The Four Horsemen: the Nuclear Apocalypse of 1962

Good to see things turned out well for Hong Kong. I suppose ITTL, alternate history stories about the crisis escalating into war will be pretty popular.
Any chance that China could gain support in Latin America or Africa from right-wing strongmen who like partners who don't talk about "democracy" and "human rights" and are trying to use nationalism to further their regime's life expectancy much like Saudi Arabia has aligned themselves with China?
Interesting update I assume Paddy Ashdown still served in the SBS in this timeline and was sorta seen as the take no prisoners PM in a Churchill mold?
Hong Kong will be a hub of intelligence operations on all sides. Will the new emperor attempt some minor economic and political reforms?
Given the post WWII order brought about WWIII, there would be factions in Europe who would claim the wrong side won. Fascism would likely rise again, and in a devastated continent, would find serious hold. Some European countries old undoubtedly veer into totalitarianism.
On that note, such a neo-fascist wave could provide China with an ally or two in Europe. Another potential pro-Chinese force in the West could be TTL's equivalent to the Dark Enlightenment movement.
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Another minor nitpick, under the Tri-Service Rocket designation system, the number 3 is taken, so a successor to the AIR-2 Genie would be numbered somewhere in the late teens, between 16 and 19 most likely, unless the US ITTL did more unguided rocket development than OTL

Edit: The OTL planned replacement for the Genie was the AIM-26A "Super" Falcon, which used a smaller .25 Kiloton nuclear warhead and was actually already in service in 1961. Since the conventional AIM-26B lasted until 1998 in Swedish service, they would probably still be using it in your TL
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Chapter XIV: Chinese Aspirations, 1996-1999.
Update time.

Chapter XIV: Chinese Aspirations, 1996-1999.

The threat of a major war against China, that could have gone nuclear, was defused. China came into focus as the next major threat to the United States even more than during the Taiwan Strait Crisis in the 80s. The American response after the Hong Kong Crisis was to reinvigorate the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), a collective defence organization formed in 1954, which had largely gone dormant after WW III and had seen France pulling out as it had no more interests in Southeast Asia. In 1997 membership consisted of the United States, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand. In February 1998, the leaders of the six members met in the organization’s headquarters in Bangkok on the invitation of the United States to discuss reforming the organization through the formation of joint commands with standing forces. An explicit response protocol was drafted that stated an armed attack against one member state would be considered an attack against all. Later that year, India and Bangladesh applied for membership. America also increased its military presence in Japan and Korea with conventional forces and more IRBMs.

To the new ruler of China, the Huanxing Emperor, it was clear that a military confrontation had to be avoided at all costs as he had a much more realistic appraisal of the difference in strength between the Empire of China and the United States. China’s conventional land forces, though equipped with obsolete equipment, were so enormous that they could overwhelm any invader through sheer weight of numbers. The Imperial Chinese Navy, however, was a dwarf: not only were its ships of obsolete pre-1962 Soviet build, there were also very few of them and there was nothing bigger than a destroyer in the navy’s inventory. That meant that China’s navy was a green-water navy at best, which meant it was only capable of operating in brackish estuaries and littoral coasts. Its air force, while huge, only had obsolete aircraft in its inventory. Besides that, there was the enormous difference in nuclear arsenals, strategic missile forces and long range bombers. By 1998, China had roughly 800 nuclear warheads, but only had 30-40 long range bombers and two dozen ICBMs. China hadn’t adopted a “no first use” policy out of principle, but out of a position of weakness. In the event of a nuclear war against the US, China would meet the same fate as the Soviet Union in 1962.

The Huanxing Emperor concluded that if China was to gain influence in the world, it would have to be done through soft power. One of the first steps was trying to change China’s poor reputation in regards to human rights. Methods of capital punishment considered savage or cruel in the West like strangulation, beheading by sword and slow slicing were abolished and replaced by hanging and firing squad (prisoners received the right to choose the method of their execution and their last meal). The practice of public executions was abandoned altogether, with all executions now taking place behind prison walls. Police were explicitly forbidden from harming a suspect or prisoner, except in self-defence (this rule was frequently broken until police stations, prisons and interrogation rooms were equipped with CCTV). Trials of ex-police officers or prison personnel who had committed torture were highly publicized by state propaganda to demonstrate that China too embraced “due process.” Religious persecution was formally ended by the 1999 Edict of Nanjing: amnesty was offered to all religious dissidents in prison, they were offered freedom of conscience and reinstatement of their civil rights. Thousands of religious dissidents were released and some mosques and churches were built. As a show of goodwill, countless other alleged traitors awaiting their executions received clemency, with their sentences being commuted and many lesser offenders being released. State media documented all of this to make the new Emperor appear benevolent, compared to his “misguided” predecessor. China announced it would abide by the Geneva and Hague Conventions.

Concomitantly, another step was reducing tensions with the United States, in which de-escalating the Hong Kong Crisis was a first step. He didn’t like it, but consoled himself with the thought that he already ruled over an Empire stretching from the Arctic Ocean and Siberia to the border of Vietnam and from Xinjiang to the Pacific. Beijing recognized Japanese control over all of Sakhalin, the Kuriles, the disputed Senkaku Islands and the Kamchatka Peninsula and declared that the status of Taiwan would never be settled militarily. This reduced tensions between China and the US, but it wasn’t a true détente: the Chinese had little leverage and therefore couldn’t move the US to reduce its presence in places so close to China like Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Its diplomatic offensive nonetheless continued, and was complemented by a PR offensive: Western producers, directors and actors were contracted to film a twelve episode miniseries depicting Chinese history from the Opium War until the end of WW II, emphasizing how China had been wronged and humiliated. Besides that, a documentary was produced concerning the development of Chinese civilization, which subtly emphasized centuries of Chinese superiority. Both initially only received a direct-to-video release in the US and weren’t picked up by any network, but the Chinese purchased costly airtime to see to it that it was aired on TV in prime time rather than being delegated to the graveyard slot. This helped to counteract the Sinophobia that had unsurprisingly developed during the reign of Emperor Shengxing, which had been marked by cruelty and ruthlessness. A moderate amelioration in Sino-American relations took place, an understanding was reached. Détente it was not.

China understood much better that geopolitics had been reset to the year 1900 by WW III. Détente was not reached and Beijing’s proposals to negotiate official spheres of influence were all rejected as this was considered imperialist by the US State Department, which was still firmly rooted in the Cold War and postcolonialism. China wasn’t discouraged and continued building a sphere of influence. The Empire of Vietnam had been firmly in China’s orbit since the 60s and Laos, Cambodia and Burma had followed. They had military alliances and some Chinese troops were stationed in their territory, for example at the Chinese naval base in Camranh Bay, Vietnam. Far-reaching economic integration had also taken place, with these countries pegging their currencies to the yuan and forming a customs union with it. China built infrastructure and extracted resources, while providing finish goods in return.

In early 1997, the Sino-Saudi Alliance had been formed, with 10.000 Chinese troops stationed in the country to protect nuclear missile installations; Chinese submarines were also based at the city of Dammam. With its military presence on the Persian Gulf China would be able to threaten the world’s oil supply in the event of war and this presence also served to increase Beijing’s influence in the Middle East. Bilateral treaties for economic cooperation were signed with Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt and Libya. China also provided military and economic backing to the Punjabi Republic, a successor state to Pakistan and struck a similar deal with Afghanistan, gaining access to its vast supplies of lithium.

China also tried its luck in Africa, a continent with a number regimes with less than stellar human rights records, which the Chinese played into by not caring about a country’s domestic policies. Sudan was a country governed by shariah law that bitterly fought against a separatist insurgency in the south, which was predominantly Christian and with a large following of Traditional African Religions as well; it also faced a rebellion in Darfur. China supplied the Sudanese Army with weapons and supplies and built infrastructure, in return for which Sudan sold petroleum, diamonds, gold, silver, copper and tungsten at reduced rates.

And then there was Zaire: in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s the country had gotten extremely wealthy on copper exports to Western countries, which could use all the copper they could get to rebuild their devastated electricity networks (and copper was only one of the many natural resources the country was well endowed with, which also included cadmium, diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, coltan, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium, radium, iron ore and coal). Despite the enormous corruption, theft and mismanagement, there was enough money coming in to grease the wheels of the state and of the economy and allow the Inga Project to be built: a series of dams on the Congo River with an installed capacity of 40.000 MW that produced 180.6 TWh annually, much of which was exported to the rest of the continent. It had made Mobutu an extremely rich man as he owned 49% of the company’s shares. He was the leader of the Popular Movement of the Revolution: a party based on Mobutism (i.e. Mobutu’s cult personality), cultural and nationalist conservativism, Zairian nationalism, “authenticity” (referring to the removal of all vestiges of colonialism), anti-communism and African nationalism. Using his own and the state’s tremendous funds, Mobutu had ensured that his cult of personality had become so intense and pervasive that the people were devoted to him. Those that weren’t, pretended to be out of fear of punishment for failure to pay homage. The country had a quarter of a million political prisoners around 1990 while every aspect of political, cultural, social and economic life was being monitored.

Though mostly an opportunist who assumed whatever political position that was the most convenient to him, Mobutu was uncompromisingly hostile to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Knowing South Africa had 5-6 nuclear weapons by the late 80s, he felt Zaire should develop its own nuclear deterrent, beginning work in 1988. Whilst the country had plenty of electricity and uranium, building centrifuges and reactors as well as designing a functioning, useable warhead were a different matter. Mobutu had hoped to enlist American aid, but the White House had become disenchanted with him the longer they didn’t need him anymore. They criticized his cult of personality, his totalitarianism, his corruption and Zaire’s downright poor human rights record, of which the American public was becoming increasingly aware and which made America’s association with Mobutu a handicap at home. Bush still allocated some foreign aid to, but openly urged the dictator in Kinshasa to initiate democratic reform. In a private conversation with the US ambassador in his palace in his home town of Gbadolite, nicknamed the “Versailles of the jungle”, Mobutu was informed the US would not help him build the bomb.

China stepped in, demonstrating once again it didn’t care about a country’s domestic policies, by offering to build a nuclear power plant and provide a mock warhead. This greatly accelerated Zaire’s atomic bomb program. This led to an underground nuclear test that took place in the Rwenzori Mountains, in the northeast of the country, using an implosion-type device with a solid plutonium core. The 1998 test produced an estimated yield of 20 kilotons, making Zaire Africa’s second nuclear power. China’s price of course was access to the country’s natural resources at low prices, building expensive infrastructure in the country to expedite the matter. A battalion of Chinese troops was sent to the country to help train Congolese forces and a destroyer squadron was based at Boma, with naval officers that helped develop Zaire’s National Navy from a purely riverine force to a force able to operate from the Bight of Benin to the Cape of Good Hope. Most important to Mobutu was his precious nuclear arsenal, which numbered two warheads when he died in 2000. Since then his successor and elder son from his second marriage Nzanga Mobutu has ruled the country, curbing the worst excesses of his father’s corruption. Zaire continued its nuclear weapons program and carried out further nuclear tests, with the largest achieving a yield of 300 kilotons. As of 2020, the country possesses 20-30 atomic bombs.

China certainly succeeded in establishing an informal empire based on a fairly simple model: regardless of a country’s domestic policies Beijing was willing to provide economic or military aid in exchange for influence, either indirectly through economic interests or directly through a military presence. After Zaire, Libya was the most recent example: China developed its oil, which helped the country transform from a nomadic peasant society to an urban, sedentary one.

The result was significant Chinese clout stretching from Central Africa across the Red Sea and Persian Gulf to the Mekong Delta. Increasing its contact with the outside world helped China purchase or steal the technologies required to begin modernizing its economy and armed forces so as to become strong enough to force access into all world markets (Hong Kong in particular became a hotbed of espionage activity for West and East). The next step would be merging all of these bilateral deals into a tighter bound deal, some kind of Chinese dominated military-economic bloc. This challenge would be taken on after the millennium, in the 21st century.
great updates to a really good story.

If Cassius Clay makes it as a politician I wonder if Brian Clough might have survived in the UK to enter politics. I can see him as plain talking, northern, left wing firebrand.

What's South Africa like?
South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 59 million people, it is the world's 24th-most populous nation and covers an area of 1,221,037 square kilometres (471,445 sq mi). South Africa has three capital cities: executive Pretoria, judicial Bloemfontein and legislative Cape Town. The largest city is Johannesburg. About 80% of South Africans are of Black African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different African languages. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European, Asian, and multiracial ancestry.

It is bounded to the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; and to the east and northeast by Mozambique and Eswatini (former Swaziland); and it surrounds the enclaved country of Lesotho. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World or the Eastern Hemisphere, and the most populous country located entirely south of the equator.

Sorry - i couldn't resist! ;-)
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Chapter XV: The Autumn of Nations, 1999-2002. New
And the story continues...

Chapter XV: The Autumn of Nations, 1999-2002.

In the meantime, developments were afoot in Europe. World War III had wrought much physical devastation, economic disintegration, general chaos, scarcity of the most basic goods, desperation and apathy. Great Britain had survived as a bastion of democracy and the democratic institutions in Scandinavia, Switzerland and the Netherlands survived too. Belgium was a unique case: the stresses of the post-war years exacerbated the tensions between the Dutch speaking Flemish and the francophone Walloons, leading to a split; Flanders continued as a constitutional monarchy while Wallonia was annexed by France. These were the exceptions that didn’t fall to authoritarianism.

In the years after the “national emergency”, France had developed into a dominant-party system dominated by the Union of Democrats for the Republic (UDR), which was originally a Gaullist, paternalist socially conservative and liberal conservative party. The liberal element that supported individual liberties vanished in the sixties while the conservative emphasis on law and order and the paternalist principles of duty, hierarchy and organic unity became more pronounced. The government’s control established under martial law in 1962 never really ended, with the state maintaining a heavily regulatory paternal role in the economy and society. Against a trend of secularization, a mild form of Catholic social conservatism was upheld though association with the Church was minimal and the secular values of the republic were officially upheld. Nationalism, inflated from Gaullist patriotism, became a binding element. Democracy was never formally abolished, but the UDR dominated one election after the other through control of the media and later also through intimidation and suppression of the opposition. The UDR remained the hegemonic party for decades, though shortly before the turn of the millennium its authoritarian rule would be challenged. It was the same for France’s position as the dominant power in Western Europe.

Germany, almost forty years after the war, was lightyears away from where it had left off in 1962. By the early 80s, Germany had established tenuous control over the territories of both West and East Germany and was limited to pre-1900s levels of technology in most of the country, with electricity and some modern technology like phones and radio surviving and seeing limited production in the slowly recovering major cities. Some coal mining, steel production and other heavy industry re-emerged in the Ruhr Area, but the country mostly remained an agrarian economy relying on physical labour and draft animals since farming equipment was rare. Labour conscription remained in effect. The largest slice of the $150 billion European Reconstruction Program launched by the US in 1983 was allocated to Germany: $37.5 billion, i.e. 25%. Prefab homes, asphalted roads, railroads, river ports, airfields, telephone and telegraph lines, radio and TV stations, coal mines, power stations, steel mills, and various kinds of factories were built; some of these complexes were built on US soil, disassembled and put on ships, and subsequently reassembled on site in Germany. After years of struggle, the government of national unity dominated by CDU/CSU presided over an era of remarkable industrialization. As a modern, post-crisis society emerged, however, martial law and measures like labour conscription were questioned more and more while it was felt the time was right for democratic elections and a return to normal. The economic boom of the 80s had been preceded by the birth of a generation highly critical of the restriction of civil liberties. The government – subject to renewed militarism and nationalism and now also rising new industrial barons – proved resistant to change in the 90s.

Austria had coordinated the refugee crisis in the immediate post-war years progressively, but eventually succumbed to right-wing populism and eventually even a restoration of the monarchy, with Crown Prince Otto of Habsburg becoming Emperor. Given the complete collapse of authority in the Czech half of Czechoslovakia and the Slovaks going their own way, it was easy for Austria to establish control and proclaim Otto as King of Bohemia. Hungary desired to settle irredentist claims vis-à-vis Yugoslavia and Romania but was unable to take on both of them, but ultimately rejected membership as it would mean a reduction of sovereignty. Like all Eastern European countries Hungary had morphed into a nationalist conservative authoritarian regime, which made a restoration of the monarchy a possibility. In 1969, the Imperial Austro-Bohemian Confederation had been formed. Slovakia joined a few years later, after it had annexed Carpathian Ruthenia (part of Czechoslovakia until 1939 and Soviet territory after 1946). The country changed its name to the Transdanubian Union in 1974, often referred to as Transdanubia: the three constituent countries controlled their domestic policies, but foreign, defence, monetary and economic policies were coordinated by Vienna.

Other Eastern European countries didn’t restore their monarchies, though were nationalist-conservative regimes for the most part with some level of “guided democracy.” On the Mediterranean, the military dictatorships in Spain, Greece and Turkey lingered. The Italian Split had become permanent with a market socialist northern republic controlled by a PCI-PSI bloc, with friendly relations with Yugoslavia, and a pro-American neo-fascist southern monarchy. Most of these countries became recipients of the European Reconstruction Program, resulting in varying degrees of anti-Americanism among the younger generations as the United States were seen as backers of “modern fascism.”

At the sunset of the twentieth century – arguably the West’s worst century since the fourteenth century plague and a terrible period in general – Europe was at the dawn of revolution. The spark of continentwide revolution was to be found in France, following the example of the 1789 French Revolution more than two centuries prior. In September 1999, students occupied an administration building of the University of Paris to force everyone to pay attention after the university and the government had ignored them. They published their demands, which concerned class discrimination in French society and the political bureaucracy behind the university’s funding. The police forced the occupying students to leave and arrested a few, accusing them of being Marxists, while less severe cases were brought before the university’s disciplinary committee.

The university was closed down by the police after the announcement of protests against the arrest and expulsion of several students. More students protested and teachers joined them. On Friday May 3rd the largest student union, the Union Nationale des Étudiants de France (UNEF), called for a march and over 20.000 people marched on the university. The police charged with their batons and riot shields under orders to disperse the crowd, but unexpectedly the protestors fought back, mounting a stiff resistance. Barricades were built out of whatever was available and pelted the police with paving stones, rocks, Molotov cocktails and all items of trash heavy enough to do some damage. Protests spread to the rest of the city and the street fighting grew to the point that the police was overwhelmed. With apparently everyone on the streets, the mob now controlled the city and the government evacuated by helicopter.

The original demands for reforms at the university were replaced by a far greater desire for change. Protests erupted in many other cities as well against the authoritarian, clandestine and illegal practices of the ruling UDR (Union of Democrats for the Republic), which resulted in heavy police repression, in some cases with military support. This led to the trade union federations calling for sympathy strikes, to which millions of workers responded, causing the economy to completely grind to a halt. The list of demands consisted of dissolution of the UDR, persecution to the letter of the law of crimes committed on government orders, disclosure of the officious relationship with the Catholic Church and the latter’s political and social influence, freeing dissidents, political and judicial reform, freedom of speech and assembly, free and fair democratic elections under UN supervision and an end to the state of national emergency that was still in effect and suspended the constitution.

Protestors and strikers joined forces, forming an army of 10 million. Repression was bound to end in a bloodbath and seven weeks into the crisis, known today as the French Revolution of 1999, President Jacques Chirac offered to negotiate with the opposition leadership. President Bush had urged Chirac to do so instead of massacring his own people. Chirac accepted their demands, with the exception of persecution of UDR officials for crimes they’d committed on government orders, instead negotiating an amnesty. In October, Chirac appointed a government that mostly consisted of opposition members, including the position of Prime Minister. The promised elections happened in April 2000 and saw the UDR not participate as it dissolved itself, though a succeeding party was established and participated. A centre left government took hold that initiated a massive constitutional reform that reduced the office of President to a ceremonial function, transferred executive power from the President to the Prime Minister and his cabinet, made the cabinet solely responsible to the National Assembly, and made legislative power the sole prerogative of the same National Assembly.

The events in France in the autumn of 1999 led to a wave of democratic revolutions in Europe that had the sympathy of the United States. It is often called the Autumn of Nations, a play on the Spring of Nations that can be used to describe the Revolutions of 1848. Developments in Germany followed a similar path, with massive strikes and student protests pressuring the government into lifting the last post-war controls and restrictions like the hated labour conscription as well as finally organizing the first post-war federal elections. What helped was that the left parties finally abandoned the post-war consensus to cooperate for the sake of national unity and peaceful reconstruction. This cooperation had become increasingly unsatisfactory due to increasing and more and more overt dominance of CDU/CSU, causing Germany to shift to an authoritarian conservative Christian model. After a carousel of all the same faces in politics, fresh blood was brought in after the May 2000 federal election.

The Transdanubian Union, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey also saw bloodless political change (whilst Portugal had already seen democratization in the 80s after pulling out of their hopeless colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique). Democratic centre to centre left governments generally formed in the West, which was no surprise given which country remained the leading power of Europe: Yugoslavia, which began evolving from an authoritarian one-party state with a market socialist system to a confederal state with a lot power devolved to its member states and with a strong element of workers’ self-management. It had to do so to dissolve ethnic tensions without falling apart in a corner of Europe where neighbours would use that to settle scores. Even after democratic reforms or revolutions, Eastern Europe remained more conservative Christian. Meanwhile, the Italian Democratic Republic had technically never been a one-party state, though socialism was enshrined in its constitution; it remained a parliamentary republic, with leftist parties dominating politics. The Kingdom of Italy in the south, on the other hand, remained an authoritarian regime and was the only country without serious political upheaval as it celebrated its own process of reconstruction by proclaiming Naples the new capital.

Spain was the only Western European country where resistance to the political status quo resulted in widespread violence. After sixty years of military dictatorship, people were fed up. The post-war crisis had provided renewed legitimacy to a strong state that suppressed supposed threats like communism, but also general disorder as was widespread in Europe in the 60s and 70s. By the end of the century, the reasons for continued dictatorship were no longer there and a sceptical younger generation hoped for reform. The regime dismissed change and when protests inspired by those in France erupted, these were violently squashed by the military and this suppression continued even when protests spread across the country. The Second Spanish Civil War (1999-2002) became a theatre of the New Cold War between the United States and the Empire of China. China backed the regime in the hopes of getting a toehold in Europe while the United States backed the republicans, giving them enough material support to overwhelm the government military eventually. The conflict in Spain ended in 2002 and led to the establishment of the Third Spanish Republic, a federal bicameral parliamentary republic. Basque Country and Catalonia became independent altogether.

The year 2000 saw Presidential elections in the United States. President Bush was ineligible as he’d served his two terms and, as was conventional, he endorsed his Vice President Alan Keyes, former Senator from Maryland. He was very conservative, but to balance that out he selected the runner up in the primaries, Senator John McCain as his running mate. Senator McCain from Arizona was known to be a maverick willing to break with his party on certain issues, being significantly more liberal than the party base on issues like LGBT rights, gun regulations and campaign finance reform. Keyes hoped to draw away enough liberal voters from the Democrats with his choice of running mate to become the first black President, after already becoming the first black Vice President. It wasn’t a run race as it is sometimes depicted today, most often by the Democrats. Keyes’s positions were ridiculed as marginal afterwards, but this isn’t the case: he remains a champion of the neoconservatives. Had he not faced a black opponent, he’d likely have taken much of the black vote. His flat tax plans also earned him a great deal of support among the top incomes, the upper middle class and businessowners.

Keyes, however, had a formidable opponent in Cassius Clay, who was back for his rematch. He combined popular Christian values with progressive policies, stating he was anti-abortion but also pro-choice as he believed the government shouldn’t decide on the matter. When asked to comment on homosexuality, he responded that gay people had been made by God too and had been made that way for a reason. When confronted by biblical verses, he responded that “You have to read between the lines of the bible. When you do that, you’ll learn that God is love, not hate. I don’t believe God would approve of excluding a group of people from society for something they just can’t change. God fights for the weak and the persecuted, not for those who hate.”

After his defeat against Bush in 1996, Clay had continued to build a grassroots movement and had remained in the public eye through TV show appearances commenting on politics, by writing a critical newspaper column, and his extensive support to charity: the most well-known example was his 1998 exhibition match against another retired boxer, Joe Frazier. As Clay hadn’t re-entered boxing after 1962, they had never met in the ring and Frazier had been the reigning heavy weight champ for much of the 70s and early 80s. For ten rounds Clay and Frazier fought in the Dome in St. Louis before an attending audience of 80.000 people, resulting in a victory for Clay on points. All the proceeds were donated to cancer research as cancer rates were still high, especially in the areas that were the hardest hit in 1962. Allowed to use the stadium for free, $400.000 worth of ticket revenues went to the National Cancer Institute, but that was just a small part of the money collected: the fight was aired on TV and a thousand phone lines, manned by volunteers, were ready so people could call and donate by credit card. This one time exhibition between two retired boxers, both in their late 50s, was labelled a legendary fight and it raised $250 million. Needless to say, Clay received only token opposition in the Democratic primaries.

Keyes was able to come up with a good defence against criticisms that the previous administration had done too little to contain China’s increasing influence by pointing out CENTO and SEATO. He, however, bungled his replies to Clay’s criticisms of Bush’s domestic policies. The economy was always an important topic in an election year and the 1999-2000 recession didn’t do Keyes any favours. Moreover, young voters, women and the LGBT community were turned off by his conservatism, which was extreme-right by the standards of the time. The one thing he had going for him, being black, was negated by his opponent also being black through a unique course of events.

Besides that, Clay’s choice for running mate was a very popular one too: Mario Cuomo had survived the 1994 Republican Revolution by being narrowly being re-elected as Governor of New York for a fourth term that year, defeating George Pataki (Pataki won during his second attempt in 1998). Italian American communities were present everywhere and mobilized voters for the Clay/Cuomo ticket. Former President Robert F. Kennedy, who would celebrate his 75th birthday less than two weeks after the election, and his nephew and New York City district attorney John F. Kennedy Jr. joined the campaign and revived the Kennedy spirit (JFK Jr. subsequently entered the 2001 New York City mayoral elections and defeated incumbent Bloomberg). Beyond that, the Catholic Church subtly urged its flock to vote Democrat. Cassius Clay became the country’s first black President, carrying 24 states plus DC, obtaining 325 electoral votes and winning 51.8% of the popular vote. That left Keyes with 26 states, 213 electoral votes and 49.7% of the vote. Initially faced by a hostile Congress, Clay’s presidency had a difficult start, but the Democrats won a slight majority in the House of Representatives and made gains in the Senate during the 2002 midterms.

In the meantime, developments north of the Danube and east of the Oder were dominated by the resurgence of Poland and Russia and Sweden’s interference in the Baltic region. Tsar Ivan VII had been waging wars of expansion ever since founding Novaya Moskva, resulting in the formal proclamation of his Tsardom of New Muscovy in 1989. At the time it controlled an area three times the size of France and had a population of 3 million and received diplomatic recognition as Russia’s legal successor state (it even got the empty Soviet seat on the UN Security Council). After being plugged back into the international community and therefore global trade, Tsar Ivan VII managed to purchase or steal knowledge, equipment and technologies to fasten the pace of the troublesome reindustrialization process (and lessen the gap with Western Europe, which had recovered rapidly with US support from the early 80s onward). He continued expanding his realm during the 90s: his forces crossed the Arctic circle, moved into Byelorussia, fought against Ukraine over the Donbass region, disputed Sweden’s presence in the Baltic region and bloodily subjugated the Chechens and Ossetians. He dared not touch Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, however, because Turkey now considered the former two part of its sphere of influence while Iran had annexed the latter. Now that he controlled everything between the Urals and the Dnieper River and the Arctic and the foothills of the Caucasus, Tsar Ivan VII proclaimed the New Russian Empire.

Poland had been hard hit as well, though not as hard as Russia. In the aftermath communist rule had quietly exited through the backdoor as a military junta availed itself of ultranationalist and reactionary Christian rhetoric, which appealed much more than communism. As Poland painstakingly rebuilt itself, the hardships along the way were blamed on scapegoats like Jews, homosexuals and remaining communists. Jews were persecuted and given the choices of emigration or conversion to Catholicism while communists were locked up in concentration camps for re-education. Homosexuality was declared a mental illness and people discovered to be gay were sent to mental institutions; this was also used to get rid of dissidents if they couldn’t get any other charges to stick. The most famous Polish dissident to flee Poland was an example of that: Andrzej Wadolowski, a critical journalist who’d been sentenced to treatment for homosexuality, had broken out of the institution and had made his way to Britain through the wilderness that dominated much of Germany. He’d later write a book about his flight.

Poland was the most powerful country in the region by virtue of its size and population. Poland developed the ambition to expand to the early seventeenth century borders of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Around 1618, Poland was the most powerful player in Eastern Europe by far and in no way was it set in stone that it would decline and be partitioned in the eighteenth century. The Poles wanted to return to those glory days, but were confronted by Sweden’s presence in the Baltic region, the resurgence of Russia to the east and Ukrainian hostility as Ukraine knew Poland’s ambitions threatened its independence. Poland solved the problem through a secret deal with its former nemesis: Russia. In the secret Vitebsk Protocols they agreed to join forces to drive Sweden out of the Baltics and to partition Ukraine. Sweden became aware of this threat and negotiated a defensive military alliance with Ukraine, but was still surprised when the attack commenced.

The Northern War began in December 1999, around the same time that large parts of Europe underwent mostly peaceful revolutions. Polish and Russian divisions attacked Swedish forces and simultaneously also attacked Ukraine from west and east. Swedish forces easily held their own as they were far better equipped and supplied than the Poles and Russians, who had very little in the way of armoured forces and aerial support. On the Ukrainian front, the war went much smoother for the Russo-Polish alliance as the Ukrainian Republic was very weak, economically and militarily, and governed by a corrupt oligarchy. After a series of hammer blows from west and east, Ukraine was reduced to a rump state along the Dnieper River and had ceased to exist by the end of the first year of the war. Kiev was conquered in a bloody battle as Ukrainian soldiers and nationalist militiamen held it until the last man and the last bullet.

In the Baltic theatre, the war remained a stalemate. The Swedish Army with its Centurion and Stridsvagn 103 main battle tanks and the Swedish Air Force’s Saab 32 Lansen and Saab 35 Draken multirole fighters held back Polish and Russian forces, pulverizing the spearheads of their initial offensives. The Poles and Russians were quickly forced to abandon the old-fashioned approach of divisions and armies facing each other on the battlefield, as they incurred devastating losses for zero territorial gains against a modern late twentieth century force in conventional warfare. In the 2000-’01 period the Russians and Poles limited themselves to guerrilla incursions and commando style raids. It looked like Sweden would hold on to its informal empire consisting of the Baltic States without Russia and Poland being able to do much about it. That was a comforting thought for Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, but after a while they became insecure. Sweden had to listen to a public opinion increasingly opposed to losing lives and money on the prestigious goal of making Sweden the dominant power of the Baltic.

The balance shifted in favour of the Russians and Poles thanks to China, as was to be expected since Beijing was prepared to use any angle to expand its influence in the world, including Europe. China supplied both with main battle tanks and jet aircraft and trainers to train a new generation of Russian military aviators. What they lacked in experience, they compensated for with aggression. After the balance swung in favour of the Poles and Russians, they slowly drove the Swedes out of the Baltic States. Estonia was subsequently annexed by Russia and Poland took Lithuania and Latvia. Ukraine was officially partitioned along the Dnieper River when the war ended in 2002.
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