On Spies, Nationalism, and Solomani/Imperial Peace Treaties

From The Spectator:

It’s certainly true that we have seen some big blunders on the part of the GRU, Russian military intelligence: Sergei Skripal’s would-be assassins presenting themselves as innocent sports nutritionists with a taste for 13th-century ecclesiastical architecture. Hackers caught in the Netherlands with laptops that had not been sanitised between operations. The names of 305 GRU officers made public because they registered their cars at their base, presumably in order to avoid paying car tax. The unmasking today of the second Salisbury spook as Alexander Mishkin, a military doctor working for Russian intelligence, is just the latest blow to the reputation of Putin’s spy agencies.


The gung-ho GRU has embraced this shadow war, and it has been let off the leash,  engaging in the kind of missions that once might have been passed over as too potentially risky: meddling in the US presidential elections, plotting a coup in Montenegro, hacking numerous governments, and, of course, trying to murder their former colleague, Sergei Skripal. But the more operations you run, the more that will fail. The more active missions you have on the board at any one time, the more you’ll need to reach beyond the A-team, relying on officers who didn’t make the top grade. The sort who might hang on to a taxi receipt that places them at GRU HQ, for example; or the kind who wants to save some rubles on their car tax.

But how many missions are succeeding? The GRU’s risk-taking mindset means it can also pull off real triumphs. In 2007, for example, a sub-lieutenant in the Canadian Navy, Jeffrey Delisle, walked into the Russian embassy in Ottawa and offered to become a spy. The SVR (Russian Foreign Intelligence Service) worried that this was a set-up, passed on the opportunity. But their colleagues in the GRU took a chance; for the next four years, they were able to profit from Delisle’s position in an intelligence centre to access thousands of top secret files, not just from Canada but also from Britain, the US, and Australia.

The GRU is not a maverick service, and there is no evidence – yet, at least – that Putin is unhappy with his attack dogs. Even if we do see some mysterious ‘resignations’ in future, it will most likely be a punishment for their failures, not their attempts. Overall, they are doing what Putin wants them to do: challenging and testing the West, taking chances and seeing where they can go.

And what was the fallout of their failed assassination attempt in Salisbury? The Skripal assassins were identified, but in an age of CCTV, biometrics and facial recognition software, that was bound to happen anyway. The traitor lived and a civilian died, but ‘collateral damage’ happens in war. For a few news cycles, Russia has had to suffer the jibes and condemnations of the West, but Putin cares about results more than optics.

“Laughing at the ineptitude of some Russian spies ignores how dangerous most are”: Mark Galeotti

Fun stuff for a SolSec game!

Navy men should take special note of Sub Lt. Delisle: a low-ranking spy in the Navy, even working for an Imperial member world (never mind a truly foreign power), can cause quite a bit of damage.

Identifying assassins is something that “is bound to happen anyway” in strongly surveiled cultures: “merely the cost of doing business.” Solomani-culture PCs/NPCs are especially adept to living in carefully observed societies: they know what gets ignored, what gets flagged, and what gets you a visit at 2 am in the morning.

An opposition that cares more about results than optics has serious weak points, but also significant strengths and a greater range of action. “Know your enemy.”

The Referee should know how to roleplay an organization on a tight leash… on a loose leash… and off the leach. Pirates dealing with a tightly leashed and restricted Imperial Navy have different concerns than when dealing with a Navy “with the safeties off”.

Or, as in the Imperial Empty Quarter, the Imperial military is under fairly strict discipline, but local planetary and system forces can get away with a lot more, ‘far away from prying eyes.’

(Especially when its the Vargr, ‘supposedly innocent or not’, who are in the cross-hairs. Lots of bad blood there… and hardened grudges.)

From Russian Faith (HT: Lew)

Putin loves taking photos with big loud families. Maybe because, in his eyes, they are the main heralds of the Russia he envisions: a flourishing, colourful country built upon traditional family values.

Parents who raise seven or more children (biological or adopted) qualify for an illustrious Order of Parental, which includes a dinner and meeting with the president himself. 

Putin Adores Huge, Traditional Families and He’s Not Afraid to Show It, by Michael Tare

In some ways, Putin is a decent model for one of the more milder flavours of Solomani nationalism

I see President Putin as basically uninterested in race-fueled aggression/domination (Russia has demonstrated better skill in managing minorities, racial and Islamic, than the West does), but VERY interested in the survival of the Russians as a people and a culture.

(And this fact is more important, long-term, than Russia’s skill in covert operations. Guns are important, spies may be useful, skill in technology and business is desirable: but strong and large families; a vigorous culture, ethos, and religion; and defensible, sovereign territory are absolutely vital to the survival of any people!

But can a central government bureaucracy pull it off? I have my doubts: but with Russia and China going into pro-natal/we-must-have-kids mode, the world  is sure to find out…)

If there is ever a peace treaty between the Third Imperium and the Solomani Confederation — with, say,

  • Terra as a demilitarized system run by the Terran Party, ideologically tied to (but organizationally separate from) the Solomani Party;
  • repatriation of all non-Solomani within the Confederation into Imperial space, paid for by the Confederation;
  • a formal Confederation renunciation of all territorial clams to Imperial-held systems within the Solomani Sphere;
  • formal recognition by the Imperium of the political independence of the Solomani Confederation, coupled with the renounciation of all Imperial claims to territory within current Solomani borders;
  • a forty-year ban on any Pure Solomani from gaining the position of Emperor or Archduke, to be reviewed for renewal a year before it lapses;

You can get the interesting situation of a fairly durable peace in the Solomani Rim, with a broad dial-down of tensions. Especially if the Solomani Cause shifts from the messianic and militaristic

“We have the right to conquer all and rule the universe!”

to a more pragmatic, trade-oriented, and peaceable (if still a mite arrogant) position:

“We must make Solomani worlds wealthier, more populous,
more technologically advanced, more secure & protected,
and far more glorious than anywhere else!”

(Things work out better when your government has somewhat saner, more achievable goals that generate growth, profit, and widespread respect;
not expenses, losses, and widespread hatred. “Just a thought.”)

Note that the goal here is “a durable peace”, not “ideological Imperial victory over the Solomani.” In Canon Traveller, the Imperium is not interested in outright war, but does not want to give the Solomani Party the political legitimacy that a formal peace treaty would give.

Perhaps this is the right choice, from an Imperial perspective.

But perhaps not.

“What can be gained by a peace treaty? What would be lost? Do the benefits outweigh the costs?”

Something for the Referee to chew on.

And let his PCs experience first hand.

About Alvin Plummer

I'm working to build a better world, a world that blesses Christ and is blessed by Him. I hope that you're doing the same!
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1 Response to On Spies, Nationalism, and Solomani/Imperial Peace Treaties

  1. Timothy Newman says:

    I don’t think the Imperium would sign that specific treaty because they’d be unlikely to accept the sort of limitation it puts on who could become an Archduke (the Imperial family being already ‘compromised’). The Imperium might not especially are about racial purity and would probably look askance at someone who made a point of their Pure Solomani Ancestry, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some perfectly acceptable people who just happen to lack the right sort of ancestry (including Archduke Brzk, in some interpretations of Terran ancestry).
    Other than that, I suspect there’d be a close look at the article on who runs Terra, as although the Imperium doesn’t have a problem with one-party-state planets something that explicitly put a party with a Solomani agenda in charge is going to annoy billions of Vilani and aliens. Returning Terra to civilian control and letting it have a democratic vote which ends with that is a different matter.
    The people who might have, and who I suspect are much less enthusiastic about getting a peace treaty acknowledging their independence, are the Solomani government. It’s all very well declaring independence, but if the Imperium formally accepts it then the Treaty of Ftahalr suddenly is a non-issue. The Aslan in the existing situation have to wonder what happens if they really get into a major war with part of the Imperium, but if it’s acknowledged as an independent state then the 3I might just shrug and let the ihatei do as they want – for one thing, it means less pressure in the Trojan Reach.
    Then there’s the unfortunate fact that the Solomani Rim contains a lot of high-population, industrial, high-tech worlds that used to be Solomani. Recovering those through negotiation or war would be a massive boost to the Confederation economy and war-making potential. Acknowledging they’re not coming back is a statement that there’s no possible future war against a united Imperium (which was anyway a long-shot, of course) and stating that would certainly infuriate and enthuse radicals in the Confederation as much as announcing that Terra won’t be reconquered. And from the Imperium’s point of view it’s possible it would to lead their counterparts on those worlds into some rather bloody activity that they currently don’t engage in as peacefully returning to the bosom of the Confederation is still a possibility. And from the Imperial point of view, if the Radicals won power in the Confederation then any treaty would be most useful for the post-war trials,
    From my perspective it looks to me like the Confederation has a lot more to gain from the current somewhat ambiguous situation than it does from any full treaty, Which is of course leverage for Imperial diplomats, who could make a public offer similar to your suggestion and leave the Confederation with the choice of either renouncing one of their claims about recovering their homeworld and the other worlds ‘under the Imperial yoke’, or making it clear they don’t really want full independence after all – or fudging, which I suspect like most governments they have down to a science.


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