And Rumours of War: Foreign policy

The diplomatic relations of the Norwegian state are more distant and more changeable than those of most other Powers, for three reasons. First, the Atlantic gives a security which removes the need for the decades-long defensive alliances that are the rule on the mainland. Second, the many irredentist aims of the regime make for opportunism and “rushing to the aid of the victor”, always in the hope of picking up some spoils by tipping the balance in a war. And third, the consequent reputation for backstabbing, combined with the memory of the Plague, makes the other Powers keep their distance, accepting Norwegian aid when it is offered in war, but never making peacetime plans that depend on it.

A point of constancy in this shifting ground is Italy. With a vast fleet and a long land border, Italy is the one power with the undoubted ability to trouble the Norwegian electorate in its own domain, not to mention sweeping Norwegian trade from the seas. Conversely, the most dreaded scenario in Italian political circles is war with a European power with access to Norwegian harbours and soil. So paranoid are the Italian leaders on this subject that in 1799 they even declared war on France, then fighting Germany and Prussia, on the grounds that French ships were permitted to use Norwegian ports! The issue was resolved peacefully by Norway and France denouncing their basing treaty, but served as notice that the Italians are deathly serious in their desire to keep all other Powers off the American continent. The two American powers, consequently, are careful not to offend each other, and in fact have been at peace for four centuries. On those few occasions where their interests clash, such as over Germany – which Italy desires to maintain as a bastion against France, and with which Norway disputes ownership of the southern tip of Sweden – negotiation is the order of the day, occasionally eliciting dry remarks from the diplomats of other powers, who tend to deal with the Ynglings in their more aggressive modes.

At the moment that aggression is mainly directed at Brittany, occupying as it does both the Norselaw and England-south-of-Thames. Apart from the vexed issue of control of the British Isles, however – a conflict which goes back to the 1200s and the rule of the de Lusignans – the two nations have no opposing interests. Indeed, Norway would like nothing better than to reach an accommodation in the Isles based on recognition of full Norwegian sovereignty, freeing resources to be committed elsewhere.

In particular, Georgia is the bete noire of many Yngling statesmen’s nightmares. This may seem surprising given the geography, the center of Georgian power being about as far from Norway’s as it is possible to get. Three factors account for it: First is a simple balance-of-power calculation; second is the near-independent city-state of Narragansett, which maintains its independence from Norway only through the threat of Georgian vengeance, and third is the hidden influence of Dovre. The uptimers know that they have a time-capable enemy; that enemy was last seen in Georgia; Georgia is the single greatest Power in the world. Consequently, in the straightforward uptime style, they work at every opportunity to bring Georgia down, even to the extent of aiding Brittany and Malacca in the Indian war, where the expected approach might have been to attack Brittany for England-south-of-Thames. Instead, the Ynglinga Hird attacked the immense defenses of Narragansett, tens of miles of trenches, outposts, and artillery emplacements. In addition to being, man for man, the most militarised area on the planet – not even excluding the uptime outpost at Dovre – Narragansett is the most heavily fortified city anywhere. Nonetheless, against the resources of the American continent, the defenses that serve so well in the usual low-grade skirmish warfare would have proved insufficient if not for the French intervention which eventually forced Norway to ask for terms.

France is the last of the four states with which Norway has frequent diplomatic communications. After the Second French War, the two states have often found themselves in sympathy with each other, sharing as they do a common enmity with Germany and Brittany; however, they have rarely been able to aid each other fully, for fear of triggering all-out global wars. For example, in the current Franco-German conflict, Norway would like nothing better than to march into German Sweden and reoccupy its lost provinces; the threat of Italian intervention keeps Norwegian participation at the level of funding a few patriot guerrillas in Småland.

Italy, Brittany, Georgia, France: Friend perforce, enemy by occupation, enemy by choice, and sometimes ally; these are the states with which Norway interacts frequently, either diplomatically or on the battlefield. Irredentist claims in Scandinavia aside, relations with Germany and Finland are cool but distant; the time has simply never been right to attack, and so Norway has ignored these theoretical foes in favour of nearer targets – targets with navies capable of contesting the Atlantic and thus threatening Norwegian interests directly. Neither the Finnish nor the German coast guard has any credible power-projection capability even in the Baltic, and thus in the final analysis they threaten nothing besides Scandinavia – a border march which the Ting at New Bergen is quite prepared to see occupied for long periods, if necessary. As for Prussia, rounding out the European ensemble, the Grey Kingdom keeps itself to itself and its own counsel, and its interests neither conflict nor complement Norway’s.

The Asian powers are even more distant from the daily business of the Ting, a minor exception being China. Sharing, as it does, a land border with both Georgia and Finland, the Ming Empire is a natural ally for Norway, which also helped in its recent war with Brittany by sinking the Breton fleet. In practice, however, the difficulties of coordinating over so much sheer distance keeps the two powers from being of much use to each other, and the alliance is largely a theoretical construct. As for Malacca and Japan, there is simply no overlap either friendly or hostile in the respective concerns of these nations with Norway’s, apart from their occasional clashes with Georgia.

A regional power whose geography permits much greater opportunism than would be tolerated in a continental state; that is the orthodox view of Norway. Some of the Ynglings have different ideas.

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