CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

Azov. Especially prominent was the small port city of Poti, on the

Georgian coast fifty miles from Hopa and the Turkish border. A cluster

of green icons lay thirty miles offshore, identified by the alphanumeric


Tombstone pursed his lips for a moment as he studied the display. The

Marine Expeditionary Unit was not technically part of CBG-14 at all,

though MEUS were attached to the battle group from time to time,

depending on deployment and mission. This time, MEU-25 was operating

under UN auspices as part of the Georgian relief program. With Operation

Sustain Hope, the old question of U.S. forces serving under United

Nations leadership had come to the forefront again and was rapidly

proving to be a disaster.

MEU-25 consisted of the LPD Little Rock, the LHA Saipan, and the LPH

Guadalcanal, plus a small fleet of transports and escorts assigned to

carry a reinforced Marine Battalion Landing Team anywhere in the world

at short notice as a rapid-response peacekeeper force. The expeditionary

unit had arrived in the Black Sea a few days before the Jefferson with

orders from the National Command Authority–meaning the President–to

open up a secure port at Poti in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia

so that UN humanitarian aid could begin to flow into the war-ravaged

little country lying on the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains.

It was supposed to be a routine operation–routine, that is, save for

the extraordinary fact that U.S. military force was being projected into

this corner of the world for the first time in history. A British

peacekeeping force under direct UN control was already on its way to

take over, but as usual the U.S. Marines would bear the brunt of the

initial operation.

It was all quite a tangle, Magruder reflected. Who would have thought,

just a few years back, that when American troops stood on soil that had

belonged to the Soviet Empire they’d be doing it as glorified security

guards? Or that in the end Russia and her former satellites would turn

into just so many more Third World hot spots where the UN formula of

humanitarian aid, peacekeepers, and no-fly zones would be applied the

very same way it had been in Iraq, and Bosnia, and Haiti, and Macedonia?

But the world was changing fast, sometimes so fast that it almost seemed

to out-pace American foreign policy itself.

The Republic of Georgia was mirror to the drama that was being played

throughout this part of the world now and for most of the past decade.

Once a federated S.S.R., Georgia had declared its independence from the

old Soviet Union on April 9, 1991. Even as the nation fought for

freedom, however, the autonomous provinces of Abkhazia, Adharia, and

South Ossetia were fighting for independence from Georgia. By 1994,

Georgia’s President Shevardnadze had agreed to a cooperation pact that

increased Russian military influence in the country, a frank exchange of

freedom for security, and Georgia joined the Moscow-led Commonwealth of

Independent States soon after. By the time the Soviet Union was briefly

reborn and the tanks had been rolling into Norway, Georgia was again

solidly under Russian control.

But then the Scandinavian campaign had collapsed, the Russian military

had been proven a hollow shell, and American forces were landing on the

once sacrosanct soil of the Kola Peninsula. Leonov and Krasilnikov were

battling one another in the streets of Moscow and a hundred other

Russian cities, and the entire nation was sliding relentlessly toward

the yawning chasm of total anarchy. States that had enjoyed a brief

freedom in the era of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, states like Ukraine and

Belarus, the Baltics and Georgia, were shaking off the neo-Soviet mantle

and reasserting their independence. In one ex-Soviet state after

another, popular uprisings were driving out garrisons weak enough or

discouraged enough to give way.

But independence is never cheap. There were still plenty of neo-Soviet

units scattered across the length and breadth of the former empire,

controlled by hard-liner Reds and pro-Krasilnikov factions, and the

fledgling rebel movements were rarely strong enough to break the

militarists’ control by themselves. One after another of the newborn

governments had applied to the United Nations for support; at the same

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145

Categories: Keith Douglass