conservative Party would broadly agree that there was a need for some degree of state welfare, and that the main disagreement within Apilonia (and indeed within Austria, as George had discovered) was on the extent. It was perhaps true that a socialist system in an economy the size of Apilonia’s would be able to offer a higher standard of living than was available in Yugoslavia, but it was unlikely that such an economy would be possible much less maintained. Afterall, despite the intentions of the Yugoslavian basic living stipend, its economy simply could not sustain an ever-increasing social welfare payment on that scale.

“The President is also correct when he refers to the longstanding friendship between Austria and Hungary, one that has continued over the past decades as much as possible with the Yugoslavian censors, and as many of you will also recall, Hungary was the only part of the then-Austrian Empire to ask to be allowed their independence, rather than to simply raise their flag in rebellion; a courtesy that I can assure you the Archduchy has not forgotten,” George continued, after a few moments. “As such, and following negotiations with the General Assembly; Hungary will formally become an integral part of what shall become the Archduchy of Austria and Hungary; it shall be as integral to our state as Austria, with all the privileges and responsibilities of that position, including full representation in the Assembly, and shall firmly be our equals, not our subordinates, and although we must take immediate action, this decision will be subject to a free and fair referendum as soon as circumstances permit to confirm the judgement of the General Assembly.”

There was another ripple of surprise in response to this; few perhaps had expected for Hungary to be placed on the exact same level as Austria itself, although given the historic relationship it was perhaps hardly surprising… as well as politically opportune as it would significantly undermine any allegations of expansionism or imperialism. However, most journalists had latched onto the phrase ‘we must take immediate action’ and were watching intently as the Archduke waited for silence.

“As many of you will be aware, the Politburo in Belgrade has made it clear that they would view any secession on the part of Hungary, or indeed any of their constituent republics, as illegal, and whilst President János and the General Assembly disagree with them on that point, citing the right of the people to self-determination, we must assume that Belgrade will follow through on their veiled threats,” George said grimly. “As such, and at the rest of President János, the Austrian Military will be immediately moving to protect Hungary, as it would any other part of its integral territory; operating alongside existing Hungarian military units to resist what we would consider to be an act of aggression against Hungary and it’s people… indeed, I suspect the Yugoslavian incursion has already become.”

The press pool watched in silence as a Hungarian military officer, who had entered the room and caught the eye of the Archduke almost immediately, approached first President János and then George himself, speaking quietly to them. After a few moments, and a hurried conversation with János, George turned back to the journalists.

“Both my staff and President János’ office will be issuing updates to the press as soon and as often as is practicable,” George said with a wry smile. “For the meantime, I ask all Hungarians to stay calm during what I suspect will be a difficult afternoon, thank you.”

Without waiting for questions George stepped back from the podium along with President János who led him from the room. The two men shared a concerned look as the Hungarian President led the way through the Palace heading towards the basement where there a secure war room had been established. Already waiting for them was the Hungarian General Staff, as well as several liaison officers from the Austrian Military. Although neither the Archduke nor the President, or indeed Archduchess Sophia back in Vienna, would have any direct involvement in the operation, given that it already been planned by their respective general staffs, both men were determined to remain abreast of the situation.
As expected, the situation had progressed apace in the minutes that had passed since the beginning of the press conference. Two Yugoslavian brigades, the 2nd and 9th, had launched an attack across the border into Hungary. The eastern advance, by the People’s 2nd Division, had run into opposition almost immediately, due to the defensive positions that the Hungarian 1st Brigade had quietly erected between the city of Szeged and the border and had become bogged down as soon as they crossed the border and began to take fire. In the west, the People’s 9th Brigade was able to advance over a dozen kilometres into Hungarian territory before they too encountered rapidly assembled defences protecting the city of Baja and the Hungarian 2nd Brigade. Knowing what was coming, the Hungarian General Staff had moved its two primary maneuverer brigades to the south in order to stop the Yugoslavian attack before it could get going, and in particular before it could roll into Hungarian cities. It was a dangerous strategy, as it theoretically put all of Hungary’s eggs in one basket, however the support of Austria would prove decisive.

The Austrian 1st Panzergrenadier Division, usually based outside of Hörsching, had been quietly moved to eastern Austria under the guise of a major exercise in a military training area, but had instead been under sealed orders to prepare for an advance into Hungary. Whether or not the Yugoslavian’s had been fooled by this ruse was uncertain, however they had still committed their brigades to an assault into Hungary. As such, as soon as word reached the divisional commander that Yugoslavian troops had entered Hungary, the 1st Panzergrenadier Division turned away from its exercise area and rolled into Hungary from the west. It would take several hours for the leading elements of the division to arrive, particularly as they were under orders to minimise damage done by their heavy armoured vehicles, but they would arrive quickly enough to prevent any further Yugoslavian incursions into Hungary if they were able to get past the Hungarian brigades in the south. Indeed, as it stood the 1st Panzergrenadier Division’s orders were strictly to take up strategic positions along the Danube, with one brigade ordered to link up with the Hungarian People’s Guards battalion that had been tasked with securing Budapest itself.

In an ideal world, the 1st Panzergrenadier Division would not actually need to go toe-to-toe with the enemy, as that would suggest that the Hungarians had been successful in throwing them back and hopes for a limited conflict would remain. If the 1st Panzergrenadier Division got involved directly, it was far more likely that a far larger conflict had been ignited.

As it was, even as the ground troops were beginning to engage each other, a far more ferocious fight was taking place in in the air; where the nature of aerial combat meant that the fight would likely be over in a matter of minutes, rather than hours… with consequences to the forces on the ground. A squadron of Yugoslavian MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters had entered Hungarian air space at the same time as their two brigades had crossed the border; initially it seemed likely that they would conduct bombing strikes against Hungarian defensive positions, however the Hungarian People’s Air Force had been placed on alert earlier in the day and a full squadron of MiG-21 Fishbed fighters had taken to the skies to oppose them. The older MiG-21s were naturally at a disadvantage against the newer, more modern, Fulcrums, as was doubtless the tacit intent of the Yugoslavian Politburo, but they put up a valorous effort none the less. Watching the engagement take place on a composite display that was assembled various sources, including Hungarian air defence radar, it was obvious to George that the Hungarian pilots were deliberately flying defensively in an effort to prolong the engagement rather than bring it a decisive conclusion that was unlikely to be in their favour.

Fully aware of the plan, George already knew what was coming but the Yugoslavian pilots continued to try and shoot down their elusive prey.

Approaching from the north-west, at full afterburner, was a full squadron of Austrian Typhoons. Significantly more advanced than even the Fulcrums, the Typhoons swept into the battlespace and broadcast a pre-arranged signal on the Hungarian air force’s tactical frequency. As one, the surviving Hungarian Fishbeds broke off and bugged out northwards en-masse, leaving the Yugoslavian Fulcrums to follow in their wake. At first, it must have seemed to the Yugoslavians that the Hungarians had gone insane; as they had stopped attempting to outfly them and instead fled, thereby exposing themselves to missile lock. However, before they could shoot down the Hungarian Fishbeds, the true gravity of their situation became apparent as their Radar warning receiver squawked a warning that they were being painted by a hostile radar, specifically the active radar guidance seekers of the Meteor beyond visible range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAM) being carried by the Austrian typhoons. With the Hungarian Fishbeds out of the way, the door had been wide open for the Austrian Typhoons to engage the Yugoslavian Fulcrums, who immediately went on the defensive in an effort to survive the next few moments. Desiring a decisive engagement, however, each Austrian Typhoon had fired two Meteor and no Fulcrums would survive to return to Yugoslavia, although some ejected pilots would be captured by Hungarian forces.

As he considered the strategic situation unfolding in front of him, with constant updates from Hungarian and Austrian forces across the area, George could not help but frown with concern. Something did not feel right. With the Typhoons, which had been outfitted with a multi-role loadout, turning their attention to supporting the Hungarian ground forces in contact with the enemy, the Yugoslavian attack seemed destined to stall and fail. Although he had been an intelligence officer during his service in the Apilonian Army, he had been trained by the Royal Military Academy, Kingston, and had a working understanding of military tactics and strategy. The Yugoslavians had to have known that, even discounting almost certain Austrian intervention, that Hungary had two brigades of their own and yet they had still only sent in a matching two brigades. Conventional military thinking called for a 3:1 superiority of forces in order to launch a successful attack (with an even higher ratio being desirable if friendly casualties were to be minimised), and whilst this could be achieved by force multipliers in addition to actual combat elements, it was a good rule of thumb.

As such, a force of six Yugoslavian brigades would have been more in line with conventional military thinking, or perhaps four with adequate force multipliers in support. Given that the professional core of the Yugoslavian Army consisted of four brigades in Serbia and four brigades in Bosnia, the latter seemed more likely. And yet, the attack against Hungary had been far smaller, and inadequately supported to make up for that. It was almost half-hearted, and yet George would not have expected the Politburo to let Hungary go so easily. Afterall, if the intelligence assessments were correct (including some that he himself had written, albeit several years previously) it seemed likely that the unopposed (or rather, barely opposed) secession of Hungary would result in significant unrest across the People’s Republic as various dissident groups sensed weakness on the part of the Politburo. It had therefore been the working assumption that the Politburo would take dramatic action to prevent (or at least try to prevent) the secession from succeeding. And yet… they were clearly holding back with their incursion into Hungary.

“You’re troubled, Your Grace?” President János commented, studying the Archduke’s face carefully.

“Something doesn’t feel right about this attack,” George replied quietly. “It’s too half-arsed… too easy.”

“I was thinking the same,” János admitted, with a frown of his own. “I expected a far larger response from Belgrade.”

George nodded his agreement with the sentiment. It just didn’t make sense; if Belgrade was going to try and oppose the Austrian ‘annexation’ of Hungary, its only way of doing so was to quickly and decisively move into Hungary. Of course, the Austrian military planners had anticipated this, which was why the 1st Panzergrenadier Division had been on alert all morning. However, whether or not the attempt would ultimately have been successful they ought to have attempted it with far more strength than they had done. Of course, Austria had the far superior position as although it had a smaller population than Yugoslavia it had a far larger economy, which had allowed it to field a large (for its size) and well-equipped military; six professional divisions compared to eight professional brigades for Yugoslavia, although they were backed up by significant reserve forces of various, and in some cases dubious, quality. In any event, although the balance of power was firmly against them on an offensive war, if they were going to attempt one it made no sense that the Yugoslavians would do so as ineffectively as they had done.

In short, something was wrong.

George felt a chill down his spine as a harried looking Hungarian officer entered the war room and approached the two leaders; his instincts would prove painfully accurate.

“Mister President Your Grace, we’ve just received word from our Embassy in Vienna,” The Officer reported. “Yugoslavia has attacked Austria.”
Last edited by The Kingdom of Apilonia on Thu Oct 29, 2020 11:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Mon Nov 02, 2020 5:18 pm

His Majesty William V, King of Apilonia and Head of the Commonwealth
The Evergreen Palace, Royal District of Bainbridge
Duchy of Washington, Kingdom of Apilonia
Wednesday 4th November 2020, 0400hrs Local Time

“The Chief of the Defence Staff is here, Your Majesty.”

William V, King of Apilonia, glanced up from the intelligence report that he had been reading to look at his Permanent Equerry, a military officer that served as a ‘body man’ in attendance to the Monarch, Lieutenant Commander Sebastian Bexley, who stood at the door to his private sitting room and nodded. It was not uncommon to find the King up late, or awake early, as he was one of a small percentage of the human population that could get by on no more than four hours sleep; a habit he had picked up at the Royal Naval College, Monterey during his time as a Naval Cadet in his youth. Although it was not widely known to the public, it was an open secret within the Apilonian Establishment that the King could regularly be reached in the small hours of the morning. Given the integral role that the King played in the governance of the Kingdom, and particularly foreign policy, this was fortuitous given that international crises did not tend to comply with the business day. Moreover, it also ensured that the King was particularly well-informed, as he regularly filed his late nights by reading the vast amount of reports generated by Apilonian Intelligence.

Lt. Commander Bexley was not so fortunate as to be able to function on such little sleep, however as the King’s Permanent Equerry he was afforded a small suite of rooms within the Palace itself, to ensure that even when asleep he would be available to attend upon the Monarch. The position was not an easy one, it required long hours and total dedication, which was the primary reason that the Permanent Equerry was typically heled by a comparatively low-ranking officer, but it was a great honour regardless and such officers typically went on to long and successful careers within their respective service. It was no surprise to the King, therefore, that Lt. Commander Bexley wasn’t wearing his uniform, instead wearing dark jeans and a crew neck sweatshirt bearing the crest of his previous ship. By contrast, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew T. Whittaker, was in his uniform, having remained at the Ministry of Defence, having had a gut-feeling that something would go arwry in Europe.

“Sir Andrew,” The King said quietly, gesturing to another armchair beside the fireplace. “I assume something untoward has happened in Hungary, as the announcement was due to take place an hour ago.”

“Yes, and no, Your Majesty,” Sir Andrew replied as he settled into the seat. “Yugoslavia invaded Hungary, as we expected, two brigades.”

“Only two brigades?” The King frowned. “Ah, the ‘and no’, I imagine.”

“Yes sir; as planned the Austrian 1st Panzergrendier Division swept into Hungary, and some Austrian Typhoons tangled with enemy MiGs,” Sir Andrew explained. “However, once the Austrians had committed in the east, the Yugoslavians launched a much larger in the west.”

“In the west… into the Duchy of Croatia?” The King leant forward. “There’s not a lot of strategic depth there, particularly with the Istrian defences compromised.”

“We’re waiting to hear the details,” Sir Andrew explained. “You’ll have them in your morning briefing, as soon as we know.”

“I’d hope so,” The King nodded. “You don’t seem very concerned, Andrew.”

The Chief of the Defence Staff shook his head with a wry smile; with another man a four AM briefing would be the epitome of a concerned man; but given that he had already been up, and his confident knowledge that his King probably awake, it had simply been good practice and one that the King had cultivated with all of his military chiefs.

“Truthfully, I’m not all that concerned based on the early reports,” Sir Andrew said simply. “The Austrians don’t see it as an existential threat, an irritant that could do some damage to be sure, but nothing more.”

“Nevertheless, we should prepare to lend our support, this surely comes under the mutual defence clause of the Treaty of Cape Town, it seems that the Commonwealth’s first official action will be military action” The King commented thoughtfully, leaning back in his chair and sipping a mug of cocoa. “Although I suppose, in this dangerous world of ours perhaps it is a good thing that we underline, from the start, our commitment to the principle that an attack upon one of us is an attack upon all of us, it might help dissuade others in the future.”

“I’ve already ordered the Permanent Joint Headquarters to place all of our military assets in the Mediterranean on high alert,” Sir Andrew agreed with a nod. “The Commonwealth Regional Commands have just been stood-up, this is clearly a joint operation, we’d be best authorising CRC Europe to command our forces, as intended.”

“I agree,” The King said simply. “As you say, this is a Commonwealth matter now, I would feel much more comfortable with a joined-up approach from the start.”

Sir Andrew nodded his agreement; although he had not been present when the Archduke and Archduchess of Austria had expressed their concerns, that it would be necessary to fight a war that ended in a capitulation on the part of Yugoslavia, to remove their threat, he had been informed and knew as well as anyone that a cohesive strategy from the start would be preferred.

“Agreed, we’ll get on that straight away, obviously the Austrians will have a great deal of input, so we’ll need to touch base with them,” Sir Andrew nodded. “The Supreme Commonwealth Commander is getting settled at Alcatraz Garrison, I’ll pay him a visit in the morning.”

“I’ll speak to the Prime Minister in the morning, Parliament ratified the Treaty, so we’re committed to military action to defend a Commonwealth Realm, so there’ll be no issues there,” The King replied. “I’ll also sit down with the Secretary-General as soon as possible, I want us all singing off the same hymn sheet on this one, we’ll need to play this one very carefully, from a political and optics perspective.”

“I’ll leave that in your very capable hands, Your Majesty,” Sir Andrew smiled wryly. “I’ve got my hands full with the honest-to-god fights, I don’t have time for the cosmetic ones.”

“You and me both, Admiral,” The King chuckled. “Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury, so I have to make time for it.”

“Well, I suppose it helps that you only sleep a few hours a night, Sir.”

“Just so,” The King laughed. “Alright then, I get the feeling it’s going to be a very busy day tomorrow… what say you we get started?”

Feldmarschall Kristopher Wintheiser
Miramare Castle, Free City of Trieste
The Archduchy of Austria
Wednesday 4th November 2020, 1500hrs Local Time

The Yugoslavian advance into the Archduchy of Austria had been swift, precisive, and with sufficient weight; everything that it’s attack into Hungary had not been.

Exactly one hour after the press conference in Budapest, and shortly after the Austrian Typhoons had entered Hungarian air space and defeated the Yugoslavian MiGs, the remaining six professional brigades of the Yugoslavian People’s Army rolled across the border into the Austrian province of Istria. Leaving only rapidly mobilising second, third, and even fourth rate reserves to defend Serbia and Bosnia, the Yugoslavians threw everything they had into Istria. Aside from a commendable element of surprise, in which the brigades had been quietly moved into staging positions under cover of darkness, the offensive was also significantly advantaged by the lack of any real Austrian defensive positions in the region. Following the betrayal of the former Margrave of Istria, the Austrian military had had to bomb most of the defensive positions in Istria into submission, in order to avoid excessive casualties which would be detrimental to the rebuilding and reconciliation process. It had been successful in this respect, however the well-developed Austrian defensive positions in Istria had not yet been rebuilt and had certainly not been manned sufficiently to repel an attack of the magnitude that Yugoslavia was launching despite being designed specifically for that purpose.

It was impeccable timing on Yugoslavia’s part, as emotions had only just cooled down in Istria that would have allowed Austrian military engineers to enter the territory in order to complete the repairs. Doubtless, this was why Yugoslavia was playing its ace card in Istria, rather than in Hungary as had been expected.

Over the course of the first hour, three distinct Yugoslavian columns had advanced over thirty kilometres into Austrian territory; a stunning rate of advance only made possible by the lack of any real resistance. The central column was making straight for Zagreb, the regional capital of the Duchy of Croatia, the western column making for Trieste or Ljubljana (the capital of the Duchy of Slovenia), with the exact target uncertain at the stage, whilst the eastern column appeared to be moving into a position on the flank of the 1st Panzergrenadier Division as it moved through Hungary to support their brigades in the south. It was an audacious and clearly well-considered plan, not only did it take advantage of the Austrian weaknesses in Istria but it also ensured that the ‘punitive’ invasion of Hungary wad adequately supported, despite initial assumptions to the contrary.

In the skies above Istria, the Yugoslavian People’s Air Force was out in force, two squadrons of MiG-29s were in the battlespace, supported by an A-50 Mainstay airborne early warning and control (AWACs) aircraft. With the ground troops not yet encountering resistance both squadrons of Fulcrums were conducting a fighter-sweep, and had already inflicted significant casualties on the Austrian Luftstreitkräfte, hitting Pleso Air Base, the military half of Zagreb International Airport, in force. Although early warning radar had picked up the increasing number of combat aircraft over northern Yugoslavia, and had given enough warning to allow half a dozen Austrian Typhoons to get into the air, one full squadron and another half squadron had been caught on the ground; the third squadron assigned to be base only surviving on account of being over southern Hungary. Those Typhoons that had managed to get into the air had put up a valiant struggle, particularly in shielding civilian aircraft that had been using Zagreb International as the airspace rapidly cleared as flights were diverted northwards away from the combat zone, but all six that had gotten airborne had been downed despite taking eight Fulcrums with them.

It would be unfair to say that the Yugoslavian offensive had caught the Austrian Military flat-footed, as they had been on alert for potential Yugoslavian action in response to the situation in Hungary, but few had expected the conflict to take place outside of Hungary itself. Indeed, the 6th Jäger Division had been deployed across the Duchy of Croatia and was dug-in ay key positions and the Yugoslavians would soon find themselves in a proper fight; one brigade was holding the division’s base at Vinkovci and would soon be encountered by the Yugoslavian’s east column, whilst another brigade was dug-in south of Zagreb, and a third stood on the road to Trieste. It had been difficult decision on the part of the Austrian Ministry of Defence, to not position the 6th Jäger Division in Istria and ask them to hold the shattered defensive positions, as it effectively surrendered the territory to the enemy until a counter-attack could be arranged, but from a tactical perspective it had been the right call. Overhead, additional Typhoons from bases in Austria and Switzerland were conducting their own fighter-sweep to push the Yugoslavian MiGs back into Yugoslavian air space and regain air superiority, at least over friendly territory.

Watching the fighting unfold was Feldmarschall Kristopher Wintheiser, until recently the Chief of the General Staff of the Austrian Army, the man who a few weeks ago would have been commanding the Austrian ground forces as they tried to get a handle on the rapidly developing situation. Originally intended to be promoted to the rank of Feldmarschall and the position of Chief of Defence, Wintheiser’s promotion had come through without any issues but his appointment had been dramatically changed by events in South Africa. With the establishment of the Apilonian Commonwealth, of which Austria was a founding member, had come the Common Defence Agreement and an entirely new supernational military structure to facilitate the implicit defence cooperation that would result from it. As a result, the world had been split into regional commands that would command all joint commonwealth military operations and would be led by a joint command staff. Feldmarschall Wintheiser, becoming the first man to hold the Austrian Army’s highest rank at the same time as the Chief of Defence, had been appointed as the Commonwealth Regional Commander, Europe; Given the prominence of the Archduchy of Austria in the theatre, it only made sense that it would be an Austrian officer in overall command.

After a quick review of the Austrian defence estate it had been decided that the Commonwealth Regional Command, Europe, would be sited at the historic Miramare Castle outside of Trieste. Not only was it ideally suited, close to Trieste Naval Base and several other military facilities, but it was also in idyllic surroundings which would be very useful for matters of defence diplomacy. Feldmarschall Wintheiser, his staff officers, and several dozen enlisted support had arrived at Miramare as soon as the Commonwealth was formally established on 1 November and begun the process of establishing their headquarters. Although the building had been vacant, it had been maintained by the Austrian Ministry of Defence and the military infrastructure was still intact with only a few minor upgrades required, which were quickly performed. Nevertheless, it would be safe to say that the command was not exactly at peak efficiency as it had not been expected that a major conflict would erupt so soon after its establishment.

Nevertheless, a conflict had kicked off, awfully close at that, and it was Feldmarschall Wintheiser’s job to co-ordinate the Commonwealth response to it. Under the Treaty of Cape Town, the Commonwealth’s founding document, an attack upon one member-state was an attack on all of them, requiring a full military response… although few had expected it to be required so soon. As it stood, only the Kingdom of Apilonia itself would likely be in any sort of position to provide assistance, certainly in the timeframe that would be required, from its Crown Colony of Malta in the Mediterranean. At this point, with only Austrian troops in-country, Feldmarschall Wintheiser had made the decision to stay out of the way of the Austrian General Staff until such time as other Commonwealth troops were on the ground, which would likely be several days. However, Apilonia had extensive air assets based on Malta and they could be brought to bear in a matter of hours, and as such Feldmarschall Wintheiser had ordered that the air operation be co-ordinated through the Combined Air Operations Centre, Luqa, based on Malta and led by an Apilonian RAF air officer, which was also in the process of setting itself up albeit with the advantage of already having been an active and operational Apilonian command centre.

Doubtless it had felt more than a little unusual, for the Luftstreitkräfte commanders to have to answer to COAC Luqa, even if they had been granted wide latitude in their actions at this stage of the campaign, but the advantages would become self-evident once the COAC could take more direct control and, in particular, once Apilonian combat aircraft were able to enter the theatre. In an ideal world, the new joint operational framework would have been practised in the relative ease of a peacetime exercise, however it seemed that the Commonwealth was going to get a baptism by fire.

There was, Feldmarschall Wintheiser considered thoughtfully, an additional benefit to be had from this situation. Whilst the Austrian General Staff got a control of the immediate situation, and whilst COAC Luqa leveraged Apilonian air power to assist, Wintheiser and his staff could look at the bigger picture and get valuable planning time in even as the defensive effort was ongoing; something that would undoubtedly be to their advantage when it came to organising and conducting a counter-attack. By the time there were Apilonia (and potentially other) forces inside Austria, in which case Wintheiser would assume direct command over the entire campaign, they could very easily have a cohesive plan already in place.

With that in mind Wintheiser turned his attention to the bigger picture, gathering his staff to him.

It was a safe assumption that the primary objective of the Yugoslavian attack was to secure Hungary; the eastern column was stronger than the other two combined (consisting of four brigades) and was clearly hoping to catch and destroy the 1st Panzergrenadier Division in Hungary and destroy it. The two other columns, each consisting of two brigades, were likely intended to hold the Austrian forces in place whilst this happened. If they were able to accomplish this, by no means a foregone conclusion, it seemed likely that the Yugoslavians would attempt to secure a ceasefire once they had bloodied Austria’s nose and secured Hungary. Wintheiser was doubtful whether Vienna would simply concede the matter, certainly not now that Austria had the backing of the entire Commonwealth, but it made sense from a strategic perspective as it was the only real option the Yugoslavians had, and might well have been successful if they were able to complete their initial objectives with minimal losses and could threaten the Austrian heartland with two of its divisions already destroyed.

It was perhaps telling of this intent, to try and overwhelm the two Austrian divisions already in the field and to threaten Austria directly, that there had not yet been a push against the Split Naval Base by any Yugoslavian troops, even if they would likely be reserves. Although Trieste remained the Austrian Navy’s primary base, due to Split’s proximity to Yugoslavia, it was still surprising that such a substantial military base was left alone for the moment and was possibly an oversight that could be turned against them. The Yugoslavian People’s Navy was largely inconsequential to the strategic picture as far as it’s offensive capabilities went, primarily being a coastal defence force more than anything else, with a fleet consisting of only four frigates, backed-up by a potentially problematic two dozen Osa-Class missile boats. The destruction of the Yugoslavian Navy would permit direct strikes from the sea against targets within the People’s Republic, providing a much-needed distraction from the fighting in the north.

Although by no means a naval officer, Wintheiser had familiarised himself with the balance of power within the Adriatic and knew that the Yugoslavian missile boats would be a significant challenge to the Austrian Navy (doubtless as intended, as this was of a more pressing concern to the Yugoslavians than more distant operations). As such this was as good a time as any to hand assign the task of defeating the Yugoslavian Navy to the newly-formed Commonwealth Standing Maritime Group TWO which was assembling near Malta (even if it was slated to be based out of the Split Naval Base, in the long-term), and consisted of both Apilonian and Austrian warships, as well as a South African frigate. The destruction of the Yugoslavian Navy was also of the upmost importance for another reason; there had also been some talk during the planning stages that to take the fight to the Yugoslavian heartlands of Bosnia and Serbia there were… advantages to Apilonian ground forces being involved. Given the long, and often difficult, history between Austria and Yugoslavia it was unlikely that the average Yugoslavian, much less the pollical elite, would be prepared to capitulate to an Austrian invasion and would be far more likely to fight to the death in such an event.

By contrast, there was a better chance that they would seek a negotiated solution (or the people would overthrow the Politburo in order to negotiate themselves) with Apilonia. Indeed, given that the political situation was already deteriorating within the People’s Republic, the last thing that anyone on the other side wanted to do was to give them an external threat to unify against when they were about to rip themselves apart from the inside. As such, and perhaps ironically, a direct Apilonian (and therefore Commonwealth) involvement would likely save many more lives than if it stayed out of the fray, as although they could simply defend Austria and destroy the Yugoslavian military but not enforce a capitulation it would simply kick the problem down the road and Yugoslavia would rise as a threat once more.

As a result, part of Wintheiser’s planning staff had been considering how best to get Apilonian troops into Yugoslavia and had come to the conclusion that an amphibious operation, likely targeted against Dubrovnik, would be the most practical way to sidestep the known Yugoslavian defences defending against a push from Split. All of which required command of the sea, in order to get the amphibious forces ashore unmolested.

“Send a signal to Commander, Commonwealth Standing Maritime Group Two,” Wintheiser ordered, crisply and decisively, after a few long moments in thought as he considered how proactive to be. “Commence operations against Yugoslavian Navy at local discretion.”
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Thu Nov 12, 2020 5:28 pm

Rear Admiral Joseph Blackburn, RN
HMS Relentless C108
Adriatic Sea
Wednesday 4th November 2020, 2100hrs Local Time

A night action was not exactly the best way for a multinational naval force to get used to operating together. It was perhaps fortunate, therefore, that three of the five ships had operated together previously, and at least one of those three had operated alongside, in combat no less, with the other two.

Under the Common Defence Agreement, each Commonwealth Regional Command would establish a Standing Maritime Group that was designed to provide it with an immediate operational response capability. A Standing Maritime Group was not meant to replace sustainable deep-strike capability, like those provided by the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers and battleships, or the day-to-day commitments of the individual member-states. Rather, the Standing Maritime Group was intended to provide a small, but cohesive, force maintained on high readiness to respond quickly and decisively, usually in advance of a larger force. As such, Commonwealth Standing Maritime Group TWO consisted of one cruiser, HMS Relentless, two destroyers, HM Ships Turbulent and Tempest, and two frigates, Austrian Warships; larger and more capable than many small navies but by no means the full naval force capable to Apilonia, Austria, or the Commonwealth in the Mediterranean Sea. It was, however, more than sufficient to take on the Yugoslavian People’s Navy. Shortly after receiving the signal from Commonwealth Regional Command, Europe, the allied squadron had turned north-east from Malta and steamed at flank-speed towards the Adriatic.

Rear Admiral Joseph Blackburn, of the Royal Navy, had been appointed as the Group Commander. Although the Archduchy of Austria was, by far, the largest Commonwealth Realm in the European theatre by territorial area, it had been recognized almost immediately that Apilonia had the larger naval presence in the Mediterranean, so it had been a no-brainer that an Apilonian officer would command the maritime forces. Afterall, in the spirit of the co-operation enshrined in the Common Defence Agreement, the senior command slots had been spread out between the member-states; with both the Regional Commander, and the ground component commander, being Austrian. In any event, Rear Admiral Blackburn was a career Apilonian naval officer with a solid reputation and service record to date.

As the group had proceeded into the Adriatic, a Nimrod MRA.4 maritime patrol aircraft from RAF Coastal Command on Malta had flown on ahead of them to get the ‘lay of the land’ that they were about to sail into. By all accounts, the Yugoslavians had gotten wind that the group was on the move, probably from intelligence sources on Malta or perhaps in Yugoslav-flagged shipping, and had sortied from their bases in force to oppose them. As far as could be ascertained, all four Yugoslavian frigates had put to see as had twelve of their missile boats, a respectable force to say the least. In terms of missile firepower, assuming that the Yugoslavians fired all their missiles in one large salvo (which they would be foolish not to), that gave them a not unsubstantial throw-weight of sixty-four anti-ship missiles, SS-N-2 Styx according to naval intelligence. Given that it was normal practice to commit two defensive missiles for every offensive one, the thinking being that it was far better to waste one missile firing two than to fire one and have that one be ineffective when the safety of the ship was concerned, this posed a real threat to the Commonwealth group.

And they were closing fast.

“Red Dog, Red Dog, Red Dog, inbound enemy attack missiles, number eight-zero.”

Rear Admiral Blackburn remained silent, his expression dispassionate, as he stood in the operations room of the cruiser Relentless and watched as its air warfare officer reported the incoming Yugoslavian missiles.

“All ships engage,” Rear Admiral Blackburn ordered crisply.

The Relentless herself was the best equipped ship of the group, possessing one-hundred-ninety-two vertical launch system cells, and the Sea Viper missile system she carried was capable of firing eight missiles in under ten seconds from her VLS cells and simultaneously guiding up to sixteen missiles at once. In most other theatres, and from the next year in the Mediterranean, the two Apilonian destroyers accompanying Relentless would have been the newer, more advanced Type-45 (or Vigilant-Class), which was equipped with the same Sea Viper system and capabilities (albeit with a smaller number of VLS cells). In this case however, the two destroyers were of the venerable (but aging) Type-43 (or Paladin-Class), which was equipped with two far older twin-arm launchers for Sea Dart, which were capable of putting four missiles into the sky every twenty seconds. The two Austrian frigates were equipped with sixteen cells of the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, with no capacity for reload, and could only control half that number at any given time. All of this meant, that in its opening wave of defensive missiles the Commonwealth group could muster forty missiles in total, which climbed from the allied ships and raced away towards the incoming threat.

With two defensive missiles targeting each inbound missile, twenty Yugoslavian missiles went down to the initial wave, and whilst the Austrian frigates were effectively out of the fight as far as surface-to-air missiles went, neither Relentless nor either of the destroyers let up in their defensive efforts. As each defensive missile fired from the three Apilonian warships intercepted with its target, another was launched as soon as the fire control capacity became available. The Sea Dart equipped destroyers did their best to keep firing missiles as quickly as their twin-arm launchers could reload, and they had the fire control space, but they could not compete with the fire rate available to Relentless, which kept a stream of missiles launching from her VLS cells, only pausing when necessary for fire control purposes. Another twenty Yugoslavian missiles went down well clear of the squadron, which still left twenty-four incoming missiles.

On balance, this was still far from ideal as the remaining enemy missiles would slash across the remaining distance in a matter of seconds, but the squadron’s defences were not fully expended just yet. Even as another salvo of eight Sea Darts were launched from the two destroyers, and another eight were launched from Relentless (combined to account for eight more incoming missiles) the point defence emplacements of the three Apilonian warships opened fire with the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, from the four SeaRAM launchers spread across the three ships. The Bureau of Weapons had hummed and hawed for some time when deciding whether to get the larger capacity launcher, which required guidance and fire control radar from the ship, or the smaller capacity SeaRAM weapon systems, which possessed the same integral guidance as a Phalanx CIWS. In the end, it was for exactly this situation that the decision had been made to go with the SeaRAM; the tactical objective of any attacking force would be to launch a saturation attack which overwhelmed the air defence capability of a defender. In such an engagement, having fewer missiles that could be targeted, launched, and guided autonomously was far more desirable than having more missiles when fire control capacity would be at a premium.

Moreover, SeaRAM did not require hull-penetration and could be used to equip pretty much any ship; as a result, even the aging Type-43s had been refitted with SeaRAM in place of their Phalanx CIWS.

Of the sixteen enemy missiles that survived the last salvo of Sea Dart and Sea Viper missiles, eight went down to SeaRAM whilst another four went down to the traditional Phalanx CIWS mounted aboard the Austrian frigates, leaving just four missiles remaining to enter terminal attack range. Fortunately for the allied warships, they did not just possess hard-kill measures to defend themselves and the Relentless in particular boasted a formidable electronics warfare suite, and all the ships were equipped with various countermeasures that could spoof or draw away hostile missiles. Which was precisely what happened, all but one incoming enemy missile veered away from their targets, whilst the last successfully homed in on and struck the destroyer Tempest on her port quarter, badly damaging her propulsion and causing her to rapidly lose speed as she began to belch black smoke from a significant hole beneath her flight deck.

It had been, all things considered, a tightly run thing, as had the Yugoslavians been able to get even three or four more missile boats underway the attack would likely have overwhelmed the defences.

“Position Relentless and Turbulent between the enemy and Tempest, Salzburg and Vienna, we’re best equipped to cover them,” Rear Admiral Blackburn ordered crisply. “Target enemy frigates with our missiles, launch Wildcats to engage the enemy missile boats.”

Even as the allied squadron maneuverer to shield its damaged destroyer, and missile-less frigates, it worked to continue the action against the enemy force, which had already turned away in an attempt to flee after their failed attack. Relentless, Turbulent, both Austrian Frigates and, to Blackburn’s pleasant surprise, even Tempest opened fire with on the enemy frigates a short time after the end of the missile attack. Both the Austrian frigates fired their full complement of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, for a total of eight missiles, whilst Tempest and Turbulent fired half their complement, another eight missiles, this time the Apilonian Broadsword anti-ship missile, whilst Relentless herself fired twelve Broadswords as well, for a total initial salvo of twenty-eight missiles targeted at the four enemy frigates exclusively. As the Yugoslavian frigates were equipped with significantly less capable surface-to-air missiles and close-in weapons systems, this was more than sufficient to overwhelm their defences and each ship was hit by two missiles, which given their small size (compared to more modern frigates) was enough to sink them.

At the same time, Lynx Wildcat helicopters had launched from the Turbulent, Tempest and Relentless, armed with the Sea Venom lightweight anti-ship missile which was capable of sinking targets up to one thousand tonnes in size and as such far more suitable for targeting the small Yugoslavian missile boats. Each Wildcat was armed with four Sea Venom missiles, and they quickly closed the distance to firing range and launched their loadout against their targets, one missile per fleeing missile boat. Of course, the Yugoslavian missile boats weren’t totally defenceless, armed with two 30mm AK-230 close-in weapons systems, but they were only able to bring one to bear and between the advanced guidance of the Sea Venom, and the confused, chaotic retreat of the missile boats, their defensive fire was only partially effective. Eight of the Sea Venoms hit home, with the other four getting shot down short of their targets. Regretfully, by the time the Wildcats returned to their ships and re-armed, those four remaining enemy missile boats would safely return to their home ports, however they were immediately placed onto a targeting list being drawn up by the Combined Air Operations Centre at Luqa, and would be destroyed alongside in the coming days.

With the fighting over, for all intents and purposes, Rear Admiral Blackburn turned his attention to his own command.

“Status report from Tempest,” He ordered crisply.

Captain Joshua Graham, his Chief of Staff, was holding a handset to his ear and held up a hand to indicate that he was already doing so and would make his own report to Blackburn in a few moments. Knowing better than to rush one of his subordinates unnecessarily, aware that it was far more likely to cause mistakes rather than anything else, Blackburn remained in silent thought. Sure enough, Captain Graham only took a few more moments and calmly approached to make his report.

“Sir, Commander Harrington is reporting that Tempest remains sea-worthy, one of their shafts is jammed so they’re having to correct with steering, and they’re reduced to a maximum safe speed of approximately twelve knots,” Captain Graham reported, leaning forward on the console beside his admiral. “Half a dozen dead, several more injured but nothing too serious from what they’ve said, when asked if they can make it to Malta, Harrington responded with ‘will make San Diego, if ordered’, so they’re in good spirits over there.”

Blackburn chuckled and shook his head.

“Inform Harrington that Valetta will suffice, order Salzburg to escort Tempest back to Malta, then re-join us.”

“Roger that, Sir,” Captain Graham nodded. “How do you want to proceed now?”

“We have command of the sea, for all intents and purposes, however there is still an air threat and we’ve just lost one our air defence destroyers, so we’ll take it easy for the moment, I think” Blackburn replied. “We’ll hold position for now, given Defence Intelligence time to put together a picture of the enemy’s strategy, and for the Commonwealth Regional Commander to put a plan together for us to play our part.”

Feldmarschall Kristopher Wintheiser
Miramare Castle, Free City of Trieste
The Archduchy of Austria
Thursday 5th November 2020, 0900hrs Local Time

The Yugoslavian onslaught had been checked, and then stopped, over the course of the evening and the night by the Austrian Army. The 6th Jäger Division had dug their heels into the dirt, in one case less than a dozen kilometres south of the outskirts of Zagreb, and refused to give up any more ground. It had not been an easy evening to say the least; the Yugoslavians were well aware that the success of their operation would rely on them making as big a gain as possible before the Austrians were able to stop their advance. As with their initial advance, the Yugoslavians had backed up their attacks with an impressive artillery bombardment that had pummelled the 6th Jäger Division in their defensive positions for most of the evening before a resurgent attack after nightfall which had raged through most of the night. As time passed, however, the Austrian’s positions were steadily reinforced, first by reserve Landwehr battalions from the local area, ironically many were the same units that had once come under the command of the now disgraced Margrave of Istria but had surrendered without bloodshed and as such had been allowed to remain intact as a defensive force, and later by regular units hurrying southwards.

Although the situation had been steadily improving, the pivotal turning point had come in the small hours of the morning. Their approach heralded by a deep roar, and accompanied by Austrian Typhoons flying top-cover, a full squadron of eight Lancer B.2 strategic bombers of the Apilonian Royal Air Force had made their presence in the battlespace known. The Lancers had been scrambled, at the direct command of the Chief of the Defence Staff, almost as soon as the Yugoslavian invasion had begone, and had flown at the very edge of their range to RAF Luqa on Malta. Once at Luqa, No. 204 Squadron had taken full advantage of one of the RAF’s global strategic reserve stocks located there for exactly this situation; allowing them to deploy forward rapidly, mount their munitions, and then go into combat. The first air strike co-ordinated by COAC Luqa, and an audacious one to say the least, the Lancer strike had not exactly been the most nuanced one in the history of airpower, but it had been undoubtedly effective. Across the entire squadron, the Lancers collectively dropped hundreds of thousands of pounds or ordinance on the Yugoslavian positions and shattered their advance.

There had been no further trouble from the Yugoslavians for the first of the night, much to the relief of the 6th Jäger Division and an increasing number of Landwehr battalions.

Although the fighting in Istria had been the focus of much of the attention of the news media, it was not the only front that the Austrian General Staff had been fighting on. In Hungary, the two Hungarian brigades were still engaged with their Yugoslavian counterparts but, supported by persistent air strikes by the Austrian Luftstreitkräfte, had been able to hold their positions. Although Hungary had, up until that point, nominally been part of the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia it was becoming increasingly obvious to everyone that the senior Hungarian commanders had been expecting to have to defend their border with Serbia sooner or later and had been quietly preparing both its plans and its defensive positions for some time. Once it had become clear that the Hungarians could hold their positions, the orders had come down to the 1st Panzergrenadier Division, which had paused its sweep through Hungary, to reorient towards the Duchy of Croatia once more. It had been preferable to delay the divisions movements, a deliberate hesitation, rather than to end up backtracking in the event that the decision proved to be a poor one; both from a logistical and a morale perspective.

Shortly after dawn, the 1st Panzergrenadier Division had crossed the Hungarian frontier into the Duchy of Croatia. The decision had been made to keep the division relatively cohesive, rather than split up and risk defeat in detail, and as such the entire weight of the armoured formation had descended upon the four Yugoslavian brigades that had been giving one of the 6th Jäger Division’s brigades at Vinkovci a rather rough time of it. Already badly mauled by the Apilonian bombing, the Yugoslavian eastern column crumbled under the advance of the Panzergrenadiers; the Austrian Leopard 2A4s were markedly superior to the Yugoslavian T-54s and had both a numbers advantage and were noticeably fresher. Within an hour what remained of the Yugoslavian eastern column was in full retreat back towards the border and Vinkovci was officially ‘relieved’. After a few hours of consolidation, the 1st Panzergrenadier Division would continue to push westwards and would relieve the beleaguered Austrian defenders south of Zagreb, and eventually to clear the road to Trieste.

With the Austrian General Staff in solid control of the defensive situation, Feldmarschall Wintheiser and his staff could start to turn their attention to the next steps. Afterall, an unprovoked attack of this magnitude could not go unanswered and Yugoslavia had been a threat and a thorn in Austria’s side for decades.

Although the political leadership had not said as much, publicly, it was obvious to everyone in both the Austrian Military and the Royal Apilonian Military that this was not over by any stretch of the imagination, and that it would be a joint operation. The involvement of Apilonian warships in the destruction of the Yugoslavian People’s Navy, and Apilonian strategic bombers, was officially condoned by virtue of the Treaty of Cape Town (and the Commonwealth Commanders were authorised to act as required, without direct potential authorisation to defend a Commonwealth ally, as a rapid response was often necessary). Strictly speaking, pivoting from an offensive campaign to a defensive one would require a political declaration, however as all indications out of the Commonwealth Capitals were that one was forthcoming, could start to plan under the assumption of Commonwealth assistance with a high degree of confidence. Afterall, Yugoslavia had just given Austria all the justification it needed to call in its newly committed allies into the fight; a justification that had sorely been lacking up until this point. It was sloppy of the Politburo in Belgrade to give this opportunity to their Austrian foes on a silver platter, or perhaps it was just indicative of desperation on their part.

It had already been decided, between CRC Europe and the Austrian General Staff, that any ground counter-attack would not take place for several days. It was a risk not to immediately take advantage of the momentum shift, however all involved had agreed that it would be better to conduct an air campaign and fully plan an invasion rather than fly by the seats of their pants. As such, Feldmarschall Wintheiser had delegated the task of putting together the ground invasion to Headquarters, Commonwealth Army of the Balkans, CRC Europe’s ground warfare component. In the meantime, and with the Yugoslavian Navy effectively neutered, his attention instead turned to the situation in the air. Although the Luftstreitkräfte had succeeded in reasserting air superiority in Austrian airspace the same could not be said for Yugoslavian airspace, and that was the first order of business. It would not simply be a case of destroying the Yugoslavian Air Force, which would be difficult in and of itself now that they had almost certainly dispersed to countless airfields and emergency strips across the People’s Republic, but also in destroying their air defence network, which was likely already in the process of dispersing as well.

It was a job that would, as had the majority of the work so far in this nascent campaign, to CAOC Luqa as far as the Commonwealth was concerned, whilst CRC Europe considered the bigger picture.

It was a bigger picture that was getting increasingly complicated. Feldmarschall Wintheiser had been informed through the appropriate channels, that the Romanians were getting testy about the perceived lack of warning or consultation about the agreement between Vienna and Budapest. It was, Wintheiser had thought when he had been informed that the King of Romania no less had summoned both the Austria and Apilonian Ambassadors, damned presumptuous. In any event, it merely underlined the need to proceed carefully and in a well-planned manner. Fortunately, the Austrian General Staff had been updating invasion plans for Yugoslavia for decades, and whilst it would need some adjustment to reflect the fighting that had already taken place, and the losses that the 6th Jäger Division had already taken, it never the less provided a good baseline from which to proceed. It also made clear the need to be particularly careful with identifying targets, particularly in eastern Serbia, but that was standard operating procedure already, both the Austrian and Apilonian militaries were professionals and well-trained after all.

After discussing the matter with Air Officer Commanding, Combined Air Operations Centre Luqa; Air Chief Marshal Sir Valentine T. Belmont, Feldmarschall Wintheiser had a week-long air campaign in mind. Sir Valentine had estimated that it would likely take that long to defeat the Yugoslavian People’s Air Force, thoroughly degrade their air defence capability, and start to pick apart their military infrastructure and communications. After the initial air campaign, the ground invasion could begin and the combined airpower would be leveraged in support of that advance.

There was also the question of how best to utilize the remaining ships of Standing Maritime Group TWO. Although one of the Apilonian destroyers had been damaged and forced to return to Malta, along with one of the Austrian frigates, three ships were still at sea including the cruiser Relentless, which was armed with dozens of cruise missiles that could be fired against targets deep in enemy territory with much less risk than an air strike. The only risk was if the Yugoslavians were able to put together an air raid against the remaining shifts, as they had expended a significant number of defensive missiles in the initial engagement of the previous night. Although unlikely, if the enemy focused their entire remaining strike aircraft against the Relentless and her escorts it was entirely possible that they would be able to sink them. Whilst it was unlikely that the Yugoslavians would be able to do so, particularly if the Commonwealth air campaign was already underway, the risk remained. Nevertheless, the potential benefits of deep cruise missile strikes were obvious, and outweighed the potential risk, so Feldmarschall Wintheiser knew the right decision.

“Feldmarschall Wintheiser, Sir?”

Wintheiser looked up from the after-action report compiled by the commander of the 1st Panzergrenadier Division as the Apilonian officer, one of his staff planners, stood in his door.

“Yes, Major?”

“CAOC Lueq has their proposed operations plan for today, Sir,” The Apilonian Major reported crisply. “They’re ready to brief you.”

“Alright then, Feldmarschall Wintheiser nodded and stood from his desk. “What is it King William likes to say… let’s be about it.”
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Thu Nov 19, 2020 5:46 pm

Air Chief Marshal Sir Valentine T. Belmont, RAF
Combined Air Operations Centre Luqa
The Crown Colony of Malta, Kingdom of Apilonia
Thursday 5th November 2020, 1700hrs Local Time

Despite only being established for a matter of days the Combined Air Operations Centre, Luqa, was already operating likely a well-oiled machine. It helped that much of the staff had been seconded from No. 81 Expeditionary Air Group of the Royal Air Force, the operational group that had been stationed on Malta and had originally been responsible for the air defence of the Crown Colony. Once the Treaty of Cape Town had been signed, and the Common Defence Policy established, it had been decided it would be far more efficient for much of the expanded planning staff that had been part of the wing headquarters to be re-assigned to the COAC. Afterall, the Common Defence Policy was intended to be an integral part of the defensive strategies of all the member states, and there was little point in duplicating effort, and No. 81 EAG headquarters had already been responsible for air operations co-ordination and planning so it had made a great deal of sense to simply move most of the staff across to the Commonwealth command structure. Aside from showing immediate Apilonian support for the Commonwealth Defence Organisation, it also ensured that there was an experienced air operations staff immediately present in the most volatile theatre.

It was an interesting command slot, given the varied array of potential threats and foes in the theatre, and the combination of an experienced core staff that was also integrating officers and enlisted airman from not just the Austrian Luftstreitkräfte but all over the Commonwealth. Indeed, the entirety of the Commonwealth military structure had presented a unique challenge for both the Royal Apilonian Military and those of the Commonwealth Realms, as it required the appointment of more than a few high-ranking officers. It was an easy enough adjustment for the RAM, as it already possessed more than a few highly ranked officers, but for many of the smaller member-states it would double, if not triple, the number of top-ranking officers. After some consideration, the Ministry of Defence had tapped Air Chief Marshal Sir Valentine T. Belmont, a former fighter pilot who had previously served as the Air Officer Commanding, Fighter Command, for the position in recognition that the theatre was the most likely one to actually see air combat. Sure enough, albeit far quicker than anyone expected, CAOC Luqa was indeed already involved in an honest-to-god air campaign.

Fortunately, No. 81 Expeditionary Air Group, which was responsible for planning and conducting Apilonian air operations across the theatre, had recognized several years ago that the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was very likely to be on the receiving end of an Apilonian air campaign. Aside from general Yugoslavian hostility towards Apilonia on principle, either the Kingdom’s close relationship with Austria or its support for the exiled heir to the Greek throne (who had been overthrown by a socialist regime, backed by Yugoslavia) would have resulted in a conflict one way or another. As a result, not only had Defence Intelligence put a significant amount of resources into getting a solid picture of the Yugoslavian Air Force and air defence network, but there were extensive, well-developed plans for an Apilonian air campaign against the People’s Republic. The additional availability of Austrian aircraft would only make matters easier, as they could be easily integrated into any of a number of potential plans, as after a certain point the nuance of an air campaign was replaced by simply hitting targets, and the RAF targetters had been hard at work.

The first order of business had been the destruction of the Yugoslavian People’s Air Force and the suppression of enemy air defences, two very different objectives that really had to be carried out simultaneously. Any attempts to destroy the enemy air force without taking out their air defences left the aircraft conducting the fighter sweep, a type of counter-air patrol designed to provoke enemy fighters into attempting to counter intruder aircraft in order to destroy them, very exposed to fire from enemy air defences. Conversely, simply sending in one or more SEAD missions, without associated fighter support or an absence of enemy aircraft put those aircraft targeting the enemy air defences at a dangerous disadvantage. Moreover, although the rise of modern multirole aircraft meant that most aircraft could conduct both missions, theoretically at the same time, it was far more efficient to have individual flights or squadrons focus on one mission and work alongside the other, if you had the aircraft available. Fortunately, if there was one thing that COAC Luqa had at its command it was fighter aircraft.

In addition to the Austrian Luftstreitkräfte, which even after their relatively light combat losses over the last twenty-four hours still had half a dozen squadrons worth of Typhoons, No. 81 Expeditionary Air Group had plenty to bring to the table as well. Given that the Crown Colony of Malta was a prosperous, but small and isolated, holding in a potentially hostile part of the world it had become clear a long time ago that there would never be the space, nor the strategic depth, to station a sufficiently large force on the island to adequately defend it against a concerted, regional attack. As such, the Royal Apilonian Military had long ago decided that it would be far more effective to focus on providing for the naval defence of the island, preventing any invasion from actually reaching its shores, which had later been quickly supplemented by air defence after the advent of air power. As such, Malta was one of the largest concentrations of Apilonian air power outside of North America. In addition to a squadron of Eagle F.3 air superiority fighters and two squadrons of Tornado F.5 interceptors, primarily for air defence and based at RAF Hal Far, the Group also possessed three squadrons of Typhoon FGR.4 multirole fighters, based at RAF Qrendi, not to mention a variety of transport and support aircraft based out of the military sector of Malta International Airport, known as RAF Luqa.

As such, No. 81 EAG would have been able to give the Yugoslavian People Air Force a run for its money on its own, when combined with the Luftstreitkräfte, and given the Yugoslavians had already lost a quarter of their combat aircraft in the initial engagements, the combined Commonwealth forces had a definite edge. Of course, as far as the Royal Air Force was concerned this was precisely the point; in order to leverage the military power that the Kingdom’s economic strength allowed it to possess it required a network of large joint operating bases, lest it fall victim to the loss-of-strength gradient. Ideally, the Royal Apilonian Military would have possessed several such bases in the Mediterranean, as it did in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf, however for the moment it would make do with Malta and, as such, had concentrated its airpower at Hal Far and Qrendi. It was, in some respects, a risk concentrating so much military equipment in one place, but it was not for naught that Malta was particularly well defended.

All things considered, once the decision had been made to conduct an air campaign, Air Chief Marshal Belmont had more than enough to carry it out. The strike that Belmont had ordered had been the RAF equivalent of what the Navy would call an alpha strike; everything that could fly would take part in the day’s operation; an overwhelming fighter sweep and SEAD mission that would, he hoped, strike fear into the hearts of the Yugoslavians as the sheer scale of the attack.

On the fighter sweep side of things, this decision to press every available aircraft into service with the raid was a pragmatic one. Both the Eagle F.3 and the Tornado F.5 were ageing aircraft, although both had been kept up-to-date and Boeing had proposed an upgrade for the former that was being strongly considered by the Air Ministry, having successfully provided the F.5 upgrade to the Tornado that brought the interceptor to a state where it could operate effectively in the modern environment. However, this length of service for the airframes meant that the maintenance requirements were high, and the defect frequency was sub-optimal to say the least, and being deployed overseas and away from the extensive supply and maintenance network that was present in the Kingdom didn’t help. Nevertheless, roughly two thirds of the three squadrons were available, nearly forty aircraft in total, had led the way during the opening attack, shortly after 10am.

Following them were two dozen of the much newer and more advanced Typhoon FGR.4s, which unlike the Eagles and Tornados were equipped with only two AIM-9X Sidewinders apiece for self-defence with their armament being predominantly made up of AGM-88E Advanced Antiradiation Guided Missile (AARGM) that would allow them to target both the Yugoslavian early warning radar and the far smaller radars used by mobile air defence sites. Once the enemy early warning radars were destroyed it was a tense game of hide-and-seek, with the mobile SAMs knowing full well that the minute they lit up their radar they gave their positions away, meaning that they would need to engage any aircraft nearby before shutting down and attempting to move before those same aircraft could destroy them in turn. The air defence crews could try and use a network of spotters to get a better idea when an enemy aircraft would be within range, and thus worth risking going live for, whilst the SEAD aircraft could be guided to their targets by other forms of reconnaissance. It was a dangerous game of arithmetic for both sides, in the hopes that you would destroy the enemy before they destroyed you.

On both sides, teamwork was essential; and it was teamwork that the Typhoons would employ; with one aircraft in any given combat pair travelling low and fast in an attempt to bait the enemy into activating their radar for their wingman to destroy. As any fighter pilot who had played the role of bait in such an attack would say, there was very few adrenaline rushes quite like a Wild Weasel mission.

The fighter sweep was underway and completed within two hours. Unlike the mobile air defence units, which could afford to play possum in the hopes of going unnoticed, enemy aircraft could not afford to simply stay put lest they be destroyed on the ground. Although the Yugoslavian People’s Air Force had started to disperse their aircraft to satellite airfields, in the hopes of limiting the damage to any air strikes, they had been tracked by Defence Intelligence surveillance satellites and cruise missile strikes from Standing Maritime Group TWO a few hours before the fighter sweep had made clear that their ruse had not been successful. As intended, this had the effect of ‘flushing the game’ and nearly a hundred Yugoslavian MiG-29s rose into the skies over the Balkans during the course of the morning. Although this meant that they outnumbered the inbound Apilonian fighters and interceptors by approximately three-to-one, the Royal Air Force had three key advantages.

The first was that the Apilonian raid had been joined by a Compass Call electronic warfare aircraft from No. 812 Wing based out of RAF Luqa, and was put to good use to disrupt the Yugoslavian command and control efforts. The second was that their modern missiles outranged the older variants of the AA-10 Alamo known to be operated by the Yugoslavian People’s Air Force. The third, and perhaps ultimately most important, was the fact that unlike the Apilonian fighter sweep, which had assembled over Malta and arrived en force, the Yugoslavian fighters had taken the skies in drips and drabs over the course of the morning with very little time to coordinate or consolidate.

The first wave of Yugoslavian aircraft had been the most formidable, roughly two dozen MiG-29s taking to the skies in some semblance of order; presumably their version of a quick reaction alert that had launched as soon as the early warning radar had detected the inbound raid. As these aircraft were able to attain a decent altitude and positioning, the Apilonian fighters did not take any chances and closed the distance as much as they dared and committed two missiles apiece to ensure their destruction. It was precisely for this reason that these aircraft had been solely focused on the fighter sweep, as it had allowed them to carry the maximum number of air-to-air missiles that they would need to down all the enemy aircraft, with each carrying as many as eight missiles. After the initial Yugoslavian response was downed, the rest of the fighter sweep proceeded without much difficulty as the aircraft split up to cover all of the potential enemy airbases and to shoot down Yugoslavian MiGs as they attempted to take to the skies.

Whilst this was happening, the two squadrons of Typhoons had got about their own work. The large, fixed, early warning radar sites had been the first to go, engaged at maximum range by the leading Typhoons in order to blind the Yugoslavian air defence command, forcing their mobile SAM units to rely on their own radars at which point the hunt would begin. The two squadrons of Apilonian Typhoons would handle the constituent republics of Albania, Macedonia and the southern parts of Serbia and Bosnia, whilst the northern parts of the latter two would be the concern of two squadrons of Austrian Typhoons. The most difficult part of the day for the SEAD aircraft had been the morning, where they had been compelled to cover the fighters as they conducted their sweep, targeting any SAM sites that went active to target the fighters, which naturally required a significant amount of co-ordination. Once the fighters had been withdrawn, save for a single composite squadron that provided top cover in the event that any stragglers took to the skies, and the SEAD birds returned for their afternoon raids, the situation got much easier and the SEAD squadrons were able to conduct their Wild Weasel tactics as they were intended.

It was not expected that all enemy air defence would be taken out on the first day, as a smart SAM commander would hold his fire for the opportune moment, but it was intended that a sufficient amount would be destroyed to ensure that the rest of the campaign could continue without too much interference from the Yugoslavians.

“38 EAG has their preliminary BDA, Sir,” Air Vice Marshal Jonathan A. Reed, Belmont’s Chief of Staff, said as he knocked on the door to the Air Chief Marshal’s office, just off the main operations room. “We’re going off Defence Intelligence estimates of Yugoslavian air defence numbers, of course.”

“Understood,” Belmont nodded, accepting the caveat. “How are we looking?”

“Good so far, initial estimates are that we’ve taken out forty percent of enemy air defence units… that rate will slow as they start to bide their time but it’s a good start and we’re getting good reliability so far, so will be able to continue SEAD missions overnight as planned,” AVM Reed replied. “We estimate that we’ve taken out eighty-two percent of the Yugoslavian aircraft, the remainder we predict are either hiding out on somewhere, or otherwise non-operational in a hanger, so we’ll need to keep an eye on all main and satellite fields.”

“Get onto our Defence Intelligence liaison for that, make sure we have all available resources, I want to know the minute we might have a hostile aircraft operating in my airspace,” Belmont ordered, glancing at the paper report. “We’ll need to make sure all of our aircraft carry at least two Sidewinders, until we have confirmation of we’ve taken out all enemy aircraft I want our people able to defend themselves.”

“Roger that, Sir,” AVM Reed nodded.

Good,” Belmont said simply, then glanced up. “I take it we’re still on target to commence the main strikes tomorrow morning?”

“Yes sir, our targetters are putting the final touches to the strike list,” AVM Reed replied. “But we’re good to go, the top-level targets haven’t really changed.”

“I want to make sure we keep at least two SEAD flights in the AO whenever there is a strike mission taking place; I don’t want any of those SAM sites to get more than one free shot at our people,” Belmont added firmly. “Make sure our staff intelligence officers are taking in every scrap of intel we can gather on SAM locations… is there any word from DSF on when we can expect on-the-ground intelligence?”

AVM Reed nodded; DSF was the Directorate of Special Forces, a component of the Permeant Joint Headquarters that oversaw all special operations conducted by the Royal Apilonian Military.

“PHJQ reports that DSF is putting together a joint task force, pulling detachments from pretty much all the special forces units,” AVM Reed replied promptly. “I believe that NAVSPECWAR is putting a platoon ashore into Albania this evening, with other incursions from the JTF as their detachments arrive in theatre.”

“They’ll have their own missions, of course, but make clear to PJHQ that I would appreciate anything they come across regardless, it’ll make our job a lot easier and it’ll help us to help them,” Belmont sighed. “In the meantime, start pulling in some forward air controllers from other commands and start integrating them into Austrian units, we’ll need them once our focus turns to supporting the ground war.”

“We should also recommend that the Luftstreitkräfte attach their own FACs to any Apilonian ground forces that get committed,” AVM Reed suggested. “Until we get those Commonwealth STANAGs in place it’ll make sure there’s no issues or delays if our boys need to call on an Austrian CAS asset.”

“Good idea, we’re going to be trailblazing a significant number of those STANAGs I suspect, so we need to bear that in mind,” Belmont nodded. “Alright then, I’ll leave you to oversee the details, I’ve got a conference call with CRC Europe, I need to give them an update on our work today."
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Sun Nov 29, 2020 9:54 am

The Right Honourable Sebastian T. Barnes, PhD, MP
Parliament Building, Royal District of Bainbridge
Duchy of Washington, Kingdom of Apilonia
Friday 6th November 2020, 1200hrs Local Time

The Prime Minister of Apilonia, for all the privileges and trappings of the office, had the unenviable task of regularly being grilled by not just one but both of the chambers of the Apilonian legislature. Like many heads of government, the Prime Minister regularly answered questions from the House of Commons, usually at noon every Wednesday, which was only right and proper as he was not only a member of that chamber but it was also only right that the Government should be held to account by the body with which it had to maintain confidence in order to remain in power. Unlike most heads of government, the Prime Minister also had to regularly answer to the upper house within the Parliament, the Senate, although far less frequently due to the nature of its sessions. The vast majority of politicians, whilst not necessarily trying to hide anything from Parliament, or from the people, tended to avoid being tied down to a given stance in case they had to reverse that position later, something that was even more true for the Prime Minister.

However, some politicians thoroughly enjoyed the process, not the least of which was the current Prime Minister, Sebastian T. Barnes, who saw the entire affair as an intellectual sparing match… something for which the Doctor of Economics, whose early career had been spent in Academia, was very well equipped for. As such, for this Prime Minister, the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions before the Commons, and the monthly Prime Minister’s Questions before the Senate, were not as traumatic as they had been for some in the past.

The Apilonian Senate, the upper chamber of the Parliament, had begun life as an advisory body to the Crown, made up of the senior nobility or their appointed representatives (who became known as Senators). As such, the Senate originally enjoyed significant influence and, in time, amassed to itself legislative powers, due in no small part to the authority the nobility exercised in their individual domains. Overtime, as noble lines died out, or were stripped of their seats, new prominent individuals were appointed to the Senate in their place, effectively becoming a new class of hereditary legislators, although this did have the positive side effect of injecting new blood into the Senate over the years. By the late 1800s and early 1900s, the democratic authority of the House of Commons became increasingly prominent and difficult to resist, and steadily took control over the initiative for legislative process, although the Senate could still block legislation, amongst other rights. As a result of this, the Senate transformed into a body more concerned with reviewing legislation passed by the Commons than passing its own, although it retained the right to do so, and as such was still able to exert significant influence over Apilonian political affairs.

The Senate had been involved in something of a confrontation with the King earlier in the year, in which the Senate refused to authorise a declaration of war against the Confederacy of the Urals after their hostility against the Realm of Cotland, believing that such intervention was unnecessary as the Cottish were unlikely to lose such a conflict. The King had taken the opposite position and had been furious to say the least, and had thrown his weight behind a long-standing constitutional reform bill that the Senate consistently voted down that would remove the Senate’s judicial powers, most critically the judicial review function that had allowed it to declare unconstitutional any bills that would limit its own power. The King’s support had been enough to sway a sufficient number of the Senate to allow the bill to pass, resulting in the establishment of the Supreme Court of the King’s Bench, and paved the way for future constitutional reform bills that would limit the Senate’s power if it pushed its luck too far. Nevertheless, as it stood the Senate retained its normal political review authority over legislation, and given it’s role as a review and advisory body, and given the additional duties a significant portion of it’s membership have, it only meets once a month, although there is significant political work taking place behind the scenes before and after these sessions.

A regular fixture of those sessions, which were held on the first Friday of the month, was the Questions to the Prime Minister held at noon after the morning had been taken up with housekeeping and announcements, and before the afternoon session which contained debate and review over legislation passed by the Commons. It was one of the few exceptions to the rule that only members of the Senate, or their staffers, were permitted into the chamber during a session, with the Prime Minister enjoying an ex officio seat in addition to the fifty actual seats in the Senate.

“Questions to the Prime Minister,” The Chief Lord of the Senate, the Duke of Washington, intoned formally. “Lord Monroe!”

Lord Timothy Monroe was the Duke of New Caledonia, a duchy that stretched from Wyoming to the border with the Yukon, and had a distinctly Scottish heritage. He was also the most prominent supporter for the Crown Imperialist Party, a right-wing (but not far-right) party that bemoaned the loss of Apilonia’s colonial empire and favoured a strong military and a strong connection to Apilonia’s former colonies and had, reluctantly, declared its support for the Commonwealth as the closest they’d get to a reborn Apilonian Empire.

“Thank You, Chief Lord Washington… Prime Minister, the Archduchy of Austria, an ally of this Kingdom into the ruling family of which one of our very own Princes has married, has been attacked by the socialist authoritarians of the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia,” Lord Monroe stated, ignoring the grumbles of protest from the more Liberal members. “Can the Prime Minister assure the Senate that the Kingdom will do everything it can to support our friend and allies in the Archduchy, despite the protestations of nearby polities.”

“Prime Minister…”

“Thank You, my Lord Monroe… as your grace is entirely aware, I suspect, the Kingdom is committed to coming to the defence of the Archduchy of Austria, or indeed any other Commonwealth realm, under the terms of the Treaty of Cape Town, although I rather suspect that no one expected that to be necessary quite so quickly,” Barnes replied promptly. “Indeed, Apilonian aircraft have already been involved in both supporting Austrian troops inside the Archduchy and in striking enemy air defence within the People’s Republic, and His Majesty’s Ships as part of Standing Commonwealth Maritime Group Two have already won a great victory over the People’s Navy.”

The Prime Minister held up a, respectful, hand as Lord Monroe looked likely to interrupt.

“As such, the Kingdom is already actively engaged in military action to meet our treaty commitments to the Commonwealth, however to answer your question, Your Grace, we will indeed,” Barnes continued. “Indeed, the Commonwealth Regional Commander for Europe, a Feldmarschall Wintheiser of the Austrian Army, planned under the assumption that Apilonian ground forces will be involved.”

The Duke of Washington glanced over at Lord Monroe who shook his head, indicating that he did not want to ask a follow-up.

“Lord Ecclestone.”

Lord Richard Ecclestone was the Duke of California, which meant that he was the leader of the largest duchy, both in terms of population and the size of the ducal economy. He was also a member of the Liberal Party, one that had suffered significantly in its electoral results following the catastrophic results of the party’s foreign policy in the 60s and 70s, despite its domestic successes.

“Than You, my Chief Lord Washington… does the Prime Minister, and the King for that matter, intend to seek a formal declaration from this place, and the other place, for military action against Yugoslavia.”

“Thank You, my Lord Ecclestone… as the Kingdom is committed to the defence of the other Commonwealth realms, in the event of an attack against them, by treaty obligation, which this Senate ratified, we do not, strictly speaking, require further authorisation for the use of military force, certainly not imminently,” Barnes replied carefully, treading a fine line. “Although some in the region have raised an argument that Austria provoked Yugoslavia, the fact remains that it was the People’s Republic that opened the hostilities, and as such we will meet our treaty obligations… however, in recognition that this will not be a purely defensive war, due to the threat Yugoslavia has posed over the years, we will be seeking a formal declaration of war, yes.”

The unspoken part of that sentence was that Barnes, and the King by extension, fully expected that such a formal declaration would be forthcoming. After the political fallout of the Senate’s refusal to do so earlier in the year, Barnes considered it unlikely that they would be so foolish to do so again… especially after they had ratified the Treaty of Cape Town which committed them to military support of attacked member-states. Indeed, Austria had already declared war on the People’s Republic formally, and the first motion before the Senate after Prime Minister’s Questions would be a declaration of war.

“Lord Mackenzie.”

Lord William Mackenzie was the Duke of Ontario, the leader of one of the more prosperous duchies, and was also a prominent member of the Centrist Party, that is Barnes’ own party. However, he had made clear to them that he did not expect soft questions when the national security of the Kingdom was on the line.

“Thank You, Chief Lord Washington… what is the Prime Minister’s reaction to the… opinion of the King of Romania on Austria’s conduct in this matter, and our supposed intimate involvement.”

“Thank You, my Lord Mackenzie… it has been the position of His Majesty’s Government since the Romanian King summoned our Ambassador in Bucharest, to make clear that Austria is a sovereign state in its own right, regardless of its close relationship with the Kingdom through the Commonwealth,” Barnes replied, exceptionally carefully and measured. “As such, although we will support our Austrian cousins to the hilt, it is only right that we emphasise their due national sovereignty… this is not the Apilonian Empire of old, and Austria is a state with a long and glorious history of its own, we must respect that, and we must correct any misapprehensions.”

Barnes paused, clearly not finished so the Senate remained quiet.

“In any event, the argument could be made that it it is this very response by Romania that prompted the decision in Vienna to not notify them in advance of the intended secession of Hungary and its immediate annexation into the Archduchy; it is far easier to keep a small circle in one of the negotiating partners, even one infested by Yugoslavian State Security, than it is in a paranoid third party,” Barnes continued. “I also discount the argument that history alone justifies such a vehement reaction; whilst history must be considered and respected, and amends made where necessary, but neither can it be like a weight upon the neck; Apilonia has a less than stellar history with some of our former colonies, however we have worked past that with them to allow this great Commonwealth experiment of ours to happen… one can either be a prisoner of the past or learn from it… Romania has chosen the former.”

There were a few moments of exchanged chatter; this was the most any Apilonian official had responded to the Romanian King’s speech of the previous day, and his meeting with the Apilonian and Austrian ambassadors, and it was certainly the most negative response that had been forthcoming. Although it stopped short of making the point that future relationships were likely to be made worse by the decision, not better, it was still a rebuke none the less, albeit one that largely kept Apilonia above the fray.

The rest of the Questions moved on to more domestic matters. As Apilonian Senators, they had all received classified briefings on the situation in the Balkans, and the proposed actions to be taken, and in any case there was little point in grilling the Prime Minister on the details of the military situation. Although he had a solid enough overview to know whether to back the strategy, if they wanted the details they would be better off pulling in the Chief of the Defence Staff, or the Secretary of State for Defence, such hearings were one of a number of activities that the Senate carried out in between its formal sessions. On the domestic front, the Prime Minister was far better suited to be grilled; in the Apilonian system foreign affairs were the primary concern of the Crown, whilst the democratically elected representatives handled domestic matters. Both the Crown and Parliament were kept fully informed, and involved in the decision making process for both foreign and domestic affairs, but the clear division of responsibility had largely been a positive innovation that had served the Kingdom well over the years. Indeed, it had largely been the poor health of King George IV in his later years that had allowed Apilonia’s withdrawal from its colonial empire so chaotic.

It was only after a gruelling hour of questions that the Senate moved onto the next order of business; the motion to approve a declaration of war against the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. The debate was short and perfunctory; although some in the Senate, particularly the liberal wing, opposed military action on principle, the simple fact of the matter was that the Prime Minister was correct in saying that they were compelled by their earlier ratification of the Treaty of Cape Town. The Kingdom had a long history of supporting international law, indeed the most comprehensive body of such laws were known as the Seattle Accords after the location of their signing, and it was not about to break its commitment to the Commonwealth, much less at the first time of asking. As such, although certain Lords and Senators went through the motions of stating their opposition, yet reluctantly throwing their support behind the Kingdom meeting its treaty commitments, the process proceeded unimpeded and the vote passed with a strong majority and no votes against, although a number of particularly liberal members opted to abstain as a matter of principle.

As such, by three the Apilonian Senate had officially approved the war motion placed before them. It was obvious to all that it would not exactly be a total war situation, in which a mass mobilisation of the Royal Apilonian Military would be required, but it untied the hands of the Apilonian military leadership to throw their weight behind the military operations in the Balkans. In practice the RAM had been doing this already, a flight of heavy bombers was hardly staying on the sidelines after all, but it a very clear statement of support for Austria, and the Commonwealth as a whole, and doubtless the importance of the message would not be missed by either Yugoslavia or any other interested regional parties.

In truth, the message was probably more important than anything else. Everyone involved had known that the Commonwealth would be tested by its neighbours and rivals, but few had expected that test to come quite so soon after its foundation; a matter of days. It was not inconceivable that the People’s Republic had chosen this excuse to launch their attack, hoping that the fledgling Commonwealth would not immediately wade into an armed conflict, particularly against one of its member-states that could hold its own. It seemed likely that the Yugoslavians had hoped for a short, victorious war; pushing the Austrians back out of Hungary and reasserting their control, whilst making their point in Istria that they could, and would, launch attacks against the Archduchy itself. A few years ago this might have worked, however a new Archduchess (with a supportive Archduke, who brought with him the might of Apilonia) and the rise of the Commonwealth had dramatically changed the strategic balance and the Yugoslavian Politburo had not updated their thinking. As far as Apilonia, and its new partners in the Commonwealth, were concerned, this was a ‘failure is not an option’ kind of situation; right now the Commonwealth was, in some respects, just words, they had to show through their actions what their words were worth.

Barnes sighed heavily as he sat back in his seat to observe the rest of the legislative review that the Senate was now moving onto; he was no warmonger but he was relieved that the Senate had not kicked up a fuss. He was a leading proponent of the Commonwealth, and the Senate could have critically undermined it before it could even truly begin. Such a catastrophic turn of events had been averted, whether though true support by a majority of the Senate or recognition that the Commonwealth was overwhelmingly popular in the Commons. In any event the Commonwealth had survived its first true challenge, even if most of the attention was on the military situation in the Balkans, which by contrast was a far simpler challenge, one that Barnes was confident they would be more than equal to.
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Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Wed Dec 02, 2020 7:34 am

Feldmarschall Kristopher Wintheiser
Miramare Castle, Free City of Trieste
The Archduchy of Austria
Friday 13th November 2020, 0500hrs Local Time

The Commonwealth air campaign had continued in earnest.

After the first day, COAC Luqa was satisfied that the enemy air defence network had been sufficiently degraded to allow more general strikes to take place, even if there would be Wild Weasel flights in the airspace ready to respond to any surviving site that went live against the strike packages. Even as the Apilonian Senate was debating and voting to make the Apilonian intervention in the long-term legal, the Royal Air Force was at the forefront of the joint air campaign alongside the Luftstreitkräfte, targeting military communications and other command and control infrastructure on that second day. Although the initial attacks had significantly reduced the ability of the Yugoslavian General Staff to respond effectively to the air campaign, the rest of their military infrastructure was intact and would have allowed them to respond in a somewhat effective manner to the coming ground invasion. Given that the Yugoslavian push into southern Istria had been repelled with the help of an Apilonian bomber raid, and the Yugoslavian People’s Army gave no indication of making another attempt, the decision had been made that they could afford to take the time to pick their enemy apart before putting boots on the ground in their territory.

The Apilonian and Austrian strikes were specific and precise, with all involved understanding that absolute imperative of keeping civilian casualties to an absolute minimum. It was already going to be one hell of a slog one they put their boots on the ground, the last thing they needed was an enraged populous rather than the, generally cowed one that the Yugoslavian Politburo had cultivated for many years. As such, and given that some of their targets were dangerously close to civilians, the Commonwealth air campaign was less an example of shock-and-awe and more one of surgical strikes, with Commonwealth aircraft appearing suddenly to smite an offending site from the face of the earth. It might not be as awe-inspiring as a mass offensive, but the absolute certainty that soon settled into the hearts of every Yugoslavian military officer or enlisted soldier that, sooner or later, their installations would get hit had its own impact on their morale. Whether they were terrified due to the firepower on display, or dreading the inevitable strike that would end their lives, they were less combat effective and that was a good thing as far as the Commonwealth was concerned.

As the air strikes moved away from the smouldering remains of the Yugoslavian command and control system, which had been forced into field headquarters after their fixed ones had been destroyed, and onto Yugoslavian combat units themselves, things began to get more desperate on the ground. Any Yugoslavian armour, artillery, or combat support units that were not adequately camouflaged, which to their credit the majority was, found itself under attack, and defended itself frantically using everything at their disposal, from MANPADs to small arms fire, although the Commonwealth aircraft kept themselves safely out of range. Occasionally, older MiG-21s took to the skies from dispersed fields that had so far escaped notice, in any attempt to disrupt the air campaign, but achieved little success as the Commonwealth aircraft were armed with advanced AIM-9X Sidewinders for just this sort of situation as Air Chief Marshal Belmont had predicted. As such, the Commonwealth air campaign was able to operate with essentially total impunity and over the course of the week they had significantly degraded the Yugoslavian military across the board.

Of course, all they had been able to destroy was the large, obvious, and immovable targets, essential military infrastructure, and whatever military hardware that the Yugoslavians had not been able to adequately camouflage against drones, satellites, or indeed the various special forces patrols of the Directorate of Special Forces’ Joint Task Force, Yugoslavia, which had integrated Austrian special forces units which had entered enemy territory from the north. Based on pre-war assessments, and more up-to-date estimates from Defence Intelligence, there was still a not unsubstantial amount of Yugoslavian military hardware out there, and that was without even considering the reserve infantry units that would doubtless be setting up defensive positions across the People’s Republic to make any attacking force bleed for every inch of ground. It meant that any campaign on the ground would be a slow, deliberate process that would be backed up every step of the way by artillery and air strikes; this would not be the sweeping campaign that had been achieved by the Apilonian Army in East Africa; this enemy was too large, too equipped, too trained, and too motivated. They would not, in the professional opinion Feldmarschall Wintheiser, be able to resist indefinitely, but it would not be a quick victory either, particularly if the vast Yugoslavian reserve and constituent forces proved universally solid across the board.

As such, Feldmarschall Wintheiser and his planning staff had spent the week-long air campaign fine-tuning the battle plan to ensure that the adequate support would be in place when it was needed be yet troops at the tip of the spear. After their failed attempt to punch into Austria and Hungary, the Yugoslavian People’s Army was reduced to two divisions of its own, both armoured, it also had two infantry divisions provided by the continent republics of Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, and Macedonia, for a total of ten remaining divisions without considering the reserve militia forces that were tasked with their own areas. As such, there were two overarching concerns for the Commonwealth planners; winning the manoeuvre war and actually taking the ground; the first would be the easier of the two, given the superiority of Commonwealth equipment and the near omnipotence of Commonwealth air power, but the task of actually taking the ground would be far more difficult, especially as they tried to minimise civilian casualties.

Moreover, the two objectives, whilst not mutually exclusive, hardly leant themselves to each other; as attempting to right a manoeuvre war against the Yugoslavian People’s Army would potentially be vulnerable to attacks in their flank or rear by reserve forces and would have to be properly screened which would tie up the forces that could otherwise be used to try and take the ground itself, and would necessitate a more aggressive posture that would cause its own problems. It was the same difficult balance that the Apilonian Army had been doing its best to manage for the past five decades, in its various colonial entanglements and most recently in East Africa, but it had an additional complication in that there was a credible enemy manoeuvre force present as well. It was not simply a case of fighting an insurgency, but rather fighting against irregular reserve forces whilst still having to tackle a professional main force as well, which made matters significantly more complicated. It was not an unsurmountable challenge, both the Apilonian Army and its Austrian counterparts were professional and well-trained, and worked under the assumption that they may be called upon to fight a total war, and the simple fact of the matter was that Yugoslavia was not a total war situation.

Over the course of the last week the extent of the forces available for the ground campaign had become more apparent. The ground forces as a whole would be commanded by the new subordinate component command, the Commonwealth Army of the Balkans, under the command of an Austrian General. The Army of the Balkans was split into two corps commands, the Austrian Corps and the Commonwealth Multinational Corps, Europe (CMC-E), the former being formed from the available divisions of the Austrian Army, whilst the latter was predominantly Apilonian at this point. The Austrian Corps was made up of the 1st and 2nd Panzergrenadier Division, the 6th Jäger Division, and the quickly assembling, 7th Hungarian Division which was made up of the Hungarian infantry brigades. The CMC-E was made up of the 17th (Mediterranean) Infantry Division, a rapidly assembling 21st (Commonwealth) Division, which was made up of the 60th Gurkha Brigade and 57th Airborne Brigade of the Apilonian Army, and the very first operational brigade of the East African Army, as well as the the 3rd (Infantry) Division of the South African Army.

All told, the Commonwealth forces had seven divisions to the Yugoslavian’s ten, not counting the three other divisions mobilising or on defensive duties in the Austrian heartland. This was less than ideal, as conventional military thinking called for a three-to-one ratio for offensive action. The Apilonian II Corps, which was normally a ‘framework formation’ during peacetime, was assembling in the Kingdom but it was designed to be a heavy armoured formation, and even for the divisions kept on high readiness would take up to thirty-days to deploy (as was the strategic expectation), although three weeks was possible if there had been some warning that they might be needed (which there had been). As such, it would be another two weeks before the first reinforcing divisions of the II Corps would begin to arrive, and that would only bring them to strategic parity against the Yugoslavian People’s Army, and it had quickly been decided that it was not a good idea to leave the Yugoslavians an additional fortnight to prepare. It had also made clear to senior military officers across the Commonwealth that it would be essential to forward-deploy Apilonian divisions, otherwise their military power was just a distant threat rather than a real guarantee of security.

But that was a concern for the Supreme Commonwealth Commander, Field Marshal Sir William Fitzcharles late of the Apilonian Army, whilst Feldmarschall Wintheiser had to tackle the strategic problem in front of him.

Being numerically superior, albeit with significant force multipliers not the least of which was their air power, the decision had been made to not give the Yugoslavians the opportunity to consolidate their forces. The Austrian Corp would push into enemy territory in Serbia and Bosnia, with the Hungarian division splitting the attention of the Yugoslavian northern forces, which were already badly mauled from their own offensive effort. Not eager to fight in the Dinarides Mountains until they had a numerical superiority, the Austrian Corps would leave a blocking force on the road to Sarajevo and sweep eastwards into Bosnia and go straight for Belgrade. At the same time, the CMC-E would open a second front by launching an assault against the Socialist Republic of Albania, one of Yugoslavia’s constituent republics, as although that had equally unappetising passes through the mountains to actually press their advantage it would compel the Yugoslavians to split their forces which they were expected to consolidate around Belgrade. The Apilonian Royal Marines would go ashore at a chosen beach a dozen kilometres south of the port city of Durrës, normally a popular tourist beach, Plazhi I Golemit, it was a perfect landing site.

Once the Marines had secured Durrës, with the assistance of the 57th Airborne Brigade which would be dropped into a drop zone selected by the Marines, the rest of the CMC-E could be brought in and march on Tirana, after which the next step would depend on what was going on in the North. It had been agreed that it was not necessary to win the war in two weeks, but rather to keep the pressure on whilst the Apilonian II Corps got itself to the theatre. That was the plan anyway, although of course no plan survived first contact with the enemy.

As he sat quietly at the head of the table, whilst his planners went through the final details at the last briefing before the ground invasion began in a few hours time, Feldmarschall Wintheiser was nervous but not anxious. Only a fool would not be a little nervous, even if he was confident in his plan, when he was about to commit tens of thousands of allied troops into combat. It had also occurred to him, as it had pretty much anyone with even a hint of superstitious, that it was not particularly well omened to be starting an offensive on Friday the 13th. However, the Royal Marines, who would be conducting the most ambitious task on the day itself, had made it clear that despite the sailor’s tendency towards superstition they were not about to be kept out of the fight for any longer.

“Are there any concerns, ladies and gentlemen?” Feldmarschall Wintheiser asked, leaning forward one the briefing was complete, looking around at his multinational Commonwealth staff who had worked their tails off to bring this together. “Now’s the time people, I’m ready to give the go order.”

Looking around there was nothing but confidence and happiness with the plan, if a little nervousness as none of the officers around the table had been involved in actual combat operations on this scale. It was a good plan, one that had been approved by both the Apilonian Ministry of Defence and the Austrian General Staff, and it took full advantage of the wide range of capabilities and force multipliers available to them. It would not be a quick war, as there was no desire for a quick victory if it meant casualties were higher than if they remained cautious and allowed time or the Apilonian II Corps to arrive.

“Alright then,” Feldmarschall Wintheiser said solemnly. “The order is given, the offensive begins at zero nine hundred."
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

The Battle of Durrës

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Tue Dec 08, 2020 6:25 am

Colonel Hunter T. Kirkland, CS, RM
Plazhi I Golemit
Socialist Republic of Albania, People’s Republic of Yugoslavia
Friday 13th November 2020, 0900hrs Local Time

As far as conventional combat units was concerned the Corps of Royal Marines, an integral part of His Majesty’s Naval Service, was split into two key components; 1 Commando Division and 2 Commando Division. The former was responsible for providing a brigade-sized landing force that would deploy from the Royal Navy’s amphibious assault ships, whilst the latter was responsible for providing forward-deployed brigades from which one Commando Regiment could be put ashore from the Royal Navy’s landing ships. Such a set up was designed to allow the two components to complement each other; 1 Commando Division represented a concentrated landing force but could only be in one place at once, whereas 2 Commando Division was a smaller but regional presence, with a brigade in the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, and more gently at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. As such, the Royal Apilonian Military would have access to amphibious assault capability in the regions it needed it most whilst also being able to call in a much larger landing force if needed. It was exactly that scenario that had unfolded here; the Navy’s Amphibious Task Group was in the Pacific and would take some time to reach the Mediterranean, however 4 Commando Brigade on Malta took up the slack.

Within 4 Commando Brigade, as with the other two brigades in 2 Commando Division, one Commando Regiment was maintained on high readiness, another was coming off a period of high readiness, whilst another was in regeneration and retraining. As such, on this occasion 12 Commando Regiment was on high readiness and had been quickly crammed into the landing ships of Regional Amphibious Squadron ONE. The Pendleton-Class landing ship transport (LST) was the backbone of the Royal Navy’s regional amphibious capability; a one hundred-nineteen meter long, seventeen hundred tonne ship that could carry over three hundred marines and armoured vehicles and put them ashore directly courtesy of her flat bottom and bow ramp. The Pendleton-Class had been specifically designed to counter a concern within the Admiralty that the Naval Service’s amphibious capability was becoming too concentrated in large, amphibious platforms, which in most cases were heavily focused on air assault, and was losing its ability to put troops ashore on on a target beach. The LSTs were sufficiently armoured to approach under fire, and possessed both a 30mm auto cannon and .50 cal heavy machine guns forward to provide fire support to troops as they went ashore, either in one of the four landing craft carried or down the ramp itself.

The six Pendletons had left Malta after taking aboard 12 Commando Regiment, a process that was done quickly and efficiently due to regular practice runs and the fact that regular exercises were conducted. 12 Commando had also been joined by the 44th (Royal Maltese) Dragoons and their Ajax armoured vehicles, who would be accompanying them in the initial assault. The Royal Marines were an elite light infantry force, there was a reason why they were called ‘Commandos’ after all, designed to be fleet of foot and to use aggression and man-portable firepower to overcome an opposition rather than heavy armour. However, the Pendletons were large enough to carry a fairly significant complement of vehicles, up to and including main battle tanks, and as such wherever possible the Royal Marines would usually be accompanied by Army units, even if they could (and often did) operate independently. The 44th Dragoons were a regular army unit, one of four stationed on Malta as part of the 17th Infantry Division, and was responsible for providing the division with an armoured reconnaissance capability in what was otherwise an infantry formation, albeit a protected mobility one using the Foxhound armoured car.

Given the Royal Marines lack of any armoured component, and given that the three brigades of 2 Commando Division were based in the same place as an Infantry Division, it was common (but not yet formal, official) practice to attach the division’s Dragoons Regiment (battalion sized in the Cavalry) to the Commando Regiment for landing operations. As such, the process of loading the 44th Dragoons onto the Pendletons had taken only a little longer, and whilst not exactly comfortable as the additional manpower resulted in hot bunking (as opposed to the original design where every member of the embarked military force would get their own bunk), but for a short trip it was tolerable and the Dragoons were only brought aboard when a full landing operation was expected; normal, routine, deployments consisted of just the Marines. It was, after all, only a day’s sail from Malta to the Adriatic coast of Albania even at the paltry sixteen knots of the Pendletons, and a significant amount of that was taken up with briefings, last-minute intelligence updates and general preparations for deploying into a potentially hot landing zone.

Colonel Hunter T. Kirkland, commanding officer of 12 Commando Regiment, was satisfied that his command was ready for the fight ahead, and he had a good relationship with the commander of the 44th Dragoons, so was confident in their readiness as well. Colonel Kirkland was stood on the bridge of HMS Pendleton, the lead ship of the class, as the six LSTs pulled out from behind the cover of the Cruiser Relentless and the other warships of Standing Maritime Group TWO. The LSTs would head straight for the beach, as once they committed speed was of the essence given that they would be vulnerable on their way in, even with their armoured bows and the 40mm and .50 calibre mounted on the fo’c’s’le giving covering fire. In theory, anyway, as a reconnaissance flight by an Fire Scout MQ.3 drone an hour previously had indicated no substantial enemy presence on the beaches, although there might be a patrol in the immediate area depending on the exact moment the landing force went ashore, certainly not enough to resist a landing by nearly two thousand Royal Marines and Dragoons.

Indeed, the final intelligence assessments prepared by Defence Intelligence, which Colonel Kirkland took with a pinch of salt as was good practice in a combat leader, were largely encouraging. Both of the regular infantry brigades maintained by the Socialist Republic of Albania were dug in around the capital, Tirana, leaving the vast bulk of the rest of the country in the hands of reserve militia. Across the municipality, the Durrës Regiment numbered approximately seventeen hundred men, roughly equal in size to the 12 Commando Regiment, however they were spread across the entire municipality. Durrës itself was protected by a battalion-sized force, a little under five hundred men, whilst the rest of the opposing forces had been split up piecemeal into platoons and tasked with protecting individual villages, making them extremely vulnerable to being defeated in detail, which was precisely how Colonel Kirkland was going to proceed. There were three key villages that were immediate targets to secure after going ashore; Arapaj, Shkallnur, Kavaje, the latter being a little further inland towards the south and away from Durrës. Arapaj and Shkallnur were effecting suburbs of Durrës, but only protected by a platoon each and were essential to secure the beachhead before the Regiment turned its attention on the city itself. By contrast, Kavaje was a target because it was an excellent blocking position against any attempts by other militia units from the south to try and relieve the city.

As they approached the beach, the six Pendletons began to take some fire from a handful of coastal artillery guns around the Port of Durrës, however this was sporadic and ineffective and the guns were quickly silenced by naval gunfire from the Relentless. Otherwise, there was no opposition to their approach as the Yugoslav Navy had been sunk days previously and the People's Air Force was in no fit state to launch any sort of sortie to resist the landings, and there were fighter aircraft flying top-cover in any event. Shaking hands with the Captain of the Pendleton, Colonel Kirkland made his way down to the main deck where the four landing craft were being deployed over the sides packed with Marines to widen the spread of Apilonian troops on the beach. Colonel Kirkland himself would remain on the ship until it hit the beach, but positioned himself on the fo’c’s’le alongside the naval gun crews. The beach was getting closer and closer, and aside from a handful of locals who quickly fled in the face of an obvious landing by foreign forces, there was no sign of resistance. After a few more nerve-wracking moments the first of the landing craft hit the beach and the first Royal Marines rushed down the ramp, through the last few feet of surf and onto the beach.

Immediately after hitting the sand the Marines took up defensive positions, prone in the sand as they scanned their immediate surroundings to provide cover for the rest of their comrades to disembark. Once entire troops were ashore, their Lieutenant got them organised and the Royal Marines began to advance up the beach and further inland. It was a delicate situation, which made the fact that the landing had been opposed a mercy, given that they had to advance and secure key positions whilst also minimising the impact on the civilians, locals and tourists, whilst also ensuring that they weren’t an unacceptable risk in their rear. 1st Battalion moved northwards, into the Arapaj suburb, splitting in half to secure the two roads, SH4 and SH85, as well as the minor streets in between, and set up blocking positions against any attempt by the enemy battalion in Durrës to launch a counter-attack. Meanwhile, 2nd Battalion became the first part of the regiment to come under fire, as they encountered the enemy platoon in Shkallnur at a crossroads near a bus station; a key position that had been pre-identified by Colonel Kirkland and his planners.

Conscious of the surrounding hotels and civilian buildings, the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Michael T. Hyde, was cautious as he handled the evolution of the engagement, as it grew from a single squad that was quickly reinforced by a platoon, to a full company engaging the Albanian platoon dug in at the bus station with a commanding view over the crossroads. Careful to ensure that he was securing the rest of the village, Lt. Colonel Hyde stopped his entire battalion from converging on the firefight and instead sent his support company to assist whilst the other two rifle companies spread out. As the support company moved up, and the initial rifle company’s own MG section began to pin the enemy down, the rifle troops began to advance towards the building, spreading out around the perimeter in an attempt to split their fire. It was difficult going, however, as the militia platoon was very well dug-in and had good sight-lines, and although by no means risk-averse the Royal Marines were not particularly inclined to bum-rush a fortified position that included a machine gun nest.

After about ten minutes, by which point the militia had to be running low on ammunition, the stalemate was broken by the arrival of 4 Troop from the 44th Dragoons, having disembarked from their LST and directed straight towards the primary firefight of the landing. It seemed that the rumbling arrival of four armoured vehicles, which whilst not being tanks were armoured and possessed a decent size gun, was enough to convince the militiamen inside that they had done everything expected of them. By the time Colonel Kirkland arrived a few minutes later, accompanied by his own close protection team from the Regimental headquarters, Lt. Colonel Hyde was accepting the surrender of a Albanian officer outside the bus station as his battalion resumed their push to secure the settlement. With the firefight over, the first civilians were venturing out from where the had been sheltering to get a better view of the new arrivals, much to the annoyance of Colonel Kirkland and Lt. Colonel Hyde who would have much preferred they shelter in place until the area was entirely secured. Nevertheless, the company from 2nd Battalion that had set up a perimeter around the bus station kept the onlookers back, respectfully but firmly.

“Casualties?” Colonel Kirkland asked as he stepped up next to Lt. Colonel Hyde.

“Nothing substantial, a few minor wounds,” Lt. Colonel Hyde replied. “For all their fire and fury, their marksmanship left much to be desired.”

Colonel Kirkland snorted slightly in amusement.

“Enemy casualties?”

“Three dead, seven wounded, the rest surrendered,” Lt. Colonel Hyde reported. “Four 40mm cannons pointed at them were enough for them to call it a day.”

“Very good; treat the dead with respect, get the wounded to our regimental aid post, and secure the prisoners somewhere until the RMP get a detachment ashore to take over,” Colonel Kirkland ordered crisply. “I want to set up our regimental headquarters in that bus station, they choose a good site, let’s set up a holding area just in case we don’t get the 17th Infantry Division ashore as quickly.”

Lt. Colonel Hyde nodded.

“Shkallnur is my battalion’s responsibility, so I’ll leave you a security detail,” He nodded, glancing over at the growing group of civilians outside of the perimeter. “Those civvies don’t look up for a fight but I’d rather err on the side of caution in case they get sporty.”

“I’d appreciate that, gives me more flexibility with the RWC,” Colonel Kirkland nodded, referring to the Regimental Weapons Company that provided a variety of specialist capabilities to the regiment. “In the meantime, get the rest of the village secured, I’m more concerned about a counter-attack from Durrës than those civvies.”

Lt. Colonel Hyde and nodded before turning away to return to his battalion. Over the course of the next thirty minutes, the regimental headquarters moved from their holding positions just off the beach and setup shop inside the Shkallnur Bus Station. It was likely that it would remain the regional headquarters for the advance on Tirana; after all the Albanian Capital was only a dozen or so kilometres away and 12 Commando Regiment would likely lead the southern advance towards the city. At much the same time, the rest of the regiment secured the surrounding streets; the locals were given polite but firm instructions to remain inside for the immediate future, but also given contact details for the regimental headquarters, which would keep part of the Administrative and Quartermaster platoons busy for most of the day. A small standoff occurred outside the bus station when a group of local law enforcement officers appeared to protest being disarmed by the Royal Marines that had encountered them.

Understanding their concerns, particularly for their future prospects and that of their families, Colonel Kirkland had received them in the ad hoc office he had setup in the bus station manager’s office and had reassured them that the Kingdom was not here to rule as conquerors, and that once the fighting was over self-rule by the Albanians would be returned as soon as was practicable. Part of that, Colonel Kirkland had explained, include the return of various powers to local authorities, but that for the moment, for tactical reasons, armed Albanians behind the lines were simply unacceptable. Although clearly not pleased, and none of them making clear their feelings regarding the government in Tirana doubtless for fear that their colleagues may not share their opinion, the police officers had accepted the situation and whilst refusing to be ‘collaborators’ they had agreed to try and keep tensions low. It was as good as Colonel Kirkland could expect at this point, and matters would likely change once the regime in Tirana was defeated, but for the moment it was a matter of maintaining a delicate balance.

It was early afternoon by the time that the the perimeter had been secured, stretching from Arapaj in the north to Kavaje in the south, at which point 2nd Battalion had moved to relieve the other two battalions to ensure that the perimeter was manned by a single battalion for ease of command. It was a thin perimeter, designed to prevent small patrols by local militia from penetrating rather than resisting a major push by either of the two infantry brigades at Tirana, but it was sufficient. This allowed the 1st and 3rd battalions to reposition to the northern edge of the small Apilonian beachhead for the advance into Durrës itself. The plan for the advance was simple enough, and had been agreed prior to the landing; one battalion would push along the coast following the SH4 road, whilst a second would take the SH85 road further north before shining westward into the city. Their ultimate objective was the Main Square, where intelligence indicated that the main battalion of the militia Durrës Regiment had its headquarters, with smaller units spread out in the surrounding area to try and slow the advance of the Royal Marines.

Whilst 12 Commando Regiment had been securing the beachhead and the suburbs to the south, the Relentless had closed in a little and attempted to persuade the commander of the Durrës Regiment to surrender, especially once the Marines got ashore. The regiment’s commander had proven intransigent, however, and had refused. Unable to leverage her own firepower to try and persuade the man of the error of his ways, due to the fact that not only was his command centre in the middle of an urban area but also close to priceless historical structures and artefacts, the Relentless had instead spent most of the morning sailing menacingly offshore and broadcasting into the city using her powerful electronic warfare suite to warn the inhabitants to stay in their homes and to keep as low as possible as the Royal Marines would be entering the city after the refusal of its protectors to surrender. Although the Royal Marines would take very possible effort to minimise collateral damage, it would be infinitely easier if the locals kept out of their way, and the subtle placement of the blame for what was about to happen on the militia was the first stages of a campaign of persuasion for the post-conflict work that would follow.

The advance into Durrës began shortly before three in the afternoon. Each battalion was accompanied by a squadron from the 44th Dragoons, the other two remaining near the regimental headquarters as a tactical reserve, each with fourteen Ajax armoured fighting vehicles. Very aware of the vulnerability of such armoured vehicles in a built-up environment, the Commandos worked in close co-operation with the Dragoons; the reconnaissance platoon of the battalion’s support company was on point, one of the rifle companies were arrayed around the armoured column, whilst the other two companies were spread out by platoon through the surrounding streets as they advanced forward, slowly and deliberately. Although it was desirable to get the city secured as quickly as possible, there was no desire to rush the advance and take unnecessary casualties. Moreover, a slow and deliberate advance, particularly with armoured vehicles, had a powerful effect on the morale of the defenders and against a reserve militia that was an important consideration as they were far more likely to rout or surrender than a regular unit like those defending Tirana. It was hoped that Durrës would be a relatively quick and painless affair as opposed to the slog that was anticipated any advance on the Albanian capital would result in.

By late evening, the Prefektura Durrës was in sight for the leading elements, which had been coming under fire briefly by the Durrës militia which exchanged fire for a minute or two before melting away further into the city. It was a frustration more than anything else, as it slowed the advance as everyone dove for cover but the fleeting nature of the attacks meant that returning fire with any amount of weight was not acceptable as they moved through primarily residential areas. The militia likely realised this, and were hoping to thin out the Apilonian advance before it reached their main defensive positions. 1st Battalion had stuck to the port road, approaching the main square from the south, whilst the 3rd Battalion were coming in from the north having secured the Durrës Hospital and Police Station; both key targets for two different, but equally obvious, reasons. By and large the civilian population of the city, either out of prudence or in compliance with the Apilonian warnings, had stayed off the streets and out of the way as the Royal Marines and 44th Dragoons swept through the city.

The 1st Battalion encountered the outermost edge of the main enemy perimeter as they were approaching the Blue Star shopping centre, which the enemy had easily identified as a perfect location to draw the Commandos into and hold them up significantly, along with roadblocks on several of the surrounding roads. The 3rd Battalion encountered the same perimeter at a crossroads some five hundred north of the square itself, where an ad hoc roadblock of vehicles had also been established. Both battalions came under substantial fire as they approached these first roadblocks, and the 1st Battalion in particular had a hard time of pushing into the Blue Star shopping centre, as a platoon of militiamen defended the position valiantly. Ultimately however, as had proven to be the case all day, there was a clear gap between the training and equipment of the militia and the training of the Royal Marines, not to mention the 44th Dragoons. The training difference was a clear gulf, but the equipment difference was just as significant. Where the average militiaman had an old battle rifle and maybe some load-carrying equipment, but no body armour, the Royal Marines by contrast had a wide range of weapons, full load-carrying equipment and both Virtus combat armour and helmets.

Moreover, and part of the reason that 12 Commando Region had taken its time securing its beached before launching a slow advance into the city, was the fact that the Royal Marines had no concerns about the onset of nightfall. As Commandos they were trained for night combat in the way that a normal soldier was; sure the armoured and infantry divisions of the Apilonian Army could (and had) fought at night, but save for a few elite units this was avoided where possible. As such, each Royal Marine Commando was equipped with night vision optics, and as darkness fell these were equipped and the Apilonians had an even more decisive advantages over their opponents. It was at this point that the regiment launched its final attack. Until this point, the infamous aggression of the Royal Marines had been kept in check by their iron discipline, both to avoid any unnecessary casualties and to minimise the collateral damage in the residential areas. Now, with darkness fallen, the Commandos suddenly surged forwards on both fronts.

Spearheaded by the armoured vehicles of the 44th Dragoons, the two battalions swept over the outermost perimeter of the Durrës militia, rolling over them almost immediately in the face of a ferocious assault. The militia, exhausted after a day of waiting for the wave to hit them, broke almost uniformly along the perimeter as the Dragoons slammed through their makeshift roadblocks by sheer force of their armoured vehicles. Depending on the individual squads, or even individual soldiers, some fought a running firefight with the Commandos until they were on the steps of the Prefektura Durrës itself whilst others, preferring life over a pointless death, surrendered quickly to the Royal Marines as they swarmed forwards. It was only once the 44th Dragoons led the Commandos into the main square, holding their fire for the most part and instead absorbing the small arms fire intended for the Commandos, that the holdouts saw the futility of their actions and the commander of the Durrës Regiment emerged from the Prefektura to order his men to cease their struggle and to surrender, but not before half their number had been killed, all in an effort to make his ego feel a little better about surrendering.

There was a reason, Colonel Kirkland thought grimly as he arrived outside the Prefektura Durrës a short time later and observed the scene, that the Home Guard, the modern-day successor to the Crown Militia, was still organised and run as a professional (if part-time) force. Aside from anything else it ensured that the leadership was chosen on the basis of their ability, rather than for their loyalty to ‘the party’ or their prominence in their local community. It was a sobering reminder that there was every chance that the two regular infantry brigades the Albanian’s had around Tirana were likely to put up just as stiff a resistance and they were far more likely to be able to inflict real casualties on the Apilonian forces, which had been mercifully light so far There was a reason, after all, why Commonwealth planners were hoping that the majority of the civilian population would flee the city, or at least that the Albanians would mount their defence outside rather than force intense street fighting. After all, this was not a conflict in which only absolute and total victory would be acceptable; both Austria and the Commonwealth had made clear to both the Politburo in Belgrade, and the constituent republics, the terms that it would accept.

It was hoped that at least some of the constituent republics would choose a conditional surrender under being forced into an unconditional defeat. Its as agreed that Serbia (and to a lesser extent Bosnia) was a lost cause, which was why the Austrians would be pushing with full force alongside the new Hungarian Division, but the Socialist Republics of Albania, Montenegro, and Macedonia were seen the ‘soft underbelly’ of the People’s Republic. There was a reason, after all, that although Apilonian forces would start to advance through the passes towards Belgrade, it would also turn its attention to the latter two republics, in an attempt to break the People’s Republic down along the ethnic and language lines that had already started to show cracks. It was hoped that, if Apilonia and the Commonwealth could take advantage of the tensions in the People’s Republic that had driven the Politburo to try and hold onto Hungary by force, to bring at least part of the conflict to a quicker, and less bloody, end. After all, intelligence had been indicating for years now that the constituent republics had been clamouring for more autonomy from Belgrade, which had responded with a brutal crackdown; there was an appetite in some quarters for another option.

Colonel Kirkland sighed heavily, as he watched a troop of Royal Marines begin to respectfully remove their fallen comrades to a holding area where they could be identified and returned to their families, hoping to god that the Albanians, Montenegrins, and Macedonians saw sense, and dreading the reports that would undoubtedly come once the Austrian advance in the north met opposition. As the Apilonian flag was raised above the Prefektura Durrës, illuminated as its Albanian counterpart had been by spotlights, Colonel Kirkland simply hoped that it would not be soaked in blood by the time that they were done.
Last edited by The Kingdom of Apilonia on Tue Dec 08, 2020 6:39 am, edited 2 times in total.
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Mon Dec 28, 2020 5:31 am

Feldmarschall Kristopher Wintheiser
Miramare Castle, Free City of Trieste
Archduchy of Austria
Friday 13th November 2020, 2100hrs Local Time

Although the initial Austrian advances into the Socialist Republic of Bosnia (SRB) had been largely successful, Feldmarschall Wintheiser was concerned that they were about to find themselves in a delicate and dangerous situation. It was a concern that was shared by the planning staff, who were listening to an overview of the situation after the first day’s fighting on the ground.

The three Austrian divisions had swept across the border, spearheaded by the 1st and 2nd Panzergrenadier Divisions, whilst the 6th Jäger Division secured the ground taken as the armoured units pushed through the thin (after the Yugoslav push into Istria had failed, the Yugoslav Army had pulled back further into Bosnia) border defences and secured the major towns of Bihac, Cazin, and Prijedor all of which were within twenty kilometres of the northern border. In the east, the 7th (Hungarian) Division was starting to push into northern Serbia, but as an infantry formation it was having far less success at penetrating deep and quickly into enemy territory, which wasn’t all that much of a problem as it was intended to hold Yugoslavian units in Serbia and prevent them from having enough resources to launch a counter-attack into Bosnia. The initial target for the advance, which would be necessarily slow due to the densely-forested nature of the region that would require either a painstaking advance from the forests, which would take forever with armoured vehicles, or a closely backed-up advance along the roadways, which would also be slow due to the need to co-ordinate the kind of full-spectrum support that would prevent a bloodbath on such obvious routes of advance.

It was anticipated that it would take the best part of a week for the 1st Panzergrenadier Division to make their way to the city, even if the 6th Jäger would likely be able to advance through the forests far quickly in order to secure the flanks of the main advance. The 2nd Panzergrenadier would form a broad line of advance further to the west, primarily to protect against a counter-attack whilst the other two divisions concentrated on the key second-largest city. The possibility of such a spread-out advance had been anticipated in the intelligence planning, and proven to likely be accurate in practice, due to the ethnic and religious demographic of the SRB; the north-western portions being heavily Bosniak Muslim, along with a significant holding around Sarajevo, whereas the north-east (and south-east, on the border with Serbia itself) was heavily Serb. It had been long known, even in a state like Yugoslavia that tried to keep such matters from the eyes of the world, that there was a significant amount of tensions between the Serbs (who easily formed the largest single ethnic group in Yugoslavia) and the rest, and this was true even in Bosnia. It was why only Serbia itself had been identified as almost certain to keep fighting regardless of the cost, and although Bosnia was seen as ‘likely’ to do the same, unlike the other constituent republics in which it was hoped a settlement could be forced a lot easier, it was at least conceivable that Bosnia would sell out Serbia in order to secure more favourable terms for itself.

As such, although it would not be accurate to say that the Austrian troops in the Bosniak dominated north-west around Bihac and Cazin, had not faced any opposition, it was far more subdued, with some areas positively welcoming, when compared to the open hostility further east into majority-serb areas. Crowds of military-age males still gathered in both areas, but in the former this was more to protect their homes and their families, whereas in the latter they actively tried to provoke the Austrian troops, most with stones, some with automatic weapons that caused a rash of small exchanges of gunfire to break out as the 6th Jäger tried to secure the territory, often as little as a platoon surrounded by several hundred angry locals. Discipline in such a situation was essential, as any disproportionate response to an understandable reaction would due untold harm both to any hopes of a lasting peace and to Austria (and by extension) the Commonwealth’s reputation. It was expected that the 2nd Panzergrenadier Division would be able to advance along western border, which due to its proximity to the Duchy of Croatia was broadly neutral even in the Serb-majority areas, until they reached an area dominated by a Croat-majority, which had obvious ethnic and social links across the border, and were expected to be broadly welcoming. Such an advance would put the 2nd Panzergrenadier to the south of Sarajevo, which was why the capture of Banja Luka was essential as it would allow a pincer movement against the Bosnian Capital and, hopefully take them out of the war allowing a concentration on Serbia, and Belgrade in particular.

It had not been anticipated that taking advantage of the ethnic fault-lines within the People’s Republic would be an issue, as the plan for the post-war was to split up Yugoslavia into its constituent republics, which were already on broadly ethnic lines, so that they would not pose a threat to Austria-Hungary in the future, which would also keep them in line. However, what had not been anticipated was quite how poorly the Bosnian Serbs, particularly those in the south-east area adjacent to the Serbian border, would respond to the less than substantive resistance that the Bosniaks would give to the Austrians after they had crossed the border. In the modern age of social media, which was still alive and well as civilian telecommunications had largely been left untouched by the Commonwealth air strikes for hearts-and-minds reasons (and given that they were unsecured, a potential source of intelligence if any of the defenders started using them to communicate). As such, news and video footage of the Austrian armoured units rolling into Bosniak majority areas with next to no resistance had quickly spread across Bosnia, and Yugoslavia as a whole. However, where for most it was merely damaging to morale it absolutely infuriated the Bosnian Serbs.

Demonstrations had broken out across Bosnia, leading to confrontations between angry crowds of Serbs and any Bosniaks they had come across, and these had quickly descended into violence. Although SRB law enforcement had cracked down on the street violence before it could escalate into full-blown riots it was as concerning for the Commonwealth commanders as it likely was for the Bosnians. It was obvious that the Serbs saw the actions of the Bosniaks as a betrayal, not so much of the Revolution (as the Politburo would like it to be) but of both Bosnia and Yugoslavia as a whole, given that a Bosniak surrender to the Austrians would allow them to march on Sarajevo almost unopposed and would essentially give up the entire SRB to them. Doubtless the Serbs, who had always been primary enemy of the Austro-Hungarians given that Bosnia had been successfully annexed by the latter and at least partially assimilated whereas Serbia had remained an independent Kingdom until the formation of the People’s Republic, were terrified that the
Bosniaks were going to allow the ‘Austrian Menace’ to sweep over them and move onto Serbia to conquer them once and for all.

Such tensions between the enemy population was dangerous, whilst some distrust had been intended, in order to break up Yugoslavia and deal with its constituent republics one-by-one, it had not been anticipated that things would escalate so quickly. As such, there was very real concern within CRC Europe that events would escalate, particularly once they broke through the Bosnian resistance in the north. The irony that a Bosnian Infantry Brigade, which was made up of Bosnians from all over the SRB (including Bosniaks) would fight to protect Banja Luka whilst the Serbs were fighting the Bosniaks in the south was not lost on Feldmarschall Wintheiser, although it apparently was by the Serbs themselves. Although street violence was concerning, and a potential complication for the post-war situation, especially given that it suggested that Serbia would not be easily subdued even after a military defeat, it was ultimately largely disorganised and organic, and the damage would hopefully be minimised as a result. More concerning to Feldmarschall Wintheiser and his planners was if the Politburo decided to turn against Bosnia, and commit Yugoslavian People’s Army to any sort of campaign against the Bosniaks.

That was the truly concerning implications of what was happening after less than twenty-four hours of fighting. God only knew what would happen as the war dragged on, especially given the slow progress that would be made just to get to Banja Luka.

“How are the Apilonians doing,” Feldmarschall Wintheiser asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence after the staff intelligence officer,, completed her briefing. “I assume well, as you’ve not reported a catastrophe to me.”

“Very well, by all accounts, Sir, 12 Commando Regiment has secured Durrës, defeating the last holdouts in the last hour, as per the original plan, they’ll start to bring additional forces ashore now they’ve secured the port” Came the reply, almost immediately, from one of his staff operations officers. “They’ll continue to build-up for an advance towards Tirana; as it stands their 57th Airborne Brigade remains un-deployed, as the Durrës was secured before their planned jump, so is now serving as a reserve for CMC-E.”

Feldmarschall Wintheiser nodded thoughtfully; although he was the overall commander the relatively isolated nature of Albania, at least relative to Bosnia and Serbia, meant that he had given the General Officer Commanding, Commonwealth Multinational Corps, Europe, a free hand to conduct the advance at his own discretion. However, with the concerning events in Bosnia, Feldmarschall Wintheiser was concerned that there would be similar backlashes against the Albanian-majority semiautonomous region of Kosovo in the southern part of the Socialist Republic of Serbia in the event that Albania surrendered or capitulated. Of course, that was assuming the Politburo decided to throw fuel on the fire of the pubic tensions, which everyone around the table was hoping would not happen, but it was something that had to be kept in consideration. The Commonwealth could not be seen to be standing idly by whilst atrocities happened as a result of their actions, and as such had to be ready to take action to prevent them. In Bosnia it was fairly simple; the main advance was already going to pass through there, but somewhere like Kosovo was far more exposed, and away from the main axis of advance for either the Austrian Corps of CMC-E. Having an entire airborne brigade, much less one with the reputation of the Apilonian Paratroopers, would be a significant advantage in the event that the situation deteriorated.

Hesitating for only a moment, Feldmarschall Wintheiser leant forward. Although he was well within his rights to do so, as the Commonwealth Regional Commander, it would be the first time that he issued an order that might not be tremendously well-received by the Apilonian General Officer in command of CMC-E. Although he was confident that the Apilonian would follow his orders, as it was a legal one under the Treaty of Cape Town and the Common Defence Policy, but it was still early days of the Commonwealth and only a fool would not feel a little nervous.

“Detach the 57th Airborne Brigade from CMC-E, I want them directly under my command for use as a theatre reserve, and I want them ready to go on as short a notice as is possible,” Wintheiser ordered, firmly. “This entire region is even more of a power keg than previous expected, it these reports from the field are true, then the intelligence estimates were an understatement if anything, but we will not allow chaos to unfold on our watch.”

His Royal Highness The Archduke of Austria
The Hofburg, Vienna
Archduchy of Austria
Saturday 14th November 2020, 0800hrs Local Time

“George, have you seen this report from CRC Europe?” Sophia asked as she walked into the private library, intelligence report in hand, having grown increasingly concerned the more she read it over breakfast. “I don’t like the sound of these demonstrations in Bosnia.”

George looked up from where he was sat on one of several sofas, a steaming hot cup of earl grey tea in one hand and a pile of documents in the other resting on his lap, and held up one document in particular; a carbon copy of the same intelligence report that Sophia held in her hand. His own expression was grim; unlike her he had a background in military intelligence so he could read more into the, sometimes cagey, language used by intelligence analysts and, perhaps more importantly, he had a far better understanding of the various sources used and was able to make his own assessment on their veracity. Nevertheless, it was concerning simply from a surface reading and it only got more and more worrying the better one understand the content.

“It’s concerning,” George agreed. “At the moment it’s just people letting off steam, but it could turn very ugly very quickly.”

“What do we do?” Sophia sighed as she sat down beside him, briefly pausing to ask a footman to bring her a coffee.

“At this point there’s not a great deal that we can do; if we more in too quickly we stretch ourselves dangerously thin and we unite the two sides against us, if we leave it too long, we run the risk of something awful happening before our troops can get between them,” George grimaced. “At this point Feldmarschall Wintheiser is doing pretty much all we can do; he’s putting quick-response troops onto standby alert, primarily the 57th Airborne Brigade, and adjusting the Austrian Corps’ plan of advance, but it's all about timing.”

“I don’t like it, just waiting for things to get out of hand,” Sophia scowled. “If we have to wait, we need to be ready to respond in force.”

George nodded.

“That is the intention, based on both these intelligence reports, and the broadly docile welcome we’ve received in Bosniak areas, the Austrian Corps is going to push through the eastern parts of the SRB, in force rather than spread out into east and west advances, and put themselves between Serbia and Sarajevo,” George replied, gesturing to another report. “It’s risky, particularly of the Bosniaks start to provide any sort of real resistance, but CRC Europe is confident that the Bosniaks know the writing is on the wall, the borderlands are more friendly with us anyway, and that they know that the Serbs would see their defeat as a betrayal even if they fought so they likely want our protection.”

“Then why doesn’t Sarajevo just sue for peace,” Sophia frowned. “They just have to reach out, we’d be magnanimous, they have to know that!”

“Do they? You have to remember, my love, that they’ve been taught for decades that Austria is the ‘great menace’ and that we’ll kill them all if given a chance, it’s only the soft advance that we’ve made into Bosnia that have suggested the contrary, and that’s with the border communities with links ‘across the wire’, and even then its militia forces concerned with protecting their homes and families,” George replied. “Doubtless, the professionalism and magnanimity of our troops in the border regions will encourage other Bosniaks to call it a day, particularly given that they fear the Serbs and their reaction, but you also have to remember that the political leaders in Sarajevo are either ideological true-believers in the revolution, or otherwise like the trappings of power and position, it’ll take more to push them over the edge.”

“I suppose, after all, Yugoslavia has been a menace to us for as long as I can remember, so I suppose it goes both ways,” Sophia commented thoughtfully. “Although, I would hope that the professionalism of our troops will go some ways to reversing that.”

“It will, both from the perspective of those that surrendered peacefully, like the Bosniaks in the west, who see that we are magnanimous in victory, and for those that have tried to fight, like the Serbs in the east, who we have proven our prowess in combat,” George nodded. “News of both will spread, and indeed has already done so as the demonstrations by the Serbs show, and although we will have to fight the regular Yugoslavian forces, I agree with the assessment that we have a shot at convincing some militias to trust us and stand aside.”

George sighed.

“The difficulty with the Bosniaks, and the Croats and other ethnic groups who decline to fight now will be convincing them to disarm and accept the rule of law in the post-war settlement, the last thing we need, nor can our legal system accept, is armed paramilitaries enforcing their own form of justice, even on actual criminals” George added grimly. “But that’s manageable compared to Serbia… unless I’m very much mistaken we’re looking at a prolonged military occupation rather than a speedy transition to civilian control, under our banner of course, but either way, we need to prove that we can protect communities and prevent violence… which brings us back to the timing!”

“Damn,” Sophia sighed.

“Exactly, and let’s be clear here, the general population getting into streets fights and killing each other is far from ideal, but that is something we can broadly stop by our presence, and whilst awful will probably not be all that organised or devastating as a result,” George commented. “The true danger is if the Politburo, which all intelligence indicates has a significant Serb majority, decides to use Serb security forces to try and cow the people into submission and resistance to us, or indeed if they try to punish them for perceived treachery… even a few days, or even hours, of organised action by the Serb security forces could be devastating.”

“My god,” Sophia said quietly. “I hadn’t even thought of that, I was just thinking of opposing militias trading shots.”

“If you read this thing between the lines, as I’ve got used to doing back when I was still in the Army, although the focus is on the militia, there is a real concern it could become more organised, disorganised violence between the militia could result in some civilian deaths, and maybe some excesses, but we can more easily stop that,” George replied grimly. “The concern is that the Politburo might go off the deep end on these ‘traitors to the revolution’, and given that most of them would be Bosniaks, Croats, or Albanians, it would be easier to get Serbs to punish them, especially if they play into the existing ethnic tensions… that’s why the intelligence assessments are so cagey on the latter point, we don’t know what the Politburo are going to do.”

“They don’t want to commit to saying what the Politburo is going to do, either way, because they aren’t confident enough yet,” Sophia nodded her understanding. “I assume they’re looking into that as a matter of urgency… so that we know what we’re dealing with?”

“It’s the highest priority,” George nodded. “It’s the one true outstanding question in all of this, Defence Intelligence is solid on pretty much everything else.”

Sophia ran her fingers through her hair in something of a soothing motion.

“I had no idea it was going to be this messy,” Sophia sighed. “I know we knew they had underlying tensions, but…”

“Truthfully, this would probably still have happened even if we hadn’t provided the last push by our agreement with Hungary, or intelligence indicates that the Politburo was fully aware of the developing tensions along longstanding ethnic lines,” George shook his head. “Sooner or later, Yugoslavia would have collapsed into chaos and violence, doubtless with various military and paramilitary forces declaring for a variety of different factions, at least this way we’re in a position to try and stop it, before it gets out of hand.”

“I hope you’re right,” Sophia sighed, resting her head on his shoulder. “I hope we can stop it.”
Last edited by The Kingdom of Apilonia on Mon Dec 28, 2020 5:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Mon Jan 18, 2021 6:06 pm

Colonel Hunter T. Kirkland, CS, RM
Tirana International Airport
Socialist Republic of Albania, People’s Republic of Yugoslavia
Monday 16th November 2020, 1500hrs Local Time

Colonel Kirkland jumped down from the Foxhound protected mobility vehicle, which was amongst the vehicles that his headquarters staff had borrowed from the vehicle pool of the 49th Infantry Brigade, which had come ashore at Durrës from Malta over the weekend, to give them a little more flexibility to move around the battle space. Unlike 12 Commando Regiment, which like the rest of the Royal Marines was an elite light infantry force, the 49th Infantry Brigade (and indeed all of the regular infantry brigades) was a protected mobility infantry force equipped with the Foxhound. As such, it had a slightly heavier footprint but was far more mobile and much better protected against small arms fire, however the Apilonian Army had maintained a long-standing policy that all of its soldiers were to remain proficient in basic soldiering skills to ensure that they could operate and fight just as effectively without their vehicles as with them. Indeed, as they were mobility vehicles and not fighting vehicles current Army doctrine was to dismount and conduct an advance on foot with the vehicles kept behind at least one terrain feature during a planned assault in order to avoid encouraging officers to use them as an integral part of their attack when they might not always be available.

Up until half an hour previously, Colonel Kirkland had been at his forward command post overseeing the attack on Tirana International Airport; the first objective of the Albanian phase of the broader Commonwealth strategy of divide and conquer for dealing with Yugoslavia. The true war fighting was shaping up in Bosnia, and in time Serbia, where they were facing regular Yugoslavian units, and especially given the disturbing reports that were coming out of eastern Bosnia. That wasn’t to say that there would not be fighting in Albania, Montenegro, or Macedonia, as indeed there had already been some, but there was very much a feeling within the Commonwealth Regional Command that the original hope that at least some constituent republics could be encouraged to surrender with comparatively limited amounts of fighting. Securing the capital city’s international airport was the first step in putting pressure on the Albanian leadership in Tirana, for a whole host of reasons, and was key to both the Commonwealth’s logistics situation and restoring at least some semblance of normality to civil aviation to Albania.

After securing Durrës, 12 Commando Regiment had spent most of Saturday securing the rest of Durrës County whilst the 17th Infantry Division and 21st (Commonwealth) Infantry Division had deployed into the country on the Saturday and the Sunday respectively. The 17th Infantry Division was made up of the 49th Infantry Brigade, a regular unit, and the 50th and 51st Infantry Brigades, which were made up of reserve forces which had been activated and would primarily serve in a variety of rear area roles to allow the regulars to concentrate on offensive operations. The 21st Infantry Division was a unit that had been quickly assembled during the air campaign to facilitate the contribution of other Commonwealth realms to the operation as an interim arrangement as the Common Defence Agreement (CDA) anticipated, in the long-term, that contributions for ground operations would be on the scale of divisions rather than brigades. However, the fact of the matter was that the Commonwealth was having to step up and defend a member-state, and for its principles, far quicker than anyone expected and, as such, the member-states had not completed their organisational adjustments that would be needed to provide full divisions for overseas operations.

Indeed, the Commonwealth Secretariat had made it clear that contributions by either the Emirate of East Africa or the Union of South Africa would not be expected, given the short timeframe since the CDA had been agreed, following the Treaty of Cape Town. However, both Emir Mohammed bin Ahmed al-Sufi and President Jonathan Mulder had been adamant that they would meet their commitments, as a matter of symbolism aside from anything else, so the decision had been made to quickly set up a new divisional headquarters within the Apilonian Army to command them and that had been that. It was particularly symbolic for the 1st East African Brigade, as it was the first regular force that the Emirate had been able to put together, that had been trained to Apilonian standards, since the end of the East African Civi War. It was a remarkable achievement, to be able to deploy a regular force overseas as part of their Commonwealth commitments, and it was only possible due to the fact that there was still a significant Apilonian security force in East Africa to keep matters quiet.

In any event, the symbolism had not been missed by the media in Apilonia, Austria, or any of the Commonwealth realms; all four current member-states coming together to fight the good-fight against an authoritarian socialist regime so soon after the formation of the Commonwealth was a powerful image and was already being positively leveraged by the Commonwealth Secretariat in discussions with prospective member-states.

As it stood, the 21st Infantry Division had started moving southwards along Albanian Highway SH56, through a pass in the hills that would allow them to approach Tirana from the south-west. With the Gurkhas of the 60th Gurkhas Brigade in the lead, division was slowly pushing through a succession of Albanian checkpoints and defensive hard points that were offering token to moderate resistance before falling back to their next position. It was a positive sign, that the Albanian military leadership was actively trading distance for time rather than holding every position all all costs, given that it suggested that they suspected there would be some form of resolution other than a military confrontation and that giving up defensive positions would not come back to bite them in the backside in the long run. However, although the Albanian General Staff clearly saw the writing not he wall, it was obvious that their political masters would require some further encouragement following their defeat at Durrës.

It was for that reason that 12 Commando Regiment had been ordered to Tirana International.

Supported, as they had been at Durrës, by the Ajax armoured fighting vehicles of the 44th (Royal Maltese) Dragoons, the regiment have moved from its forward position as the mouth of the northern pass through the hills and across the open ground towards the airport. In stark contrast to the resistance that the 21st Infantry Division was facing in the south, which could be described as tepid, the company of soldiers from the elite Albanian Guards Regiment offered far stiffer resistance. It had been a careful balancing act, to leverage the firepower of the Ajax AFVs to cover the advance of the regiment without inflicting excessive damage to the airport itself, which senior commanders wanted to be operational as soon as possible after the fighting was over. Ultimately however, the Albanian Guards were heavily outnumbered and certainly outgunned, and even if they could probably give the Royal Marines a run for their money on a good day, from a training and motivation perspective, this was not to be there day.

With each Commando troop accompanied by an Ajax AFV, the Royal Marines had enjoyed tactical fire superiority in every engagement they fought during their takeover of the airport, and with tactical drones in the air from the regimental headquarters they had know exactly where every their enemy was. It had taken the better part of four hours, and cost the lives of half a dozen Royal Marines and more wounded to one extent or another, but the last of the remaining Albanian Guards had been killed or captured and half an hour later the battalion commanders had declared the site secured. As soon as the fighting was over the casualties were transported to the Regimental Aid Post, to be treated, assessed, and more than likely escalated to a casualty clearing station and, in due course, to the 801st Combat Support Hospital, part of the 17th Infantry Division’s attached medical element, the 80th Medical Regiment, which was establishing itself outside of Durrës as the city’s hospitals were already full of Albanian military casualties. It had been yet another sobering moment for Colonel Kirkland, watching the military ambulances pass as he was driven from his command post to the airport.

As a Royal Marine Officer, Colonel Kirkland was expected to exhibit and encourage in his men the same aggression and tenacity that had earned the Royal Marines an impressive reputation both within His Majesty’s Forces and globally. Both the amphibious role and the commando role required an aggressive attitude and mindset, albeit tempered with training and discipline. However, just because that aggression was a key aspect of the Royal Marines success, didn’t mean that he had to like the consequences, even if they had taken the target, quicker and more efficiently than most. Thankfully it was a mindset that was shared by the majority of King’s Officers; they would do what needed to be done to achieve their objective, but they would not throw lives away unnecessarily. Sometimes there would be a need to ask their men to make the ultimate sacrifice, for King and Country, and that was something that all officers had to come to terms with, but the days of throwing men into a meat-grinder for no good cause were long-gone; there was a reason why all the service branches had put so much funding into various force-multipliers.

Lt. Colonel Hyde, of the 2nd Battalion, was first to greet him as he stepped down from the Foxhound.

“We’ve posted men around the perimeter, and we’ve sent most of the civilian staff who were sheltering in place home for the day,” Lt. Colonel Hyde reported. “Most had the sense to keep their heads down or get out of the way… we’ve kept some of the management staff, the brigade major from 49th Infantry Brigade wanted to speak to them.”

Colonel Kirkland nodded; in the Apilonian Army, which did not use the ‘continental system’ which had been adopted by the majority of militaries for their staff, a Brigade Major (BM) was the chief of staff for a brigade and was therefore a key figure within the headquarters staff. It made sense that the brigade major would want to speak to the airport’s management staff, as the 49th Infantry Brigade had been tasked with overall responsibility for this sector and, more specifically, for getting the airport operational again, albeit under careful oversight by allied air controllers. Given that, for all intents and purposes, 12 Commando Regiment was under the de facto command of the 49th Infantry Brigade keeping their Brigadier happy was a good thing, even if the Commandos had a significant amount of latitude and freedom in their own operations, and could easily be detached by the 17th Infantry Division commander or, theoretically, an even higher commander as 12 Commando Regiment was, effectively, an independent formation.

“Very well, keep them comfortable and well looked after; I don’t want these people to think that they are our prisoners, we need them to work with us willingly after all of this is said and done,” Kirkland replied. “In the meantime, start rotating the battalions through the perimeter watch, I want those not on the fence line to check-in and consolidate, we might need to move on pretty quickly.”

Lt. Colonel Hyde nodded and left to carry out his orders, leaving Colonel Kirkland to move into one of the airport’s office buildings where his headquarters staff was setting themselves up. As 12 Commando Regiment had been tasked with garrisoning Tirana International it would fall to the regimental headquarters to work with the civilian management to get the airport up and running, which was a key part of getting non-essential non-Albanian nationals out of Albania, which would hopefully help to reduce the bubbling tensions with Romania and Zapadoslavia who had not responded tremendously positively to the Austrian/Commonwealth intervention in Yugoslavia. Allowing the small number of their citizens stuck in-country to fly home safely and quickly would do wonders on that front, and the senior officers had made it abundantly clear that was to be a consideration. Between the civilian staff, and the deployed air traffic controllers of the Royal Air Force, and that the damage to the airport had been limited to a few external buildings that had been taken over by the Albanian Guards, it would not be all that difficult to get civilian flights operating again. Given that the Commonwealth military forces had control of the air, the only risk was from Albanian or Yugoslav MANPADS on the ground whose operators might mistake a civilian aircraft for a military one, but it was for that reason that all flights out would be directed through Commonwealth controlled territory to international airspace.

As his headquarters staff were doing their own thing, Colonel Kirkland turned his attention to the bigger picture, now that his own regiment had secured its target.

The 49th Infantry Brigade had moved in after 12 Commando Regiment and the 44th Dragoons, and were establishing a new front-line roughly halfway between the new forward base at Tirana International and Tirana itself. As with the advance to the south-west, the purpose was not to get into a shooting match with the Albanian Army, but rather to continue putting pressure on the Albanian Government. If capitulation was not forthcoming this evening, the two divisions would start to slowly tighten their grip and advance forward, pushing the two Albanian brigades further and further back towards the outskirts of the city. Sooner or later, push would come to shove and the Albanian leadership would have to chose between their loyalty to the Politburo in Belgrade, which had a whole raft of its own problems to deal with, or negotiating a peaceful settlement of their own; for his own part, Colonel Kirkland hoped that they saw reason and that their military situation was not one that was going to end in their favour. Yet, he was all too aware that for the political elite in Tirana, they stood to lose everything as their survival in positions of power in the event of a surrender was unlikely to say the least, as opposition groups were chomping at the bit to take their place, and they were more than happy to deal with the Apilonians and the Commonwealth.

In truth, despite his natural inclination as a Royal Marine Commando towards an aggressive approach, Colonel Kirkland would be more than happy if they did not have to fight another battle in this part of the campaign. Over the past few days, every Albanian civilian, surrendered military officer or soldier, or government official, he had met, although very wary and more than a little dismayed by the fact that they were under foreign occupation, had been polite and respectful enough. He had absolutely no desire to kill any more of them than was absolutely necessary, and he didn’t doubt that the same would be the case across most of Yugoslavia; as had been made clear by numerous Apilonian, Austrian, and Commonwealth officials over the pats few days, their fight was not with any of the peoples of Yugoslavia, just their leadership that had lied to them as much as they had committed acts of aggression against a Commonwealth member-state. Indeed, Colonel Kirkland would much rather be marching north, as not only was there a proper fight going win but, if the intelligence was anything to go by, something far darker and something that 12 Commando Regiment ought to be playing its part in stopping.

As it stood, the situation in Bosnia, and to a lesser extent in the Albanian-majority province of Kosovo in the Socialist Republic of Serbia, was tense and violent, the Serbs were taking the fact that their Bosniak and Albanian ‘allies’ were losing badly, but it was currently disorganised street fighting and beatings, nothing organised or disproportionate. The biggest fear of every officer and NCO in the entire Commonwealth Regional Command, much less the senior military and political leadership in Vienna and Seattle, was that events would get out of hand, something that seemed more likely the closer Albania, and particularly Bosnia, came to capitulation. It was also clear that the Commonwealth could not be responsible for something like that happening, whether by the fact that they started the war in the first place or by defeating either Albania or Bosnia, and it was for that reason that contingency plans were already being prepared to try and stop any ethnic violence from escalating. In truth, it was almost certain that such violence would have happened with or without the current conflict, with the break-up of Yugoslavia ethnic tensions were always going to be rife, it was just fortunate that the Commonwealth would already have significant military force, and the political will to enforce a solution, already in-country when it all kicked off.

Although at the moment 12 Commando Regiment was officially assigned to the operations to take Tirana, and secure Albania’s general capitulation, Colonel Kirkland had been warned by the General Officer Commanding, 17th Infantry Division, passing word directly from the Commonwealth Regional Commander, Feldmarschall Wintheiser, to be prepared to swing north on short notice to re-deploy to Kosovo. It was an inevitable situation that the regiment would find itself in, as they would effectively be racing any Serb brigades into Kosovo, and would therefore have to fight them once they made contact, but if there was any unit in the theatre that could get it done it was the Royal Marines of 12 Commando Regiment. As much as he would never admit it, as the rivalry between the Royal Marines and the Airborne was legendary, it was also comforting to know that, in the event of a Serb offensive against the Albanian majority in Kosovo, Colonel Kirkland and his men would fight alongside the 57th Airborne Brigade, for whom they would secure a drop zone as the first order of business in Kosovo.

Just the thought of such a hurried and on-the-fly redeployment made his head spin, and Colonel Kirkland made a mental note to, once again, request that, as soon as was practical, his regiment be released from operations around Tirana to setup a staging point close to the Kosovo border. As it stood, the response he had gotten both times was that there were concerns that positioning a Commonwealth regiment so close to the border might provoke the kind of actions that they were supposed to be there to prevent. As such, they were going to have to wait and be ready to pivot on a dime, although after his last attempt he had been reassured that if intelligence became clearer, but not immediate, his request to re-position would be granted. It was far from ideal, but this entire conflict was a delicate tightrope, both politically and in terms of taking action just in time but not too soon and certainly not too late.

There were times, Colonel Kirkland thought wryly as he found himself an empty office to write his after action report, where he was glad that he was still a field grade officer, and could leave the other decisions to his superiors.
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Tue Mar 02, 2021 6:07 am

Feldmarschall Kristopher Wintheiser
Miramare Castle, Free City of Trieste
Archduchy of Austria
Friday 20th November 2020, 1700hrs Local Time

Sixteen days into the conflict, and a week into the ground campaign, a dark cloud had settled over the headquarters of CRC Europe.

On the surface, from a purely military perspective, it was difficult to see why this would be the case. In the north, the Austrian Corps had made excellent progress into Bosnia; in the west of the country Austrian divisions had secured (with very little resistance from the local Croat-majority residents, who had many links across the border despite the best efforts of the Yugoslavian state) the major city of Mostar, whilst other divisions had secured Banja Luka after a commendable defence by a brigade of Bosnian infantry. In short, this put an advance on Sarajevo very much on the cards, and it was generally hoped that an encirclement of the city would persuade the wavering government to capitulate which would save the Austrians from a costly assault into the city. Further south in Yugoslavia, matters were even better; the Apilonian 17th Infantry Division and the nominally-Apilonian-but-effectivly-multinational 21st (Commonwealth) Infantry Division had done excellent work in advancing on the Albanian Capital of Tirana and the Government of the Socialist Republic of Albania had capitulated in return for generous terms and saved both their own people, and the Commonwealth forces arrayed against them, from a bloody fight within the city.

With Albania out of the fight, there was a lull in the fighting as the two divisions that made up the Commonwealth Multinational Corps, Europe, had set about consolidating their positions in order to give the diplomats time to try and see if they could use the Albanian surrender to set off a domino effect in Yugoslavia’s southern republics. In any event, the first constituent republic of the People’s Republic (apart from Hungary, obviously) had surrendered and the authority of the Yugoslavian Government was severely weakened as a result; indeed intelligence reports indicated that regional governments were looking to their own affairs and ignoring the instructions of the Politburo in Belgrade. This was both encouraging, as it heavily suggested that they were inclined to follow the Albanian model and surrender under generous terms in which they would have a say, albeit a subordinate one, in the post-war settlement, and concerning as it would steadily push the Politburo into a corner, and as the old saying went; a cornered animal was at its most dangerous.

Indeed, there were early indications that even if the Politburo wasn’t yet making rash decisions that the more nationalist Serbs were already beginning to take the impending collapse of Yugoslavia, which they had always enjoyed a dominant position within, poorly and were lashing out, primarily at Bosniaks. The irony that Bosniak and Croat soldiers had fought and died alongside Serbs in the Bosnian brigade that had defended Banja Luka, in what was ultimately a hopeless stand once the Austrians brought their manpower and firepower to bear, was apparently lost on the Serbs, as reports of attacks on non-Serbs were increasingly rapidly, and escalating in terms of their violence and brutality. It was a small mercy that the Serbian security forces, and what remained of their Yugoslavian counterparts, were just about keeping on top of the violence, but as had been the case as early as a week ago that was what was causing the true concern within CRC Europe; that whether on orders from the Politburo, or on the initiative of their own officers, that the Serbian security forces would stop intervening and allow the rapidly-forming irregular militia groups to run wild or, in the worse case scenario, actively join themselves.

Nevertheless, the situation was clearly deteriorating; a large and growing crowd of Bosnian Serbs was gathering some ten miles east of Sarajevo with on the ground intelligence assets reporting that they intended to march on the city and encircle it in an attempt to ‘encourage' the Bosnian Government to continue its fight and to ‘protect’ it from the Austrian forces advancing from the west. As it stood, only a small Yugoslavian State Security force was keeping the crowd in check, and even if they were not ordered to join the march simply standing aside and allowing them to proceed could have catastrophic results. No one in the chain of command was under any illusion what would happen if a large crowd of nationalist Serbs, which the Bosnian Serbs undoubtedly were as many of their number valued their Serbian heritage over their Bosnian citizenship, descended on Sarajevo. To make matters worse, the same intelligence that was suggesting their likely destination was also beginning to indicate a growing reluctance (or perhaps inability) for the Yugoslavian security forces to restrain them, making their march on Sarajevo far more likely.

Feldmarschall Wintheiser and his staff therefore were faced with a difficult decision to make.

On the military front, there was nothing standing beside the Austrian Corps and Sarajevo, and only the last Bosnian infantry brigade was holding the city against them, meaning that they could complete their own encirclement of the city and apply pressure. However, the involvement of a Bosnian Serb mob would severely complicate matters, and it seemed highly likely that they could be on the outskirts of Sarajevo before the Austrians. Alternatively, at least one Austrian division could bypass Sarajevo entirely, the 6th Jäger Division was already approaching the city from the north followed by the 1st Panzergrenadier Division a day or so behind, and could interpose themselves between the Bosnian capital and the mob. It was a risky move however, as they would need to move quickly as soon as intelligence confirmed that the Bosnian Serb mob was on the move, and by doing so they would leave themselves dangerously exposed to an attack from behind, specially by the Bosnian infantry brigade that was garrisoned in Sarajevo. Moreover, rapidly pivoting from combat operations to, effectively, peacekeeping, would not be easy for the 6th Jäger, especially as there was every possibility that they would have to pivot back if Yugoslavian forces decided to launch a counter-offensive into Bosnia.

That was without even considering the unorganised Bosnian Serb majority in that part of the country that wasn’t part of the growing mob but were still staunchly anti-Austrian and would be all around the positions of the 6th Jäger, adding another complication. It was not that the Austrian Army could not handle peacekeeping operations, it was one of a number of missions that they trained for, but trying to conduct major combat operations and peacekeeping simultaneously was a significant challenge to say the least. It was a certainly a difficult decision to say the least, and although his staff could provide him with as much intelligence as possible and make suggestions, ultimately the decision fell on the shoulders of Feldmarschall Wintheiser. An argument could be made that it was a political decision, and the decision punted into the political sphere, however both the Austrian Government in Vienna and the Apilonian Government in the Royal District, not to mention the Commonwealth Secretary-General, had made it clear that mass civil unrest in Yugoslavia was simply not acceptable. Which meant that Feldmarschall Wintheiser’s decision was less about whether to intervene, and more about how to do so and that was a military decision.

Over the course of the day, as news of the Albanian surrender reached the Bosnian Serb mob and only agitated them further, Feldmarschall Wintheiser had worked closely with both his staff and diplomatic corps officers to try and get some sort of declaration, or at least assurances, from the Bosnian Government in Sarajevo, that they would not use what forces they had left to attack the Austrians as they positioned themselves to block the mob’s advance. There had been some concerns amongst his staff that the Bosnians would do so, in a last ditch effort to prove their loyalty to Yugoslavia. It was not an opinion that Feldmarschall Wintheiser agreed with personally, both due to the opinions of the diplomats already negotiating in Sarajevo and based on the intelligence that he was receiving. Based on a number of intelligence sources, many in the constituent republics of Yugoslavia could see that the People’s Republic’s days were numbered and, as Albania had shown, were mostly concerned at this point with securing the best possible settlement for themselves in the aftermath.

His decision made, Feldmarschall Wintheiser stood and made his way out of his office and into the war room.

“Dispatch orders to the 6th Jäger Division, I want them to proceed southwards before swinging to the east and forming a frontline between Sarajevo and the advancing Serbian mob; they are to prevent its approach to the city by whatever means are required,” He ordered grimly. “Order the rest of our forces to consolidate our position and move to encircle Sarajevo but not to push into the city; it is my belief that once the Bosnian Government sees what we are doing that they will realise they don’t owe Yugoslavia, or the Serbs, anything more.”

The Austrian Corps staff nodded their understanding of his orders, many of them had been expecting as much since they had received the reports that the Serbian mob was on the move. Although they could have waited for the Bosnians in Sarajevo to request such a move, it would have run the risk of letting the Serbs past and god only knew what they had intended to do once they reached the city which was a risk that Feldmarschall Wintheiser was simply not willing to take.

“What about the reports from Kosovo, Sir?”

Feldmarschall Wintheiser grimaced. What was now the Socialist Republic of Kosovo had been an early indicator for Austrian Intelligence that there was growing instability within Yugoslavia; heavily dominated by ethnic Albanians, with a significant Serb minority, Kosovo had managed to gain its independence from Serbia on the condition that it remained part of Yugoslavia. However, over the past few days as the likelihood of an Albanian surrender increased dramatically, there had been a dramatic uptick in violence from the Serb minority which was being put down by the Kosovo Security Forces, however the same threat that was facing Bosnia now faced Kosovo. It was a concern that had been raised some days previously, and preparations had been made but it was a risky move to say the least. Moreover, with the impending surrender of Bosnia and the likelihood that the other constituent republics in the south would follow suit, the entire invasion was at risk of becoming a hurried peacekeeping operation whilst still having to deal with the military threat posed by the last remaining Yugoslav and Serb brigades in Serbia itself.

In short, the entire situation was at risk of becoming a mess and an early push into Kosovo to keep the peace would only increase the chances that would happen. Nevertheless, there really was not any choice.

“Put the Apilonian 57th Airborne Brigade on alert for immediate deployment, assume their drop zone will be Pristina International Airport and that they will have a permissive environment, but still to prepare for a contested drop further out if necessary,” The Feldmarschall ordered grimly. “In the meantime, make sure that the CMC is staging at least a brigade in northern Albanian, near the passes leading to Kosovo they’ll need to move quickly if we have to drop the the 57th Airborne into Kosovo, lest they be overrun.”

His staff nodded their understanding; they all knew it was a difficult and dangerous situation. Unlike in Bosnia where there was a very real and immediate threat from the Serb mob, the situation in Kosovo was a little different, as the primary threat was from an organised Serb offensive, rather than organised activity . As the Serb minority in Kosovo was far smaller, and given that there was not a mob of angry civilians and paramilitaries on their way to cause trouble, they could at least afford to wait until the threat fully materialised, and respond decisively. However, once it did speed would be of the essence as they would effectively be racing their Serb counterparts to key positions within Kosovo, not the least of which was Pristina International Airport, south west of the capital. Moreover, the Apilonian airborne forces would be in urgent need of reinforcement and resupply, and although Commonwealth air support would do wonders it could not replace additional forces on the ground. In short, it was a delicate balancing act within a delicate balancing act within a not insignificant military conflict.

Although the Commonwealth arguably held all the cards, with superior numbers, superior air power and combat support capabilities, but that did not mean that it would not cost them, as the campaign to date had already shown, or that the civilian situation was not of equal concern. After all, the Commonwealth not only had to deal with this entire region once the fighting was over, which meant that it was in their best interest to avoid excessive collateral damage, but also could not afford for it’s first military intervention to end in a ignominious failed state. As such, more than a few military risks had to be taken in order to ensure a more positive outcome in the long run.

Feldmarschall Wintheiser sighed heavily as he watched his staff implement his orders.

Over the next few hours, the 6th Jäger Division would quickly move southwards from the positions that that they had taken up to the north east of Sarajevo and quickly spread out along a line of geographic features that would give them some military benefit whilst also allowing them to control the roads running east to west. After all, much of the mob was proceeding in a large vehicle convoy which was not particularly suited for going long distances across country, so it was a safe assumption that the roads would be the best place to stop the mob’s advance. The strongest concentration of Austrian troops along the line was along the E761 highway, where the Serb mob was due to pass through, however smaller units were stretched out along the entire line to ensure that they picked as many of the outliers as possible, knowing the damage that even a small group of armed men could do against an unarmed populous.

It was fully dark by the time that word came from the Commonwealth diplomats in Sarajevo that the Bosnian Government had agreed to a ceasefire, ordering all of their military forces to assume purely defensive positions in case any of the angry Serbs broke though the Austrian line. The exact terms for their capitulation were still being discussed, but at least the decision to move the 6th Jäger Division had been vindicated and would not have to worry about attacks from behind, and the likelihood of militia attacks from all around them was also dramatically reduced with the ceasefire order from the capital. It was not entirely removed of course, as some units were unwilling to accept the order and there were scattered attacks against isolated Austrian units over the course of the night, but these were beaten off without much difficulty thanks to the presence of close air support. The most notable stand-off of the night was shortly after eleven when the convoy carrying the main Serb mob arrived at the position that the Austrians had taken up and were very clearly willing and able to defend against their assault, despite being outnumbered.

An exchange of fire followed, however there were no serious attempts by the Serbs to breach the Austrian line as they seemingly determined that it would not do much good and simply result in their deaths. However, as the Serbs set-up a makeshift position several hundred yards further to the east, they communicated the situation back to their political masters in Belgrade, who were furious that the Austrians had been able to cut them off from Sarajevo as they had been hoping that a paramilitary push into Bosnia would gain them valuable ground that would serve as spring-board for a counter-attack. However, now that the paramilitaries advance had been checked by the Austrians they had to try one last desperate strategy in an attempt to secure as much territory for themselves in the hopes that they could retain it in some sort of peace settlement. The feeling in the Politburo in Belgrade was that, if they could at least retain the bulk of Serbian territory, and areas with Serb majorities, the Austrians and Apilonians might be persuaded to allow Serbia to maintain its independence (with those added territorial ares) in order to end the war without a costly push into Serbia itself.

As such, the Yugoslavian Politburo took one last roll of the dice, knowing that if they failed that Serbia itself would be left almost totally undefended if their forces were defeated in the counter-attack. Word reached Miramere Castle shortly after midnight.


“Yes, Major?” Wintheiser replied with a weary expression as he looked up from his paperwork to look at the Major that was in his office doorway.

“We’ve just received word that the Yugoslavian 5th, Serbian 1st and 2nd brigades have started to move towards the Bosnian border,” The Major reported grimly. “We’ve also confirmed that the Yugoslavian 4th, Serbian 3rd and 4th Brigades are moving towards Kosovo.”

Feldmarschall Wintheiser raised an eyebrow; those six brigades constituted the vast bulk of the remaining enemy forces in Serbia, meaning that they were throwing everything into this counter-offensive.

“Alright, order all our units in Bosnia to break from their current positions and move to reinforce the 6th Jäger Division, we’re going to have to trust the Bosnians not to turn on us whilst we deal with the Serbian push from the east,” Wintheiser ordered decisively, all the theory was now over, all that was left was action. “Tell our negotiators in Kosovo that we need an answer from them, then order the 57th Airborne to deploy into Kosovo based on what they say, and order the CMC to start pushing brigades and divisions into Kosovo from the south.”

Feldmarschall Wintheiser led the way back to the war room.

“Alright people, it seems like the game is afoot,” He said simply. “Grab yourselves a coffee and settle in for the night, I get the feeling we’re going to be here for a while.”
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Thu Mar 25, 2021 5:14 am

Major Nathanial Watson, PARA
Pristina International Airport
Socialist Republic of Kosovo, People's Republic of Yugoslavia
Saturday 21st November 2020, 0700hrs Local Time

It had not taken long to get the 57th Airborne Brigade on the ground in Kosovo, which was of course their raison d’etre. They had been put on alert for deployment the previous day, having already been on high alert as the theatre reserve, so when the order had come in shortly after midnight it had simply been a matter of completing last checks, boarding the Atlas C.1 tactical transport aircraft (which could carry and deploy a full company in one drop) stationed at RAF Luqa on Malta, and preparing for the jump. The Kosovo Government had, after being informed of the approaching Serbian assault, officially capitulated to the Commonwealth and requested protection, and had therefore granted permission for the Apilonian Army to perform a combat drop directly into Pristina International Airport. The first Apilonian forces on the ground had been Pathfinders, the leading elements of any airborne assault, who secured a landing zone and confirmed that the Kosovo Security Forces were not lying in wait to cut the drop to shreds as they came down. All air traffic out of the airport was held in order to allow the drop to take place over the runway which had significant less potentially dangerous obstacles.

The 57th Airborne Brigade of the Apilonian Army, consisted of the 7th, 8th, and 9th Battalions of the Parachute Regiment (known as 7, 8 & 9 PARA in shorthand), as well as 31 Parachute Regiment, Royal Artillery. Under the rapid-deployment plan that had been put together over the proceeding weeks, the brigade was tasked with securing the airport to allow additional forces and supplies to be brought in, and to assume defensive positions around the city in order to stop the Serbian advance from taking the city. They would be supported by Commonwealth air power, whilst the KSF would secure specific buildings and key areas within the city, and would be reinforced as quickly as was practicable by other Apilonian and Commonwealth forces moving up from Albania. Such a deployment had the potential to be a harrowing few days, if the Serbs threw their entire might against the defensive positions that the brigade would establish, but it was exactly this sort of mission that the airborne forces were intended for, and both trained for and maintained a mindset with that in mind. The decision by the Kosovo Government at least ensured a permissive environment, and allowed them to drop straight onto their target rather than having to drop at a more distant location and advance on foot to their target.

Although a supposedly permissive environment, normal precautions were still taken, and although it would go down officially as a ‘brigade drop’ the 57th Airborne Brigade physically deployed in four waves. 7 PARA, and the brigade headquarters, had been dropped in the first wave, shortly after 3am, and had fully secured the airfield whilst setting up a field headquarters in one of the hangers which was currently unused given that civilian traffic out of the airport had been significantly reduced for some days now. 8 PARA dropped in thirty minutes later, once the airport was fully secured, followed by 9 PARA thirty minutes after that, with the 31 Parachute Regiment, Royal Artillery, dropping in with their airmobile field guns shortly after half four. The first priority was to secure the airport, as this would be their base camp, their initial artillery firebase, and the means by which supplies and some reinforcements would be brought in.

Overseeing this operation was Major Nathanial Watson, the brigade major of the 57th Airborne Brigade. Within the Apilonian Army, and the way it worked its staff system, the brigade major was the chief of staff and responsible for overseeing the various support elements of the brigade headquarters in support of the combat units. Unlike in other systems, staff within the Apilonian Army were outranked by command officers, and cannot say ‘no’ to a subordinate unit on their own authority, with only the commanding officer having that ability. In doing so, this ensured a clear chain of command and reinforced the principle that the staff were not there to command but rather to exercise control on behalf of their commander, ensuring that a distant staff officer was not second-guessing the judgement of command officers on the ground, without the consideration and support of the overall unit commander. As such, Major Watson’s job on the ground was to facilitate the tasks that the brigade’s three battalions had been ordered to conduct, which in the first instance was to secure the airport. Although he could not directly order the individual battalion commanders to do anything, what he could do was co-ordinate their actions and their immediate operational needs.

As it stood, the immediate operational needs of the three battalions, and the artillery regiment, was whatever they required to allow them to start moving into positions north of the city as quickly as possible. As it had been clear for several days that their most likely drop zone would indeed been Kosovo, the brigade staff and the battalion commanders had gone over a deployment plan, and chosen a series of positions that the battalions could take up to prevent any advance by the Serbs on Pristina itself. On balance it did not matter all that much if the enemy held at least some of the territory outside of the capital, although it would not be ideal for those civilians that did not flee towards the city, as strategically the immediate importance was holding the city long enough for additional Apilonian forces to move up and push the Serb brigades back across the border into Serbia and contain them there until a general invasion of Serbia could be organised.

"How we looking, Major?”

Watson glanced up from the map of the surrounding area that he was examining in the brigade’s ad hoc field headquarters, and nodded a greeting to the brigade commander, Brigadier The Honourable Walter S. Covington.

“We’re looking good so far, Sir, 7 PARA has secured the airport perimeter,” Watson replied. “8 and 9 PARA are moving to prearranged positions north of the city, we’ll get there in time to stop the Serbs.”

Brigadier Covington looked pleased, and rightly so; there were few units in His Majesty’s Forces that could have been moved as quickly into position and be able to hold their positions until they were released by additional battalions and brigades. It was a point of pride for the Parachute Regiment that they were elite not simply due to method of their deployments, although that was certainly boasted about at every opportunity, but also for their conduct on the ground. It was a foregone conclusion that any battalions deployed into combat via parachute jump, almost certainly behind enemy lines, would have to manage on their own until follow-up forces could arrive, which often meant standing alone against significant enemy forces for a prolonged period of time. There was a reason why the Parachute Regiment, and the airborne brigades it provided, were a key component of the Joint Rapid Reaction Force, and the Kingdom’s overall defence and response posture.

It was largely for that reason that there was a great deal of professional rivalry between the Parachute Regiment and the only other unit in the Apilonian Military that could match its capabilities and position within the Defence mindset, the Royal Marines. It was slightly unfortunate that it would be the Royal Marines that were at the head of the reinforcement force from Albania, however the Paras would be quick to point out that it was not like they were being relieved, they were simply being reinforced at forward positions that they could have defended indefinitely. The simple fact of the matter was that airborne forces were not supposed to fight an entire campaign on their own, they were primarily spearhead forces would be joined and supplemented by follow-on forces as soon as it could be managed. Nevertheless, eternal rivalry aside the Paras and the Royal Marines had a great deal of professional respect for the other’s capabilities, not that they would ever admit as much to each other. Regardless, it was going to be a long day once the Serbians arrived but the Paras were ready for it.

Each and every officer and other rank of the brigade had been informed of the purpose of their deployment, so far ahead of the main advance, even if that was not particularly unusual for the Paras. It had been made clear that they were the only thing standing between the people of Kosovo and furious Serbs, and that as much as they would fight the Serbs toe-to-toe if they had to their primary objective was to try and keep the peace as much as possible. The more conventional war fighting would be conducted by the follow-on forces as they moved up from the south, the Paras were here because they were the only unit that could get their boots on the ground quickly enough to prevent the Serbs from doing god-only-knew-what. It might not be a role that the Paras usually found themselves in, but it was a role that every man and woman in the brigade could get behind, and would give there all in its fulfilment.

Field Marshal Sir Andrew J. Fitzcharles, GCS
The Commonwealth Club, Royal District of Bainbridge
Duchy of Washington, Kingdom of Apilonia
Saturday 21st November 2020, 1200hrs Local Time

The Commonwealth Club, formally the declining Empire Club, was rapidly becoming one of the most prominent, prestigious, and sought-after social club in the Apilonian Capital, with it’s membership swelling due to the number of Commonwealth diplomats and staffs that now lived and worked in Seattle and the Royal District. Over the past few weeks since the founding of the Commonwealth, and in particular the establishment of the Commonwealth Secretariat which was to be based in Seattle and the Royal District, the senior officials of the Commonwealth had taken to making themselves available at the Commonwealth Club. It was partially a practical concerns, as grace-and-favour residences required an Act of Parliament and would take a few more weeks to be sorted out, whilst also ensuring that they were easily accessible to other diplomats and staffers during these formative weeks and months of the Commonwealth. After all, although the Treaty of Cape Town had committed them, in broad strokes, to adopting common policies on a wide range of subjects, the actual determination of those policies would take a great deal of work and more than a little time, and as such every opportunity to work on them was to be grasped with both hands.

One such Commonwealth official was Field Marshal Sir Andrew J. Fitzcharles of the Apilonian Army, who was the inaugural Supreme Commonwealth Commander, the most senior military officer within the Commonwealth Defence Organisation, which oversaw the enactment of the Common Defence Policy and had been integrated into the chain of command of the various constituent militaries of the Commonwealth. It had not been expected that the Common Defence Policy would be the first order of business, as military co-operation was a key but not immediate priority for the Commonwealth realms, but the Yugoslav Crisis had changed everything. As a result, the Secretary-General himself, Sir William Ecclestone, had requested that the Field Marshal join the other civilian leadership of the Commonwealth in making himself available at the Commonwealth Club. Not only would it allow him to keep senior diplomats from across the Commonwealth informed of the conduct of the campaign, but it would also allow him to hold preliminary discussions on a wide range of subjects that would do wonders as he and his staff, along with the Secretariat, worked to formulate the Common Defence Policy.

As he had been for much of the last week, Field Marshal Fitzcharles was sat in one of a number of reading rooms of the main saloons, working his way through intelligence assessments and after-action reports from units on the ground in the Balkans. As it stood, the situation in Bosnia was largely stable, the deployment of Austrian forces to cut-off the advancing Serbian mob had prevented a catastrophe from taking place and the gesture had been at last encouraged the Bosnian government in Sarajevo to throw-in the towel and had officially capitulated several hours previously. There was sporadic fighting between the Austrian Corps and a joint Yugoslav-Serbian division along the Bosnian border, but as the Austrians were not yet ready to push into enemy territory the fighting was comparatively limited, but only because the Austrians were not taking the bait as intelligence suggested that the enemy was trying to lure them into Serbia before they were ready, in the hopes of over-stretching their supply lines. Meanwhile, it was 2100hrs in Pristina, where Commonwealth forces, principally the Apilonian 21st Infantry Division but also the composite 17th (Commonwealth) Infantry Division), were engaged in combat operations against Serbian and Yugoslav forces, where the fighting was much more intensive.

Based on everything that he knew about the political, social, and cultural history of the region, Fitzcharles rather suspected that it was due in no small part to the Serbian belief that Kosovo was rightfully part of their territory, and as such they were fighting particularly hard in an attempt to re-claim it before trying to sue for peace. It was in no small part this which was causing sighs of relief across Commonwealth Regional Command, Europe, as if the smattering of atrocities that had been conducted by Serb forces in south-east Bosnia were anything to go by then it would have been far worse in Kosovo. As it was, the Royal Military Police, and their counterparts in the Austrian Army, were incredibly busy trying to get a handle on exactly what had been committed and by whom, so that adequate prosecutions could take place. As news of the atrocities, which were mercifully isolated incidents due in no small part to the intervention of the Commonwealth’s ground forces, spread and was confirmed by independent sources, Yugoslavia lost the last of its moral authority and the remaining holdout constitution republics had surrendered to the Commonwealth over the course of the day.

It was obvious that the situation on the ground was fluctuating rapidly, and that the post-war settlement would be complex and varied across the former Yugoslavia, something that was causing Fitzcharles no shortage of headaches. At the very least it was almost certain that a medium-to-long term military occupation of Serbia would be required, and there was still a great deal of detail to be worked out on what happened with the other constituent republics. As it was, the Commonwealth was being seen across the Balkans as having arrived at the right time and in the right place to prevent anarchy, death, and destruction, and that was doing wonders to help Commonwealth diplomats as they negotiated the terms under which sovereignty would be returned to the states which had surrendered to it. Although in the early stages, it appeared that the Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia were so grateful for the Austrian intervention, at great risk and despite their long and often fractious history, that there was even talk that Bosnia would consent to becoming a part of the Archduchy once again. The situation was less clear in the other constituent republics, but although they had lost their faith in the Yugoslavian state there was little appetite for being small states left to fend for themselves.

To make matters more complicated in the region, Fitzcharles was privy to information that the deposed heir to the throne of Greece was preparing to launch an attempt to reclaim his throne now that the Socialist Republic of Greece, which Apilonia, Austria, and its allies had decried as a Yugoslavian puppet state, was isolated and vulnerable. Fortunately, the Duke of Sparta had been convinced to hold off on his military plans until the Yugoslav situation was more firmly in hand, especially given that it would allow for his more political efforts to encourage opposition to the socialist regime in Athens.

“Do you have a moment, Sir Andrew?”

Fitzpatrick looked up and smiled in recognition.

“Of course, my Lord Covington,” He said simply, gesturing to the seat opposite him.

Lord Nathaniel A. Covington was the Earl of San Diego, the fourth most powerful Earl in the Kingdom, under the Earls of Los Angeles, Houston, and Maricopa, and all of the Dukes. A member of the Centrist Party, Lord Covington was a member of the Senate, and was also the father of the brigadier of the 57th Airborne Brigade, had served his own time in uniform, albeit in the Royal Navy in his youth, and was the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Which was no doubt why he had sought out the Supreme Commonwealth Commander.

“So, what can I do for you, my Lord?” Fitzpatrick asked simply.

“My colleagues and I have been having a number of discussions, both in committee and privately, about how we can best integrate our military with the Commonwealth, if there is one thing that Yugoslavia has showed it is that we can’t afford to delay,” Lord Covington replied. “Now the regional commands have proven themselves already, but they’re for large scale operations, which won’t always be the best way to proceed, and there’ll be other situations where a full Commonwealth response would be desirable.”

“You and your colleagues have an idea, I assume?” Fitzpatrick said with a nod.

“We do, one that will give the Commonwealth both an ability to respond quickly to a developing crisis, and smaller scale actions,” Lord Covington replied. “We think that, instead of each individual member-state maintaining a rapid response force, we should create a joint Commonwealth one instead.”

Fitzpatrick raised an eyebrow at the suggestion and leant back in his chair thoughtfully. On the one hand, it certainly made sense, as it would allow for their resources to be pooled, and therefore probably provide a larger rapid response capability, whilst also reducing the unnecessary duplication of headquarters and the potential conflicts that would cause. However, the current Apilonian Joint Rapid Reaction Force was the crown jewel of the Permanent Joint Headquarters, who would be less than pleased about losing their stewardship over the force, as well as the potential for not all Commonwealth members to want to be involved in interventions that did not fall under the aegis of combined defence. It was this which he raised to Lord Covington.

“Whilst I like the idea, from a practical, strategic, and logistical perspective, I do think there are two major issues with that,” Fitzpatrick replied thoughtfully. “The first is that PJHQ is going to be up in arms over this, and the second is for situations short of an attack upon a member-state, not everyone will want to get involved, and have that right under the CDA.”

Lord Covington nodded, having been involved in drafting the Common Defence Agreement he knew that, although the agreement was supposed to provide for a broad shared defence policy, not just guaranteeing a joint defence against attack, short of general war it did not compel any member-state to provide forces to any operation.

“As far as the first concern goes, we envisioned Apilonia being the framework nation for this Commonwealth Rapid Reaction Force, and as such it would make sense for it to remain under the control of PJHQ, as we’d be responsible for most of the enabling forces,” Lord Covington explained. “As for the second concern, our view is that by having a larger force pool available to us the commander of this thing would be able to withstand the loss or unavailability of one or more components, and plan accordingly, which should avoid that issue.”

Fitzpatrick nodded his understanding, on the surface it certainly appeared that both those concerns could effectively be neutered, and from a military perspective it would absolutely enhance the Commonwealth’s ability to respond quickly and decisively to developing situations. After all, there would be no need to wait for Apilonian rapid response forces, such as the Paras, to arrive in, say, Africa, if their counterparts from South Africa were already primed and ready to go.

“Have you discussed this proposal with any of your counterparts, or any of the High Commissioners?”

“Not yet, we wanted to make sure that this was something that you wanted, from a leadership perspective,” Lord Covington replied promptly. “I don’t see any reason why any of our fellow member-states will object, not after the successful integration for the regional commands, and their success in the Balkans.”

“Very well, you absolutely have my support as the Supreme Commonwealth Commander, feel free to start discussing it more widely,” Fitzpatrick said simply. “It’s a no-brainer from a military perspective, so if we can overcome any political concerns, I’m all for it!”
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Tue May 18, 2021 5:32 am

Feldmarshall Kristopher Wintheiser
Miramare Castle, Free City of Trieste
Archduchy of Austria-Hungary
Monday 23rd November 2020, 0900hrs Local Time

By the morning of Monday, it was clear that the Serbian counterattack had been checked, stopped, and eventually turned back on both fronts.

With more than a small sense of irony, the Austrian Corps had held its position between Sarajevo and the Serbs, repelling both the disorganised paramilitary mob and the later organised military assault by Serb and Yugoslav forces. Although the latter attack was clearly the more difficult to repel, what the corps discovered as it launched its own counter-attack only confirmed that stopping the mob had arguably been just as important. The evidence of violence, generally physical against the men and, to the horror of the Austrian soldiers, sexual against the women, that they found as they retook the ground in south-eastern Bosnia that the Serbian mob had occupied for only a matter of hours, was damning. In the space of only a few hours, it was estimated that several hundred Bosniak men had been massacred whilst attempting to protect their families, near the town of Srebrenica which had been at the centre of the Serb mob’s advance. It certainly justified the decision on the part of the Austrian Corps commander to push the Serbs out of Bosnia, as much of the killing and raping had been done after their advance towards Sarajevo had been stalled, and had it been allowed to continue the death toll could have been far worse. Moreover, although the National Police would need to investigate, it was estimated that more than two thirds of the perpetrators had been captured or killed when forces from the 6th Jäger Division had entered the town.

In the south, the 57th Airborne Brigade had repulsed the Serb-Yugoslav offensive against Kosovo with the support of Commonwealth air power and cruise missile strikes from ships in the Adriatic Sea. The Serbs had been kept away from the city, and for the most part civilians in the outlying areas had been able to flee to safety behind the Apilonian paratroopers. Upon following the lean of the Austrians in the north, the Apilonians quickly discovered that this had been a very good thing, as those that had been unlucky enough to fall into the hands of the Serbs had been subjected to the same violence that their contemporaries in Bosnia had, as the fury of the Serbs was visited upon those they considered to have betrayed them.

It was becoming obvious that the decision to deploy Commonwealth forces into blocking positions had been an essential one; and that although they had not been able to stop everything their presence had certainly succeeded in preventing widespread atrocities. It was not missed by many just how catastrophic a breakdown of Yugoslavia could have been if there were not already foreign military forces on the ground to put themselves between opposing factions. With the ties that bound them together breaking down, the underlying religious and ethnic divisions that had long ruled the fates of the Balkans. Once upon a time the uniting factor had been opposition to Austrian occupation, which had been replaced by a sense of togetherness under the socialist regime of Yugoslavia, but with that gone the old hatreds had threatened to come a hundredfold. Despite arguably being responsible for the breakdown of the Yugoslav regime, the very fact that there had been Austrian and Commonwealth forces in the country at the time had prevented a far worse situation had it broken down on its own, which there was every indication that it would have done in the long-run as the fault-lines were already showing themselves even before the Hungarian succession had thrown fuel on the fire.

As a result, although Austria and the Commonwealth might come under fire for their decision-making in the run up to the conflict, its representatives would be able to make good faith arguments that there intervention had been timely and needed, and that it had prevented a far, far worse situation from developing in the long run. It had been a tightly run thing, had any of a dozen or more major decisions not been taken it was entirely possible that the situation could have escalated further. It was not over by any stretch of the imagination, but the Austrian commitment to defending Bosnia had taken the fire out of any remaining desire for resistance on the part of most Bosnians, and Serbia would still need to be dealt with before any sort of post-war settlement could be negotiated and put into place. There was a growing sense across Commonwealth Regional Command, Europe, that they were at least in the endgame now and that all focus could be on securing Serbia and tightening the noose around the increasingly erratic Politburo in Belgrade.

Ironically, for many in the provisional governments that had sprung up in Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro, which were largely formed of moderates with hardline socialists being ejected when they refused to consider a new path forwards, the intransigent of Serbia and the remnants of the People’s Republic stood in the way of a bold new era for their people. With Yugoslavia crumbling around them, many of those politicians and activists who had voiced opposition to the deep socialist ideals upon which the People’s Republic had been built were eager to get started on building new nations that were not only more localised but also closer to a social democracy than a socialist state. Indeed, there had been many within the People’s Republic that had been arguing that Yugoslavia should have begun its own transition towards social democracy over true socialism, in order to avoid the public unrest that had been the first signs of its impending collapse, however they had been shouted down by the hardliners as ‘traitors to the revolution’. That it was those hardliners that were effectively bringing about an end to the ‘revolution’ in Yugoslavia was not unnoticed by most.

Nevertheless, even as diplomats from Austria, Apilonia, and the Commonwealth itself were beginning talks with these provisional governments on a permanent peace settlement and a post-war arrangement, the concern for Feldmarshall Wintheiser was in defeating the last true holdouts in and around Belgrade. Despite several overtures, in which all but those implicated in the atrocities which had been recorded in south eastern Bosnia and northern Kosovo would be allowed to flee to non-extradition treaty states, the Politburo seemed intent on being intransigent. Moreover, although badly mauled the remaining Yugoslav and Serb brigades, none of which was at more than half strength after fighting the Austrian Corps and the Apilonian 57th Airborne Brigade, had apparently fallen back in broadly good order and were digging in around Belgrade. The location of the Politburo’s last stand was more concerning for Wintheiser than their decision to fight; he was confident he had more than enough troops and supporting forces to make short work of the remaining Yugoslav units, but if they were determined to fight it out in bloody street-by-street fighting within Belgrade itself then civilian casualties would be almost unavoidable. Some intelligence sources were indicating that those who could flee the city were doing so, but there would be far more who couldn’t or wouldn’t leave their homes, and could get caught in the crossfire.

In short, for a modern military that complied with the Laws of War to the letter, it was a damned difficult position to be in as it would be slow and meticulous work to take the city street-by-street without putting civilians at unnecessary risk and would almost certainly result in higher casualties than would be the case if the gloves were off. In a total war situation, in which the civilian population of their foe was actively engaged in the war effort, things would be different, but in a situation like this where one side was clearly more powerful than the other restraint was the order of the day.

So, for the moment, Wintheiser was contenting himself with surrounding the city and applying pressure in the distant hope that someone would throw in the towel. As it stood, Commonwealth forces were advancing on Belgrade from three directions. The Austrian Corps had moved to the Bosnia-Serb border during their efforts over the weekend, and were in the process of reorganising for a further advance. In the south, Apilonian forces and the Commonwealth Division were moving up to reinforce the 57th Airborne and would be ready to continue their advance as soon as they were in position, but they had the furthest to go and even if the regular Serb forces in the south of the country were in full retreat towards Belgrade it stood to reason that any advance across that much ground would be harassed by irregular forces. In the north, the Hungarian divisions had advanced significantly into Serbia over the weekend, taking full advantage of the Serb’s offensive into Bosnia and Kosovo, and had reached the town of Novi Sad on the River Dunav. This put the Hungarians within forty miles of Belgrade, and the irony that it was those who had first broken away from Yugoslavia that were now closest to the capital.

It was tempting, Wintheiser mused as he considered the position of the divisions under his command on a map of the theatre, to order a rapid advance on Belgrade from all directions, hoping that the momentum would help them roll over any remaining resistance on the parts of the Serbs and the Politburo. The Hungarians could probably pull it off, as they had been quietly completing a meticulous advance of their own and their supply lines were well secured. By contrast, the Austrian Corps was already deep in ‘enemy’ territory, as even if the Bosnians seemed content to have called it a day he could not afford to risk their supply lines by leaving them unguarded, and it stood to reason that the mob that they had expelled from Bosnia would be eager to inflict what damage they could on the Austrians as they advanced on Belgrade. The sheer distances involved in any Apilonian and Commonwealth advance from the south also threw up more than a few complications. As such, the only prudent way to proceed was to allow his subordinate commanders to advance in whatever manner they deemed appropriate to ensure their own logistical tail and strategic initiative. It was the right decision, but it did not make it any less frustrating for the Commonwealth Regional Commander.

At least the pervasive Commonwealth air power was able to continue pummelling Yugoslav and Serb positions in and around Belgrade in the meantime, softening them up for the final advance even if they did not succeed in breaking their morale before the ground fight started warming up. Although the rapid deployment of Commonwealth ground forces was undoubtedly a success of the entire campaign, the far more important success was that of the Commonwealth air power, the sheer amount of it and the efficacy with which it was employed. It was certainly true that a significant part of that success was the efforts of the Apilonian Royal Air Force to ensure that it had global strike capability, which this campaign would be proof of, but it underlined that ensuring global air power would be a key objective for the Commonwealth Defence Organisation moving forwards, along with global naval power. Indeed, in many respects, the ability to deploy significant ground forces was the icing on the cake, rather than a key objective, as it was generally hoped within Commonwealth circles that the proper application of naval and air power, combined with clinical ground actions, ought to be sufficient to deal with all situations short of full-scale warfare against a peer or near-peer adversary.

It was not for naught that talks had already begun within the Commonwealth on the subject of a joint Commonwealth Rapid Reaction Force; an initiative that Wintheiser was all for. After all, a significant reason for the Commonwealth’s very existence was to leverage the combined strength of its membership to avoid conflict through greater diplomatic pressure, even if Wintheiser and his contemporaries would stand ready to defend the Commonwealth if the need arose.

With a decisive nod, Wintheiser glanced up at his staff who had been watching him closely as he made his final decision.

“We’ll go with the cautious approach,” he said simply. “Instruct all commands to proceed with the operational plan as amended.”
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Sat Jul 24, 2021 3:44 pm

Major Nathanial A. Watson, PARA
People's Palace, Belgrade
Socialist Republic of Serbia, People’s Republic of Yugoslavia
Thursday 24th December 2020, 1400hrs Local Time

The mood amongst the Apilonian, Austrian, and Commonwealth troops was subdued as they finally advanced into Belgrade, a full month after they had successfully surrounded the city after the failed Serbian counterattack. The decision to wait so long had been intended to save Commonwealth lives first-and-foremost, with the additional hope that at some point during the long siege the Serbs would realise how hopeless their situation was and throw in the towel. In the first instance this had broadly been successful; there had been very few Commonwealth casualties during the month-long siege, with the occasional Serb mortar strike on the Commonwealth’s siege positions, and potshots exchanged between Serb positions and Commonwealth patrols, being the only losses. By contrast, the Serbs had been subjected to a surgical, but relentless, month of airstrikes, artillery barrages, and other attacks, each carefully planned and intended to minimise civilian casualties as much as possible. It was believed, by Defence Intelligence, that the majority of the population of Belgrade that had not fled was hiding out in private cellars or in the underground suburban rail station (as although the city did not have a true underground metro, which was one of the things the Commonwealth intended to bring to the city once it was captured as a form of investment, as it had been needed for some years, it did have an regional train line that went under the city).

From a purely practical perspective, the Commonwealth could probably have moved into the city within days, if time had been a more important consideration than civilian casualties, however the decision to wait had been endorsed by senior political leadership at the highest levels. Aside from anything else, it allowed the Commonwealth to show that it was being reasonable, responsible, and working for any other outcome than an all-out assault. Within a few days, the Commonwealth had a number of divisions surround the city; the Austrian Corps covering the west, the Hungarian Division covering the north, and the 17th (Commonwealth) and 21st Infantry Divisions, plus the 57th Airborne Brigade, covering the south and east. As such, even after time had been given for the divisions to re-organise themselves, it was obvious that the Commonwealth forces had the strategic advance fairly quickly, and could have assaulted the city with a solid chance of success, albeit with high civilian casualties (and moderate casualties of their own). As such, the decision to wait was a conscious one, not one dictated by military shortcomings, something that senior defence officials were quick to emphasise whenever a political commentator in the media tried to decry the lack of progress.

Moreover, the delay had also allowed the diplomatic situation across the Balkans to unfold without being against the backdrop of a bloody assault into an urban area. After extensive talks between the provisional government in Sarajevo and the Austrian Government in Vienna, Bosnia had been annexed into the Archduchy of Austria-Hungary and given full status as the Duchy of Bosnia, with both a Bosnian Duke and the full autonomy enjoyed by any other Duchy in the Archduchy. This was a tremendous leap of faith on both sides; for the Austrians to trust a historic foe with such autonomy, and for the Bosnians to trust a foe that their former government had drilled into them was the enemy. However, the retribution visited upon the Bosnians, particularly the Bosniaks, by the Serbs had significantly softened attitudes in the Archduchy, whilst the actions of the Austrian forces in preventing a wave of massacres had done wonders as far as the Bosnian view of the Austrians went. In any event, by joining the Archduchy, Bosnia also became a part of the Commonwealth, which meant that it had full access to Commonwealth resources for the reconstruction of their nation.

Further south, the former socialist republics of Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia had coalesced together to form the Republic of the Balkans, the four provisional governments coming together with a Social Democracy in mind, and working at break-neck pace to form their combined state before the historic administrative divisions took over and split them apart. The Republic of the Balkans had been formed on the 21st December, and the first act of the new Balkans Congress had been to request membership in the Apilonian Commonwealth, largely in recognition of the efforts and magnanimity of Apilonia, and the Commonwealth as a whole, to liberate them from Yugoslavia and the clutches of the Serbs. The Commonwealth had agreed to consider the request, but it would also slow-walk the application, at least until the Yugoslav War was completely over and the Balkans Congress could be fully-elected, rather than the hodge-podge of appointments that made up its current membership, just to make sure that everything was above board.

All things considered, the situation in the former Yugoslavia had been going as well as could be expected, and it was hoped that the Serbs would put the cherry on top of the cake by surrendering in good time. Indeed, shortly after the Declaration of the Balkans Republic, there had been a exodus from the city some of the civilian population; largely those with relatives somewhere in the Balkans Republic that they could stay with whilst matters were still developing. It was then, however, that the Politburo played its last, desperate, and most deplorable card.

As groups of civilians began to move out of the city, towards the ‘safety’ of Commonwealth lines, Yugoslav forces had opened fire on the fleeing civilians, apparently in an effort to discourage other civilians from doing the same. Initial estimates suggested that several hundred had been killed before Serbian troops, aghast at the actions of the Yugoslav soldiers, turned on their comrades in order to stop them and the city had descended into fierce in-fighting as word of the atrocity spread. Acting quickly the Commonwealth forces had pushed forwards to effectively put the civilians behind their lines, but had been ordered not to enter the city; as getting in the middle of the fighting Yugoslav and Serb forces was a recipe for disaster. It was probably the right decision, as it would have only increased the chaos, but the damage that the Yugoslav and Serbs were were able to do themselves was bad enough. Initial flights over the city by small reconnaissance drones had painted a picture of blood-stained streets and damaged buildings, with the bodies of both Yugoslav and Serb soldiers littering the streets. Unable to wait any longer, the Commonwealth forces had been ordered into the city.

In the south, the paratroopers of the 57th Airborne led the way, and even if their professionalism allowed them to keep their formations and advance in good order, it was obvious that even the most experienced soldiers were aghast at the scenes that greeted them. In the west, the 6th Jäger Division, and the north, the light infantry of the Hungarian divisions, were greeted with similar sights as they too led their heavier comrades into the city. The advance was slow and deliberate, with the light infantry leading the way to clear the streets of any immediate threat to their armour, but no resistance was forthcoming even as they pushed closer and closer to the centre of the city and the Offices of the Politburo.; seemingly the Yugoslav and Serb forces had all but annihilated each other in their fury. It was only as the leading elements converged on the People’s Palace where the Politburo was holed-up, protected by a small force of hardline Yugoslav troops, who had resisted the attempts of the outraged Serbs to storm the building, if the bodies littering the area in front of the main entrance were anything to go by.

By the time that Major Watson arrived with the brigade staff, accompanying Brigadier Covington several hours later, the fighting was over but the reality of what had unfolded here was all too clear for all to see. The last Yugoslav Hardliners had defended the People’s Palace to the last man, first against the Serb forces they had betrayed and then against the Apilonian and Commonwealth forces that had swarmed into the building to bring the conflict, at long last, to a quick and decisive end.

Walking through the trashed corridors of the People’s Palace, his M17 pistol drawn and held at his side like the rest of the staff officers, Watson was silent as were his comrades. Although the Yugoslav Politburo had been responsible for this entire mess, and for dragging out the conflict for a month and a half even once it was obvious that they would lose, not to mention the atrocities the forces under their command had committed, no one took any pleasure from the slaughter that had taken place here. It was often said that a civil conflict hit deeper and harder than one against an external foe, and that had been very much evident throughout the fight. It would be a long and difficult path once this was all over, and although the Commonwealth allies had already started the process of spitting the former Yugoslavia apart, to ensure that they could drive their own destiny, it would by no means be easy.

To no one’s surprise the Politburo was nowhere to be found; as expected it looked very much like they had somehow managed to flee the city, or were at least free in the city and trying to make it past the Commonwealth lines. Despite their rhetoric, espousing the duty of every Yugoslav soldier to stand and defend the revolution, they had cut and run and were in the wind. Not that it would matter in the long run, the intelligence services of Apilonia, Austria-Hungary, and most if not all of the Yugoslav successor states would commit themselves to tracking them down and any of a range of Special Forces would visit themselves upon them when the opportunity arose.

On the roof of the People’s Palace, Major Watson oversaw a section of paratroopers as they hauled down the Yugoslav flag and raised a great Apilonian battle flag in it’s place; the size had been specifically chosen for this purpose as it would be visible all over the city, a visceral visual that would, hopefully, persuade any last holdouts that any further resistance was futile. It was a bittersweet moment; although Apilonian and Commonwealth casualties had been mercifully light, having every possible force multiplier at their disposal, but the fact remained that good men (and women) had died to make this moment possible. Moreover, it was by no means the end, it was merely the end of the beginning as far as the Balkans were concerned.
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Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Wed Aug 11, 2021 3:46 pm

Sir William K. Ecclestone GCG, Secretary-General of the Apilonian Commonwealth
Vienna City Hall, Vienna
Archduchy of Austria-Hungary
Friday 14th May 2021, 1900hrs Local Time

Although the Apilonian Commonwealth was named after its largest and most powerful member, and the historical, cultural, familial, and diplomatic ties that the members all shared, there had been a great deal of effort taken to emphasise that Apilonia was merely the first amongst equals within the Commonwealth that bore its name, not a dominant hegemon. As such, when the question of hosts for the Commonwealth Conference, the annual gathering of the Commonwealth Heads of Government to decide upon common policy positions, it had been decided that it would be advantageous for Apilonia itself to not host for several years. As such, the 2021 Commonwealth Conference had been awarded to Vienna, whilst it was intended that Mogadishu would host in 2022, assuming reconstruction efforts following the East African Civil War were adequately advanced, with Cape Town following in 2023. It was, therefore, not intended that Seattle, or some other city within the Apilonia, would host a Commonwealth Conference before 2024 at the earliest, and with new members entirely likely, including the recent addition of New Zealand, it could be even later.

In many respects, it was fortuitous that the 2021 Commonwealth Conference was being held in Vienna, as it allowed for an ideal backdrop to turn the page on the Balkans War. Although other matters, such as further developing the various Commonwealth Agreements that would serve as the bedrock of the cooperation between Commonwealth members, had taken priority in the first days, there had always been the overshadowing presence of the consequences of the Commonwealth’s first military intervention. It had been unavoidable, of course, as although the political build-up to the conflict had been somewhat contentious, the Treaty of Cape Town was fundamentally clear that an attack upon one member of the Commonwealth was an attack on all of them, and Yugoslavia had made the mistake of launching an offensive against Austria, rather than merely ‘defending’ against an ‘attack’. Of course, the fact that Austrian and Commonwealth forces had prevented a number of atrocities, and was facilitating the trial and punishment of many perpetrators, helped to paint the intervention in a positive light, which had by no means been assured in the early days of the conflict.

As it stood, the situation in the Balkans was as good as could be expected.

After everything that the Austrians had sacrificed to protect Sarajevo, and to prevent the slaughter of the Bosniaks in particular, the Assembly of Socialist Republic of Bosnia had voted overwhelmingly to request annexation into the Archduchy as a highly-autonomous province, a compromise that had been agreed by Vienna, resulting in the establishment of the Margraviate of Bosnia, with an autonomous legislature and chief executive, under the superintendence of a Margrave appointed by Vienna. It was an incredibly magnanimous decision by Vienna, given the history that existed between Austria and Bosnia, not the least of which being the assassination of an Archduke, but it was also the leap of faith that had been required, and by all accounts Bosnia was flourishing under significant investment from Vienna, as although it would be highly-autonomous it was still ultimately the responsibility of Vienna, and if it could become a success it was possible that, in the long run, it could be the blueprint for, and example upon which, the resolution of the Serbian Question could be based.

Serbia, as the dominant power of Yugoslavia, had had the most to lose by the demise of the People’s Republic, and the actions of the extreme elements had disgraced the nation, as it had been predominantly the Serbs that had been responsible for inciting the atrocities that Austria, Apilonia, and the rest of the Commonwealth had been required to prevent. Serbia, unlike Bosnia, would not at this stage accept even the generous arrangement afforded to Bosnia, even if it had been offered by Vienna (which it was not). The former Socialist Republic of Bosnia had been formally placed under occupation by Austria, with additional Commonwealth forces also involved, and the long, difficult, process of de-radicalisation and nation-building begun, but it would be some years before Serbia could be either allowed to go it alone or become part of Austria-Hungary. Indeed, if the insurgency that had already evidenced itself was anything to go by, it would be a long, difficult process and would doubtless be the Archduchy’s principle security concern for some time.

It was a saving grace, in many respects, that the republics in the south of the former Yugoslavia, which had largely avoided invasion by the Commonwealth by capitulating early following the fall of Albania, had coalesced as the Republic of the Balkans. It was even more advantageous that the Republic had almost immediately requested Commonwealth membership. The magnanimity with how the Commonwealth forces in Albania had conducted themselves had struck a cord, just as it had in Bosnia, something which was not lost on anyone within the Commonwealth Secretariat, or any of the governments of its constitute member-states. Given the circumstances, the Republic had been put on the fast-track for Commonwealth Membership, however it had taken longer than was theoretically possible due to the simple fact that the Republic had needed to ratify its own Constitution and pass a number of legislative acts to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth. It was, in many respects, a risk fast-tracking their application, as the Treaty of Cape Town laid out a much more in-depth application and assessment process, but to stabilise the Balkans it was a risk that the Commonwealth had decided was worth taking.

It was the entry into the Commonwealth of the Republic of the Balkans that was the subject of events on the first Friday of the Commonwealth Conference. Although consultations had taken place behind closed doors in the preceding months, meaning that the outcome of the votes was already a foregone conclusion, there were nevertheless a number of formalities that needed to be completed during the Conference. Outside of exceptional circumstances, like that which had engulfed New Zealand, the normal process was for a prospective member-state to be declared a Commonwealth Protectorate upon it’s application, until the next Commonwealth Conference where it could be formally admitted. As such, the fast-track process had coincided quite nicely with Conference, which had been planned for May since the previous year, meaning that the Republic of the Balkans could be quickly, and smoothly, integrated into the Commonwealth, which would allow the full resources and advantages of the membership to be brought to bear on the challenges facing the Balkans. Moreover, it would dramatically improve the security situation more broadly, which would help with the ongoing need to occupy Serbia.

Far more surprising, and certainly not far enough progressed to have been an option for the 2021 Commonwealth Conference, was the positive noises coming out of Grand Duchy of Dacia. The Grand Duchy, which included the Duchy of Romania and the Duchy of Bulgaria, had a long history of tense relations with Austria-Hungary, had nevertheless been pleasantly surprised by the magnanimity with which the Commonwealth had conducted itself in the former Yugoslavia. Although the history with Austria-Hungary, and the fact that Dacia had never been a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, would preclude any possibility of Dacia joining them, the same could not be said for them considering Commonwealth membership. Like Austria, an Apilonian Princess had married into the Grand Ducal family in the 1800s, which made the modern Grand Duke of Dacia a distant relation of the Apilonian Royal Family. With the Commonwealth’s motivations proven to be pure, and Austria-Hungary’s ambitions reigned in by its own membership, the question of Dacia joining the new concentration of Commonwealth member-states in eastern Europe had begun to be raised within the halls of Dacian politics. It was a simple question; did they go it alone and accept a lesser status surrounded by larger powers, or did they join a supernatural organisation with broadly similar ideals and goals and be part of what was now becoming a significant power bloc in the region.

Although the question had not yet progressed to the stage where they had formally applied for Commonwealth membership, much less put the question to their people in the required referendum, but they had been invited to send observers to the Conference, an invitation that was quickly accepted. It was not for naught that the Dacian Observer had a front-row seat to the final vote on the Republic of the Balkans’ application.

Each of the Commonwealth Heads of Government were seated around a circular table, to symbolise that they were an organisation of equals, with the gathering being chaired by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Sir William Ecclestone. Over the course of the day, the Heads of Government had reviewed all of the reports from the various offices of the Commonwealth Secretariat in order to determine of the Republic of the Balkans had met the conditions required for membership of the Commonwealth. In some respects it was a formality, as their application had been provisionally accepted several weeks previously, but it was an important formality, and the vote was far from perfunctory even if there was no indication that it would go in a way that was unexpected.

“The question is, that the Republic of the Balkans has satisfied the preconditions of membership of our august Commonwealth, and ought to be inducted into our number as a full member-state, pursuant to a referendum held amongst their people last month,” Sir William said formally. “Those that are of that opinion, raise your hands or otherwise make your vote know.”

Almost as one, all five Heads of Government raised their hands and, just like that, the motion was carried and the Republic of the Balkans was formally inducted as a Commonwealth member-state. It would take several months to start the process of integrating the Republic into the various Commonwealth agreements, and would be several years before they were fully integrated, but the process could now start and, perhaps more importantly, Commonwealth investment could begin to flow into it’s newest member. In that one, simple action, the Commonwealth had turned the page on one bloody chapter in the history of the Balkans, and started the next, in which the Commonwealth Republic of the Balkans would not be going it alone. It was, in many respects, the way the world was going; with the exception of the likes of the Empire of Layarteb, the world was starting split itself into supranational blocs, the two most prominent being the Commonwealth itself and the Shenzhen Pact. Against that backdrop, the likes of the Republic of the Balkans and the Grand Duchy of Dacia choosing to sign up with one of those blocs, of which the Commonwealth saw itself as the more principled of the two, whereas the Pact would accept any member in the furtherance of its own power and influence, and that of its dominant member, Nanfang.

It was a popular trope of alternate history within the Kingdom to question what would have happened if Apilonia had de-colonised in any of a number of other ways (or indeed not de-colonised at all), with an enduring Apilonian Empire being the most common. Yet, in the Commonwealth Apilonia had found itself a new place in the world, and a new identity that it had been sorely missing for decades, and the positive impact of this could already be seen across a number of facets of Apilonian society just as clearly as the positive impact of the Commonwealth on the other member-states. As he formally affixed his signature and seal to the Act of Induction, Sir William could not help but smile to himself; in many respects it was a landmark moment, and a pivotal one in the history of the Balkans… and the story was not yet over.
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Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Tue Sep 07, 2021 2:13 am

His Royal Highness The Prince of Cascadia
Royal Palace of Bucharest, Bucharest
Grand Duchy of Dacia
Friday 25th June 2021, 1500hrs Local Time

“So, we are agreed then?”

Francis, Prince of Cascadia, smiled across the conference table at Nicholas, Grand Duke of Dacia, and Cornelius Martinescu, Prime Minister of Dacia, as they shared a glance before turning back and nodding with matching smiles. Francis had been dispatched to the Grand Duchy at the behest of the Commonwealth Secretariat, in order to lead a high-level delegation with a view to furthering the question of Dacian membership. Over the past month, since the Commonwealth Conference in Vienna, the Parliament of Dacia had been conducting hearings and debates on that very question, which had only gained momentum since the Commonwealth success in the aftermath of the Yugoslav War progressed from strength to strength. Whilst the elected representatives of Dacia continued their own process on the matter, the opinion polls were suggesting a solid majority of the Dacian population favoured Commonwealth membership. It had certainly helped matters that Prince Francis, Sir William Ecclestone (Secretary-General of the Commonwealth), and other prominent Commonwealth figures had spent a significant amount of time in Dacia over the past few months since the end of the Yugoslav War, and had been remarkably open and approachable, holding numerous town hall style meetings, to have a genuine conversation with the Dacian people.

On this occasion, Francis, who had quickly become as ardent a Commonwealth advocate as his father had been, which was entirely good thing as he would one day be ‘Head of the Commonwealth’ when he succeeded his father, and Sir William had been grilled extensively by a number of select committees of the Dacian Parliament. In these hearings, which had been broadcast nationally, the two Commonwealth representatives had been questioned on a wide range of matters from economic integration, to cultural independence, foreign affairs, and the collective military defence. It had been a gruelling few days, not in the sense that the hearings had been hostile by any stretch of the imagination, simply due to the long hours sent answering detailed questions whilst knowing what was on the line here. However, by all accounts the hearings had been very successful, and had become the single most watched collection of political television in the history of the Grand Duchy, and based on what had just been discussed with Grand Duke Nicholas and Prime Minister Martinescu had been entirely successful in allaying any remaining concerns of some within the Dacian Parliament.

Martinescu had confirmed to Francis and Sir William that he was now confident that there was a clear majority within the Dacian Parliament in favour of Commonwealth membership, and that he would be proceeding with legislation that would empower the Dacian Government to submit an application to the Commonwealth for membership, as well as authorising the various other actions needed to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth, most notably a free-and-fair referendum to confirm that this was the settled view of the prospective member’s citizenry.

Based on their discussions, the Grand Duchy of Dacia would seek to join the Commonwealth under the terms of the Austria Protocol, in which it would retain the Grand Duke as Head of State, but actively recognise the Crown of Apilonia as the Head of the Commonwealth. This was distinct from the East Africa Protocol, in which the reigning Monarch of Apilonia would become the Head of State of the new Commonwealth Member, which had been the case in both East Africa and, more recently, New Zealand, and the South Africa Protocol, in which the non-monarchial recognised the Head of the Commonwealth as the organisations leader, and would therefore be known as Commonwealth Republics rather than Commonwealth realms, and was the arrangement under which the Union of South Africa and the Republic of the Balkans had been admitted into the Commonwealth. It was an application that the Commonwealth was almost certain to accept, as Dacia already met the civil and political rights requirements for membership, was committed to the same principles that the Commonwealth stood for, and would be an excellent addition, for a variety of reasons, for the cluster of Commonwealth member-states that was forming in Southeast Europe.

It was easy to see why Dacia favoured Commonwealth membership; aside from the obvious geopolitical considerations of being part of a larger bloc rather than a small fish in a big pond, there would also be significant economic benefits from the removal of trade barriers between the other Commonwealth members, both those bordering and more distantly, as well as a number of significant infrastructure improvements. There was already a well-developed proposal for a sweeping upgrade of rail links in the region, a infamous dead-zone for high-speed rail, that could provide high-speed travel from Salzburg in Austria to Edirne in Dacia, and everything in between. It would take some time of course, but the Office for Sustainable Development within the Commonwealth Secretariat was committed to the project, which would be easy to expand into Dacia, and more distant (and prosperous) Commonwealth members were already being incredibly generous in supporting funding.

“Excellent, I am confident His Majesty, and the rest of the Commonwealth will be most gratified to hear you’ve made this decision,” Francis replied with a broad smile. “When did you have in mind to hold the referendum, unlike other recent members your needs are not quite so immediate.”

“Indeed, we are eager to join the Commonwealth, but don’t have the shadow of war over our shoulders, so we can take a little time,” Martinescu nodded. “I intend to introduce the legislation on Monday, it’ll take maybe a month to go through Parliament without undue haste, and then I propose to hold the referendum in September.”

“That would work, you would practically be a member-state as a Commonwealth Protectorate from the moment your application is accepted, post-referendum, of course,” Francis replied with an understanding nod. “But there would be a period until the next Commonwealth Conference in May 2022 for you to work with the Commonwealth Secretariat on the integration arrangements, which is by no means a bad thing.”

Nicholas and Martinescu both nodded their agreement with this statement; perhaps the single biggest benefit of Commonwealth membership for its member-states was the way in which they were integrated on a number of levels, the most obvious and important being the Commonwealth Single Market, which had already had a small but noticeable impact on the economies of the founding nations even in the small amount of time it had been in effect. Moreover, aside from anything else, the single market also helped to ensure that the Commonwealth Realms and Republics would be able to work with private corporations to invest in the less fortunate member-states in addition to their own state-funded efforts. Indeed, although the likes of the Republic of the Balkans was looking to establish itself as a social democracy, and even Austria favoured the left more than Apilonia itself did, even the most fervent former socialist would have to concede that the best way to increase standard of living and rebuild from the ruins of Yugoslavia was to grow the economy. As such, the quicker a prospective member-state could integrate into the single market the better for all concerned, making preparation time arguably an advantage.

“I imagine that the Secretariat will be eager to get an integration team on the ground as soon as possible, to work directly with your Government to get the ball rolling,” Francis commented, glancing to Sir William who nodded. “And I am sure that the CDO will want to start discussions with your General Staff for the same reason, but we will hold off on both until the referendum has been held, as we don’t want to influence the outcome.”

Martinescu smiled.

“Your Royal Highness, if the polls are even slightly correct I very much doubt that is going to be an issue,” The Prime Minister of Dacia commented wryly. “However, I understand and appreciate your desire to do things the right way, so we can keep any discussions low-key until that point.”

“Very well,” Francis replied. “Now, I believe you wanted Sir William and I to be there at this press conference you’re holding to announce your intentions?”

“I’d be very much appreciative,” Martinescu nodded. “I know that it won’t be a hardship for you.”

“Not in the slightest,” Francis smiled. “Let’s be about it, shall we?”
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Fri Oct 01, 2021 5:02 am

Sir William K. Ecclestone GCG, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth
Commonwealth House, Bucharest
Grand Duchy of Dacia
Friday 17th September 2021, 1900hrs Local Time

There had been some within the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the Apilonian and Austrian establishments, that had viewed the naming of the Commonwealth Interest Office in Bucharest as tempting fate. It had rapidly become tradition since the establishment of the Commonwealth for the regional office of the Secretariat (which the CIO in Bucharest would become) to inhabit a building that would be named ‘Commonwealth House’. It was a decision that had been made to solidify both the ‘brand’ of the Commonwealth, by ensuring that the building could be quickly and easily identified in any member-state, but also to introduce a sense of ‘family’ within the Commonwealth Secretariat in line with the ‘family of nations’ ideology that the Commonwealth was built upon. As such, there were now buildings called Commonwealth House in Seattle, Cape Town, Vienna, Mogadishu, Wellington, and most recently Tirana. It had been argued that, until the referendum had successfully returned a majority in favour of Dacia joining the Commonwealth that the building ought to retain its previous name. However, the building had been part of the Grand Ducal Estate, and prior to gifting it to the Commonwealth the Grand Duke himself had changed the name, making clear his stance on the matter.

Broadly speaking, only the most superstitious had an issue with the naming of the building, as the more practical majority had simply pointed to the opinion polls that suggested a healthy majority would indeed vote in favour of Commonwealth membership. By all accounts, this was coming to pass. The vote had formally been held on Thursday 16th September, with the Dacian Electoral Commission releasing regular vote totals as it counted the votes, however an exit poll conducted had seemed to confirm the consistent trend in the opinion polls pointing towards the vote passing. Nevertheless, even the least superstitious amongst the Commonwealth Delegation were holding their tongue as they gathered in the main bullpen of Commonwealth House, Bucharest, as they watched the Dacian News Network coverage of election. There had been hints over the last hour that an announcement was imminent, but there had been no leaks whatsoever of the outcome, and as much as most liked to think it was a foregone conclusion there was still a degree of nerves in Commonwealth House as they waited on the official results. Every member of the delegation, from the highest down to the most junior, had played an important role in bringing about this day, so they were all deeply invested.

Sir William K. Ecclestone, who had spent a significant amount of time in Dacia over the previous weeks, was not standing on ceremony as they waited for the results. Instead of hiding himself away in an office, Sir William was simply sat on an ordinary office chair at the centre of the bullpen, his eyes fixed on the television screen as the anchors improvised to fill the airtime as they all waited for the official announcement. If there was one thing that had become rapidly apparent to the men and women of the Commonwealth Secretariat it was that their Secretary-General, despite being a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of Saint Gabriel and a distinguished diplomat, was as down to Earth as any of them. Doubtless it was his personable nature, and genuine willingness and desire to talk to pretty much anyone about anything, that had allowed him to be so successful as a diplomat, and had rapidly secured him the respect and loyalty of the Secretariat as a whole. It had not been unnoticed in the Commonwealth’s short history that the personal diplomacy of Sir William, and other senior officials within the Commonwealth and its member-states, was playing a vital role in expanding the organisations membership.

The light hubbub of conversation in the bullpen suddenly died down as a new banner flashed across the news report, indicating ‘breaking news’, which on a night like this could only be one thing. As one, the Commonwealth Delegation to the Grand Duchy of Dacia fell silent and all eyes were fixed on the screens.

“Good Evening, if you’re just joining us at just after seven, we have some breaking news, based on vote numbers released by the Dacian Electoral Commission as they continue their voting process, DNN is now able to make a projection,” The Lead Anchor said formally. “Based on the number or precincts that have returned vote counts, the results of those votes, when considered against pre-vote polls and exit polls, DNN is now prepared to project that the ‘Yes’ vote has won the Commonwealth Membership Referendum.”

Cheers and applause broke out in the bullpen as the Commonwealth Delegation celebrated their success; sheets of paper went flying in the excitement. Sir William simply sat at the centre of the celebrations and smiled broadly, shaking many a celebratory hand as the group congratulated themselves for a job very well done.

“We would be remiss of our responsibilities if we did not remind our viewers that this is just a projection, and that the official vote count may take be complete until the end of the weekend, however our decision desk is very confident and worked to a very high standard,” The Lead Anchor continued. “Assuming that our protection is correct, we anticipate the Electoral Commission formally making its results known on Monday morning, based on previous national elections, with Government sources indicating Parliament will meet on Monday afternoon to formally request Commonwealth membership.”

Despite their hard work to bring about this vote, it was just the first step of a process that would continue until May 2022, when the Grand Duchy formally joined at the 2022 Commonwealth Conference in Mogadishu. Once the application was received, it would be provisionally accepted by the Commonwealth Secretariat, in the person of the Secretary-General, for and on the behalf of the Head of the Commonwealth and the member-states, which would formally make Dacia a Commonwealth Protectorate. As a Protectorate, Dacia would have all of the rights and protections of full Commonwealth membership, including the mutual defence pact under the Common Defence Arrangement (CDA), whilst having until the next Conference to fully institute any measures needed to meet its responsibilities and obligations. It would be the job of the Commonwealth Secretariat, and specifically the Commonwealth Interests Office, Bucharest, to liaise with the Dacian Government to facilitate those adjustments, some of which would be minor whilst others would be far wider-reaching, and require significant changes.

Perhaps the most pressing, given the wider geopolitical and security situation, would be the changes that would need to be made to the Grand Ducal Armed Forces, in order to integrate them into the Commonwealth Defence Organisation. Under the CDA, the idea was that the Commonwealth’s member-states would, collectively, be able to produce a highly capable and powerful military force, without each member-state having to maintain every single capability, although the larger and wealthier member-states (most notably Apilonia) would continue to do so. In doing so, it was intended to make the maintenance of a member-state armed forces as cost-effective as possible whilst maintaining a high level of combat capability. In areas, such as Southeast Europe where there was now a preponderance of Commonwealth member-states sharing land borders, it would also enable those neighbours (now Commonwealth ‘siblings’) to focus their defence expenditure on hostile or potentially hostile states, rather than wasting time, effort, and money on countering friendly (but previously unallied) states. In the case of Dacia, and since the breakup of Yugoslavia, it could now turn its attention to its primary geopolitical concern in the immediate region; the Marimaian Federation.

In the eyes of the Commonwealth, Marimaia was considered a cesspool of political corruption but not a true geostrategic threat, as it could be relied upon to act in its own self-interest, which did not include getting into a shooting war with the Commonwealth. However, just because it was unlikely that Marimaia would be a threat in the future did not mean that it could be entirely ignored, and the importance that the Dacian Military had placed on the Black Sea was now a key strategic point for the Commonwealth, and would now be integrated into its wider Mediterranean Strategy. But the key point under the CDA was that, given its unique operating environment, the Dacian Military would be encouraged to specialise; where once it had been compelled to maintain a fleet of surface-going escorts to accompany its ships into the Mediterranean and beyond it could now rely upon its Commonwealth allies to protect its shipping, concentrating instead of shorter-ranged craft that could dominate the Black Sea and protect its own shores. Indeed, Sir William was well-aware that preliminary consultations between the CDO and the Dacian Ministry of Defence had already suggested that Dacia could become one of the Commonwealth’s leading experts on littoral and mine warfare at sea.

After a few moments, Sir William stood and raised his hands to gain the attention of the room.

“Alright people, this news is everything that we have been working for over the past months, and if the projected vote count is accurate the decisive majority in favour of membership is testament to the hard work that everyone in this room has done,” Sir William said firmly. “If there is one thing that I have been amazed and encouraged by over the last year or so is the sheer dedication you and your colleagues across them world have shown to our Commonwealth, truly making it the ‘family of nations we all aspire for it to be.”

Sir William smiled and looked around at the group.

“Just in this office we have one department head from Austria, one from South Africa, one from East Africa, and one from Apilonia, and we have deputy department heads and personnel from every member-state in our Commonwealth, so this is very much a team effort,” Sir William added. “So celebrate tonight, a job very well done, but remember that this is just the end of the beginning, we’ve still got a great deal of work to do between now and the 2022 Conference, and then, like with any family, it is a lifetime of work for all of us to make it work.”

Sir William smiled and raised a glass of champagne that had been passed to him by one of the staffs.

“Tonight however, please join me in a toast,” Sir William said simply. “To the Commonwealth!”
The Kingdom of Apilonia
An Earth II Member


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