It is 1940, three years and some months since the end of the Second World War and three years into the term of President Vandenberg in the White House. Kaiser Wilhelm III reigns within Germany, the Reichstag dominated by a coalition of Conservative elements under the Chancellor, Furst Bismarck.
In London, King Edward VIII is in the middle of his third year of Personal Rule, his Advisory Council having bedded in, and apart from the dispatch of the Duke of Devonshire to Colombo being pretty much the same as it was when created in the Summer of 1937. Everyone has now got used to life without a Prime Minister, not least Herbert Morrison, the last Prime Minister who has settled in well as Foreign Minister for the king. Those who have not accepted this state of affairs are largely in prison, the unitary SIS having a free run against dissidents. The quasi-military National Guard is a great success, its youth wing popular amongst many sections of society and its veteran services providing much-needed and much-appreciated assistance to disabled and elderly ex-servicemen
In Paris, King Jean III's government has made a success of the post-war reconciliation. Even ex-Bonapartists on parole are largely abiding by the terms of the agreement, whilst German and Canadian interest has ensured that his own government abide by the terms of peace with the Socialists, and with the autonomous province of Bearn. North Africa has been completely pacified, and from Algiers the Governor rules over a unitary colonial authority that includes Tunis. The French Navy has begun to rebuild, and the first batleships in a generation are well under way at navy yards around the country.
Spain remains wracked by civil war. The Franco-German Expeditionary Force, for half a year now under the command of Generalfeldmarschal Erwin Rommel is besieging the Socialists last line of defence at Valladolid. With jet fighters of the new Heinkel design ensuring command of the air, and the new Tiger II tank proving itself in an urban environment, the Germans are spearheading an army to which King Juan, still in the South, has committed his best troops. Spring 1940 will clearly bring decisive events - either Rommel will break through, and probably split in two the land still held by the Socialist regime based in La Corunna, or he will be repulsed and the Socialists will be able to claim a much-needed victory. Few who are in the know are betting on the latter possibility, though
In Italy, King Umberto II's Personal Rule is having many more teething problems than Edward VIII's, but with SIS advisors seconded to his court he is beginning to establish a truly national network. The civil war in Sicily is steadily being won, and whilst the loss of Libya, coming on top of the loss of Italy's East African possessions, hurts, it is seen as something of a blessing in disguise. Cordial relations with Kaiser Karl's federal government in Vienna ensure that Italy remains free of worries in the North, whilst the British presence in the central Mediterranean has been much scaled down since Malta was awarded the status of a self-governing dominion. The new US battle squadron is something of an enigma, but apart from steam between Tripoli and Benghazi it has done little of note.
From Cairo, King Fuad can look at an unbroken chain of successes. From Egyptian incorporation of the Sudan to a complete break with Britain in the wake of their global defeat in late 1936, he has led the country to the annexation of Massawa in Northern Eritrea, and to the establishment of a friendly Libyan kingdom on their Western border. The Darfur rebellion has been put down, and whilst worrying at the time, the suppression of it further enhances the reputation of the king. Even more, the diplomatic dealings with the United States that led to the latter's involvement in Libya have also borne fruit as Egypt not only has international guarantees of its borders, but a warm relationship with Washington
Kaiser Karl's Quadruple Monarchy has weathered its first international crisis and the role that Vienna played in both the Italian and the Libyan crises has established for many that the federal system can work beyond the sub-national level. Many people who had written Austria off, or had completely forgotten that there was such a power in Europe, have now re-evaluated their stance.
US aid to the Socialist Republic of Greece, whilst low level has nevertheless helped to ease the chronic poverty in the country, and to make the lives of some hundreds of thousands of people more bearable. Athens remains isolated within Europe, but the nature of its armed forces, starved of funds and with archaic equipment, makes this an isolation that all of its neighbours can happily live with
Tsar Ferdinand's Bulgaria has led a peaceful existence since victory in 1918. An astute politician, the 79-year-old monarch has maintained a firm grip on the government by clever rotation of cabinet positions, and his personal star, never higher than with the annexation of Salonika, has never waned. Bulgaria maintains a powerful, if traditional army, focused on motorised infantry and artillery in the main. Its navy has nothing larger than a few cruisers, constructed at the Ottoman yard at Izmit during the early 1930s, but it is in the airforce that Bulgaria really shines. The pet project of Crown Prince Boris, the Bulgarian airforce is second only in Europe to that of the German Empire. Its home-grown designs are often idiosyncratic, but have proved to work, whilst exports to Ukraine, the Ottoman Empire and Egypt have proved highly successful
The Ottoman Empire has taken a largely neutralist position since the end of the Great War. With the annexation of ex-Russian Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the suppression of Ibn Saud in Arabia, Istanbul has focused its attention on internal improvements, and on the development of its substantial oil fields. An increasingly rich nation, the Ottoman Empire only ventures into international politics when it feels its interests threatened. Although it made no official protest during the German occupation of Persia, it remains keenly aware of developments in Tehehran, and the acquisition of Britain's 1/3 interest in Persia's oil companies has given it increased say at the court of the Shah. Concerned at Russia's Indian adventure, the Ottoman Empire backed German moves to offer support to the overthrown Afghan king in Herat, but remained always one step removed from the action. Whilst German jets overflew Russian positions and ensured that Moscow was well aware that Herat's survival was non-negotiable, the Ottoman Empire remained in the shadows, powerful but largely unseen
Eastern Europe since the Great War has been one of the most stable areas in the world. From King Carol II's Rumania, to the kingdom of Finland in the North, from Poland and Lithuania across the Ukraine the area remains strongly within Germany's orbit, with German airforce bases dotting the countryside, but prosperous in Germany's shadow. Uninvolved in any direct way in the Second World War, the Eastern bloc was able to manufacture armaments for Germany, sell all kinds of commodities to their allies in both Berlin and Moscow, and come out of the conflict with a positive balance.
In Moscow, Tsar Vladimir has increasingly moved away from Berlin with the conclusion of the Second World War. Gaining nothing directly from the conflict, and seeing their former enemies in Japan come out ahead, Russia has broken free of many of the shackles that bound her during the civil war and restoration period after in the decade and a half after 1918. With German forces inside her territory greatly reduced in number, and bound by tight treaties, Russia has freed herself at last from reliance upon German advisors, German industries and German support. Operating an entirely independent foreign policy in India, Russia is finding that her actions impact greatly on the global level. An alliance with Nehru's nascent Confederation has seen Russian forces in action from Lahore to Bengal, and though many fear that they will get bogged down in the latter conflict, Tsar Vladimir is certain that a close relationship with Delhi is the best way for Russia to establish the necessary freedom of action to escape the clutches of Germany in the West and Japan in the East
Tokyo is increasingly glad of the alliance of convenience with Berlin that it contracted at the end of the Second World War. In terms of immediate gains, Eastern New Guinea, the Solomons, East Timor and a protectorate over ex-French IndoChina were valuable additions. Strategically, the alliance has freed Japan from having to worry about the security of its allies in Mongolia and the Far Eastern Republic, as Russia cannot renew the war without finding herself attacked by Germany in response, and Tsar Vladimir is too clever a strategist to go down that road. Japanese support for the newly independent Kingdom of Burmah signalled her interest in Indian affairs, but the involvement of both Russia and the United States has confused matters. Russian involvement in Bengal provides an opportunity and a worry to Tokyo and Japan agrees to Berlin's proposal to go halfway towards supporting the Bengalis, but refrain from recognising their independence. Thus, Japan straddles two fences as it supports a Burmah which not only recognises Dacca but provides it with weapons and supplies. Knowledge that Russia cannot risk war with either Japan or Germany, emboldens Tokyo to continue to interfere in the region, but confusion over the US position continues to grow
The Republic of China prospered happily through its neutrality during the Second World War and though it remains close and friendly to Japan, it guards its neutrality carefully. Although its naval and aerial forces have grown in recent times, and Chinese yards have constructed a dozen heavy cruisers for home defence, China knows that it is no match for a great power in any serious military conflict. The best it could hope for would be to bloodily defend the frontier and withdraw into the interior, but such thinking is at the extreme limit of Peking's planners. Production under license of many Japanese aircraft during the war gave Chinese aviation a boost, and like Bulgaria it is now able to produce large numbers of highly capable home-grown designs. The export market for these include both Mongolia and the FER in the North, as well as Siam and even the Dutch East Indies in the South.
The Netherlands remained neutral in both world wars and saw its possessions remain stable. Having purchased the ex-Salamis in 1918-1919 and adding several heavy cruisers in the early 1920s it established a powerful presence in the East Indies. The 1930s saw this augmented by new fast battleships constructed in Germany, and after the sale of a pair of older heavy cruisers to France, a new class of such vessels built in Dutch yards. Based at Surubaya, this force presents a sizeable deterrent
Belgium emerged from the Great War minus its Luxembourg province and a large bite out of the Congo, the South of the Province Orientale that a victorious Germany added to Tanganyika. In the two decades since then Belgium has clung to a complete independence and has been the venue for important international negotiations on a number of occasions. King Leopold III reigns as a fully constitutional monarch and is a popular figure with the populace
Portugal, defeated in the Second World War was nevertheless able to make a reasonable peace owing to German concentration on the invasion of Britani with Operation Adler. Although the remains of Mozambique was lost, split between German East Africa and the newly-independent United States of South Africa, the rest of the Portuguese empire received guarantees, with the noticeable exception of East Timor which was seized by Japan with nothing that King Manoel II's government could do. Since the war, Portugal has concentrated on rebuilding and has seen a national consensus develop that international entanglements are a thing of the past
The USSA continues to work through its massive territorial enhancement. Although the threatened Loyalist uprising in several areas did not actually happen, the absorption of so much territory, especially under a new federal constitution, takes a lot of working out.
The Federal Republic of Canada on the other hand has done nothing but prosper since its declaration of independence in late 1936. With closening ties to the United States and the further development of its excellent indigineous armaments industry, Canada pulls even further away from its European roots. With experience across France during the Second World War, its armoured vehicles, and especially its tanks, proved battle-hardened and battle-tested and the designs have been purchased by the US War Department, keen to update US army units with materiele known to work. Several Canadian aircraft projects also attract US attention and are bought in some significant numbers also
With an election year upon them, the Republican administration of President Vandenberg is keen to continue the policy of close engagement it has developed. Whilst never committing to alliances, and not looking to use any American forces to support the native regimes, the US has established good relations with some of the world's new states including Nehru's Indian Confederation and the Kingdom of Libya. US money has worked wonders diplomatically in the Horn of Africa as well as in Libya and in Greece, and Secretary of State Herbert Hoover is the most-travelled sexagenarian in the world
India remains the one main area, apart from Spain, where the final post-WW2 settlement has yet to be worked out,. From Delhi, Nehru's Confederation appears to have control of much of the recently contested territory with Kashmir and Lahore now firmly under his control. But the independence of Baluchistan/Kalat, Hyderabad and Burmah, and British resumption of rule in Ceylon have diminished the area that Indian Nationalists hoped to control, whilst the bloody war in Bengal is threatening to split the fragile Hindu-Muslim alliance within the Indian National Congress apart.
As 1940 dawns, the Bengal war is the main item in the news from Washington to Moscow, from Berlin to Tokyo. With Russian ground and aerial forces fully involved in support of the Indian Confederation, but with Germany and Japan talking up the nationalist administration in Dacca, international tensions are at a high. The US naval squadron at Madras is on high alert, though the media scaremongering over the danger of war with the two empires is dismissed as rubbish at the highest levels in Washington