“As you were,” Tarrant said quietly as he reached the podium. Chairs
scraped against the deck as the assembled officers of the battle group
sat down again. The air was tense with anticipation.
“Good morning,” Tarrant said. “There have been some developments that
impact on our operations. We have new orders from Washington and will be
redeploying the battle group to extend our operational area north and
west. Commander Sykes will cover the details of the situation.
He nodded toward Commander Daniel Sykes, the Flag Intelligence Officer,
who walked up to take Tarrant’s place at the podium. He laid a thick
file folder in front of him and produced a telescoping pointer from his
pocket. A petty officer set up an easel beside him and put up a chart of
the Black Sea.
“Gentlemen,” Sykes began. “Our original purpose for this deployment was
to oversee the no-fly zone over Georgia. This was necessary because of
Turkey’s decision to deny both basing privileges and permission for
overflights of their territory in protest over the UN’s policy of
encouraging ethnic minority separatist movements. The MEU operating with
the Guadalcanal group was to be the initial ground component for the
humanitarian effort in Georgia, with a British peacekeeping unit taking
over in about two weeks.” The intelligence officer paused. “As of this
morning, however, all operations in Georgia assume a lower priority.
They are not suspended, but our new operational orders have precedence.”
Magruder heard coughs, groans, and restless movement around him. It
wasn’t uncommon to have the White House change a mission profile in
midstream; indeed, that sort of thing was all too common. But evidently
they were being asked to take on additional duties, stretch their
resources thinner to try and keep doing their original job while taking
on a whole new task as well.
Sykes waited for quiet before going on. “You all know the chaotic
situation in the former Soviet Union. The Reds and the Blues are still
fighting in Russia proper, while the other republics are for the most
part declaring independence and throwing out whichever faction has
troops on their soil. In many cases those troops are simply going home,
or defecting en masse if they contain local contingents.” The pointer
indicated the territory of the Ukraine, colored gray on the map. “By far
the best organized of the breakaway republics at present is Ukraine.
They have the largest army and a lot of first-line equipment inherited
from the Reds, and their government seems to have the only clear-cut
agenda of any of the contenders. Unfortunately, that agenda is one
Washington regards as dangerous.”
Tombstone found himself nodding. The latest group to seize power in Kiev
had been led by right-wing extremists who preached the twin sermons of
security and nationalism with an all-too-familiar and chilling fervor.
They had already been accused of attempting a program of ethnic
cleansing inside their borders, and they made little effort to hide
their intentions of expanding Ukrainian territory at the expense of
their war-torn neighbors.
“High on the list of Ukrainian priorities is the conquest of the Crimean
Peninsula,” Sykes went on. His pointer tapped the map to indicate the
rough diamond shape dangling from the underbelly of Eurasia.
“Traditionally, the Crimea has been part of Ukraine from the time modern
Russia first began to take shape, at least for geographic and
administrative purposes. But the ethnic composition of the Crimean
population contains a higher proportion of Russians, and after Gorbachev
dissolved the Union there was considerable friction between Russia and
Ukraine over the fate of the peninsula. To make matters worse, the
Crimea contains some of the most important military bases in the Black
Sea region, as well as one of its finest ports, at Sevastopol.”
Sykes paused to allow the enlisted man to put up a new map, this one a
more detailed view of Crimea proper.
“The, ah, political future of the Crimea has continued to remain in
doubt. Most of the peninsula’s population actually favor Russian
control. However, the Red faction, which maintains control of the
peninsula, is too weak and too occupied with the Blues elsewhere to
adequately defend the place. The man in charge is General Sergei
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