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Old 04-05-2017, 06:41 PM   #11
Žorkell
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

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In any case, one of the core conceits of classical International Relations as an academic discipline is that countries aren't well-meaning or vindictive. They have interests and they are affected by strategic and economic realities.
"France has no friends, only interests."

Having said that I can see Russia running some risks with espionage. However if we're assuming the same history as in our timeline I have some comments. Currently the GDP of Russia is similar to that of Mexico, Australia, Spain or South Korea. While they aspire to Great Power stature it is hard to see how they could achieve that in the short run. However if we assume that they see a supersoldier program as some sort of prestige item that will make the Americans take note of them and make the Americans have to take Russia into account while taking action I can see the Russians making an effort. Whether that will be through the FSB or some sort of semi-official way is something that you'll have to decide. Now that I think of it, I wonder if they could do it through the Russian Business Network, or something similar to that.
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Old 04-05-2017, 06:48 PM   #12
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

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Having said that I can see Russia running some risks with espionage. However if we're assuming the same history as in our timeline I have some comments. Currently the GDP of Russia is similar to that of Mexico, Australia, Spain or South Korea. While they aspire to Great Power stature it is hard to see how they could achieve that in the short run. However if we assume that they see a supersoldier program as some sort of prestige item that will make the Americans take note of them and make the Americans have to take Russia into account while taking action I can see the Russians making an effort. Whether that will be through the FSB or some sort of semi-official way is something that you'll have to decide. Now that I think of it, I wonder if they could do it through the Russian Business Network, or something similar to that.
That's a pretty reasonable analysis for why Russia would be among the first candidates. They aspire to Great Power status without the GDP to support it and have a history of disproportionate investment in intelligence operations and military projects to boost their international status.

That being said, I'm interested in knowing about possibilities relating to other nation states than China, Russia, UK and US. I'm pretty sure that someone in South or Central America has the intelligence capability to be a factor in the campaign when the former test subjects are on the run in Mexico and at least some of them have been working behind the scenes to arrange for asylum somewhere.
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Old 04-05-2017, 07:44 PM   #13
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

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Does that actually work for democracies? Trying to convince the voters that betraying our recent allies (or engineering a horrific massacre or whatever) was the right thing to do because our national interests have changed seems like the sort of thing that could bring down a government, even if it were true.
Traditionally, democracies conduct covert operations in the national interest without informing voters about all the details. And proper framing in the media has been fairly successful at convincing the public of all sorts of things, historically.
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Old 04-05-2017, 08:01 PM   #14
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

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...
What I'm wondering about is who else might have pieced together information on Project Jade Serenity?

If one secret government experiment had the effects of giving people superpowers, could others have done the same?

What nation states, aside from China and Russia, might be interested enough in the results of Project Jade Serenity to run risky intelligence operations in the Americas?
...
Quick answer would be who has tried, and been caught spying in the past (Russia, China, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Cuba, etc); plus traditional allies who may have been told (i.e., UK). A twist of an idea is what Libya, Iraq, or Syria found out, and who knows now with the disruptions there.
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Old 04-05-2017, 10:16 PM   #15
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

Something else to keep in mind is that Realist theory is unrealistic, because it treats nation-states (and other sorts of governments) as monolithic. In fact, they're abstractions. The decisions about your PCs and their fellow 'supers' will be taken by individual humans in high-up, connected places, and will have a lot to do with their political agendas interior to their states, and their personal beliefs and goals and agendas, as well as 'national interest'.

So even if Country D is a small state, with no obvious benefit from being involved in all this and a lot of risk of annoying the Big Boys, their intel people might still get involved, maybe in a serious way, if something about the whole business catches the personal interest of somebody high up in Country D, for whatever reason.

So, if your 'story' requires that a small country get mixed in, it's perfectly plausible that it might happen.
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Old 04-06-2017, 01:50 AM   #16
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

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Something else to keep in mind is that Realist theory is unrealistic, because it treats nation-states (and other sorts of governments) as monolithic. In fact, they're abstractions. The decisions about your PCs and their fellow 'supers' will be taken by individual humans in high-up, connected places, and will have a lot to do with their political agendas interior to their states, and their personal beliefs and goals and agendas, as well as 'national interest'.

So even if Country D is a small state, with no obvious benefit from being involved in all this and a lot of risk of annoying the Big Boys, their intel people might still get involved, maybe in a serious way, if something about the whole business catches the personal interest of somebody high up in Country D, for whatever reason.

So, if your 'story' requires that a small country get mixed in, it's perfectly plausible that it might happen.
I agree that the Realist theory is an unrealistic abstraction which ignores many factors in each individual case. On the other hand, as an abstraction, the Realist theory manages to adequately explain the behaviour of most nation states most of the time. The irrational human factors apply in all directions and tend to cancel each other out over time, though they may absolutely be significant in individual cases.

In any case, I'm not the GM. I am a player invested with the additional hats of Assistant GM and Research Assistant. It is my job to ensure that the GM has enough knowledge about the real-world and the plausibility of various things to make sensible decisions about the campaign.

I must therefore find out the likely reactions of various nation states to the fleeing test subjects from Project Jade Serenity and the GM will then decide where they are headed, who might be helping them and so forth. Unfortunately, the situation in game seems to be one where countries in the Americas are most likely to feature. The GM has a background in IR, but his studies focused on Europe and Asia. I've taken IR courses myself, but all focused on the EU, Nato and Icelandic relations with the rest of the world. US relations with individual Central and South American countries is an area I don't know much about.

The story requires that some country be potentially ready to accept the fleeing test subjects. As far as I know, however, it can be any country that makes sense in real-world terms. In any case, I'll try to determine what the most likely countries are and the GM will then decide. If he decides that it is a less likely country, so be it. At least I'll have done my best to ensure plausibility and world-building coherence.

To give some more background:

Col. Alejandro Ortiz is the leader of a group of former test subjects who have deserted from the US Army and are presumably fleeing for a country where they will be given asylum. As Col. Ortiz was and probably is extraordinarily intelligent and he is experienced at planning covert operations, it would be unlikely for him to run without preparing plans for escape.

Given what my character knew about him, he would not have deserted unless he felt that his country had betrayed him and his men, but obviously, my character knew him only in 1997-2011 and couldn't have known whether Col. Ortiz is still the same man as he was or if the side effects of the experiments have warped his sense of reality. The Ortiz my character knew was a patriot, the best type of honourable military officer, but more than that, someone who joined US Special Forces because he earnestly believed in the motto: 'De oppresso liber'.

Unless something strange happened, Col. Ortiz will be acting from the best motives. Of course, that's no guarantee that he's acting rightly. Using fictional tropes, we don't know if Col. Ortiz will be a reluctant antagonist like Gen. Hummel in 'The Rock', if he's going full-on 'Brotherhood of Evil Mutants' for sympathetic reasons, but must be stopped, or if he's actually trying to found the equivalent of Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters and we should be on his side.

From his professional background, Col. Ortiz would have many contacts among the senior officer corps in Latin American countries, especially those who came up through special operations units. As his last job before organising the desertion of his men was the J2 (Director of Intelligence) on the US SOCOM South staff, Col. Ortiz would retain those contacts and have a good current overview of the intelligence and security situation in South and Central America. He'd also be in a position to make private contact with senior military and intelligence people from any country in that part of the world.

Assuming that Col. Ortiz remains essentially himself, he would prefer fleeing to a country with a good record of human rights. At minimum, he would require promises that he would trust that he and his men would receive good treatment, some degree of personal freedom and security.

I think that almost any nation state would theoretically have the resources to help Col. Ortiz. It would probably not cost more than half a million dollars, at most a million, to assist him and his men to emigrate to a given country, assuming that Col. Ortiz and his men handled actually escaping from the US. This was done during a mission Col. Ortiz planned in Mexico.

Taking advantage of the intelligence they could give on Project Jade Serenity and absorbing the costs of him and his men living there for the foreseeable future would probably need a budget of several million dollars a year, but any large international company has that kind of money and most governments, given the political will, could muster it. Obviously, the larger and more powerful the country, the comparatively smaller the outlay and hence, the easier it is to get approved.

The direct financial outlay, however, is miniscule compared to the damage to the relationship with the US that would result from giving asylum to people that the US will not doubt brand traitors, terrorists* and threats to their national security. Any nation state that relies on a good relationship with the US would need to weigh the potential benefits of having functioning supersoldier serum at some point in the future very carefully against the probable loss of all security cooperation with the US.

Now, with these facts in mind, which countries is Col. Ortiz likely to have considered and what are the pros and cons of each?

*Not that they are planning any terrorism, but I'm pretty sure they'd find a way to apply the term.
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Old 04-06-2017, 07:01 AM   #17
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

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Quick answer would be who has tried, and been caught spying in the past (Russia, China, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Cuba, etc); plus traditional allies who may have been told (i.e., UK). A twist of an idea is what Libya, Iraq, or Syria found out, and who knows now with the disruptions there.
Well, one might assume that when agents of a distinctly unfriendly power are discovered engaging in apparent espionage, it is immediately leaked to the press as part of official policy, but when diplomats or other people associated with allied nations are found doing the same, it is generally supposed to be kept secret as a matter of policy and usually leaked only as part of internal politics in the bureaucracy.

It probably takes a lot more for a person who seems to be an agent for a NATO power, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea or Taiwan to be arrested for espionage in the US than it does for a Cuban, North Korean or someone from a Muslim country traditionally considered unfriendly to the US.

More likely would be complaints to the friendly government in question and, at most, threats to leak this to the media if concessions x or y are not granted. Of course, that doesn't prevent reports of such things occasionally coming out in non-fiction books or the media, at varying levels of credibility.

It's not very controversial that, for example, Israel engages in what are for all intents and purposes intelligence operations on US soil as well as within the borders of many other allied nations, though the operations are generally considered to be targeted at mutual foes and not the host country.

Of course, most intelligence operations consist of reading open source publications, walking around areas open to the public and simply talking to people. There is a very wide gulf between noting that many US allies probably carry out intelligence operations on US soil and asssuming that such allies would be prepared to send in armed covert operatives to break the law in dramatic fashion.

In any case, it's very rare for professional intelligence services to even have such covert operatives in the real world and even those who have them use them several orders of magnitude more seldom than most thrillers would have you believe. And when they do use them, it's generally to provide logistical support and local knowledge for special mission units of the military, who carry out the actual covert operation, and that sort of thing tends to happen mostly within nation states with whom an unacknowledged state of war already exists or in parts of the world where the locals lack either the resources or will to investigate crimes with modern forensic methods.

I note, however, that within those parts of Mexico worst affected by the ongoing drug war, no more than 1% to 3% of homicides are ever investigated with anything resembling the forensics resources that a First World country can bring to bear. The vast majority of apparent drug-related homicides are simply tagged, the evidence bagged and then marked 'unsolved'. Lesser crimes than murder are often not even reported, especially in areas where the municipal police is non-existent or effectively run by one cartel or another.

So it's not as if the idea that a covert operation that happened in a High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area of Chihuhua could go unnoticed by the Mexican authorities is far-fetched. Especially if the US may already be carrying out covert operations in the area, after having tried and failed to get the federales or Mexican Army to move in to arrest US citizens residing there, in order to extradite them to the US.

Apparently, both the Policia Federal and the Chihuhuan Policia Unicia Estatal refuse to operate in the area and the Mexican Army reported that the intelligence provided by the US did not seem to match their observations and they declined to mount a raid. Our characters haven't heard why the Policķa Federal Ministerial wouldn't move in to arrest the drug lord in question*, but lack of actionable intelligence was probably the official cause, with the unofficial cause having something to do with the area being solidly under his control** and any attempt to arrest him being extremely chancy and likely to lead to a blood bath.

Col. Ortiz and his men were meant to negotiate with Vargas, according to the story our characters were told, and took the opportunity to desert. It may be that their orders were actually something else, for example to assassinate Vargas, and that this pushed them into desertion.

In any case, the nation state that Col. Vargas talked to would not necessarily have to be prepared to do anything dangerous or extravagantly illegal. They would simply have to be prepared to supply some 4-20 men in Mexico with travel papers and all necessary visas to reach that country, allow them and and grant them sanctuary.

Oh, and help some 6-30 people leave the US and travel to the same country. None of the US-based people would be wanted for any crimes or have their freedom of travel officially restricted, but they might be under surveillance by Onyx Rain and it is unclear how far Onyx Rain would go to prevent the families of test subjects from leaving the country.

Aside from the specific help that Col. Ortiz is looking for, I'm also interested in more generic speculation about the attitudes of other nation states toward the US having successfully created a drug treatment that gives people superpowers, if they obtain credible evidence about such a thing. We know that at least one person with some information on precursor experiments to Project Jade Serenity has been in contact with a foreign power, trying to sell his information, and it's possible that more people have pieced together the evidence and are trying to cash in on it.

Not to mention that after the events on Jewell Island, which I report in my session write-ups for the campaign on Project Jade Serenity (40+ write-up posts so far, of ten sessions), it is likely that Internet conspiracy theorists will start speculating about various experiments carried out at the Manhanock Asylum for the Criminally Insane in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, which were the precursors to Project Jade Serenity.

*Raul Vargas is a US citizen, wanted for violations of the UCMJ including drug offences, desertion, assault and murder. He is also a former Chief Warrant Officer of US Special Forces and a test subject in Project Jade Serenity.
**The GM hasn't told us yet whether there are municipal police under Vargas' control in the area, but it is plausible.
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Old 04-06-2017, 08:48 AM   #18
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

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Something else to keep in mind is that Realist theory is unrealistic, because it treats nation-states (and other sorts of governments) as monolithic.
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I agree that the Realist theory is an unrealistic abstraction which ignores many factors in each individual case.
First off, you guys seem to be conflating realist theory and neorealist theory. Second, all theory (in IR at least) is an abstraction.

But thinking about the situation. My background in the field sounds similar to that of Icelander and his GM. However, I'm thinking about whether the non-US power actually has to conduct operations on US soil. How much of the research is stored on computers that can be hacked by sufficiently motivated people?
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Old 04-06-2017, 10:32 AM   #19
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

As mentioned up thread Israel has been caught spying on the us & is a likely candidate.
Also, the US military & Israeli military have had many top secret joint projects. If it's high-tech Israel is usually at the cutting edge, especially in bio-medical research. There is no reason your super-soldier project could not have been a joint U.S. Israel project.
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Old 04-06-2017, 10:33 AM   #20
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

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First off, you guys seem to be conflating realist theory and neorealist theory. Second, all theory (in IR at least) is an abstraction.
We were speaking generally enough for our comments to apply to any realist theory of International Relations, whether classical, structural or neoclassical. In any case, many of the differneces are matter of terminology. Treating domestic politics and public opinion as factors approaching stuctural constraints even moves structural realism close to neoliberalism in many aspects.

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But thinking about the situation. My background in the field sounds similar to that of Icelander and his GM. However, I'm thinking about whether the non-US power actually has to conduct operations on US soil. How much of the research is stored on computers that can be hacked by sufficiently motivated people?
Very little. When Project Jade Serenity was discontinued, much of the data was sanitised. The motive was to safeguard the careers of senior officers who authorised it in the event a board of inquiry or criminal investigation was launched, but the effect is much the same. With the deleted data, forged documents and false proccess reports, the offical record is pretty useless in reconstructing whatever it was that actually worked.

Note that the US doesn't have working supersoldier drugs either, in that they have no idea how the test subjects came to develop their powers and no scientific understanding of the effects.

There are scientists who were part of the experiments who may know more, but their notes are not generally accessible online. As far as we know, some were kept only on paper, some on floppy disks (it was the 90s) and other research may exist on computers that are not linked to any external communication device. That was a common set-up at Manhanock Asylum and Camp Mackall in 1998-2000, at least.

We are expecting that Onyx Rain keeps their truly sensitive data in similarly isolated mainframes, somewhere in a very secure location. That would include medical data on those subjects they have tracked down, research they have found and debriefs of scientists. Obviously, Onyx Rain has secure servers in the DHS systems as well, with sensitive emails and classified reports, but those would not include scientific research necessary to reverse engineer the experimental drug tests.

Really, having access to as many as possible of the actual subjects and researchers would be the best source for anyone trying to reconstruct the experiment and develop a way to replicate the effects in a more convenient format.
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