“Barriers and drawbridges like this are too easy to raise and much too hard to bring back down again. But we have to try for the sake of everyone trapped on either side. Everywhere we've been, the forces of openness and cooperation have prevailed over the voices of fear, parochialism, and isolationism. This is just one more barrier, one more drawbridge, and with determination we will cross it.”
- - Alexandre I, Emperor of the French, 2818
The Gorge Dispute was an international diplomatic conflict occurring primarily between Rambo Nation and the members and supporters of the Neutrality Zone Treaty Organization from 2813 to 2819. The locus of conflict was the Gorge, a collection of Rambo fortifications and policies which isolated the Neutrality Zone from the rest of the Quadrants. It was resolved through the Second Gorge Negotiation Process orchestrated by France and Rambo Nation, which settled all outstanding issues on equal terms.
At the time, Rambo Nation argued that the Gorge and its border policies were critical to its security and within its rights, while the Neutrality Zone argued that the Gorge policies were unjust, discriminatory, and abuses of Rambo authority. The issues being contested had much broader implications for the rights and limits of Rambo power, the definition of sovereignty, freedom of navigation within the Quadrants, the rules of Quadrantian galactic governance, and the legitimacy of Neutrality Zone states as native Quadrantians.
The Gorge dispute also had broad implications for the balance of power between Rambo Nation and the French Empire, two rising powers on the Quadrantian stage with conflicting views and goals. At times of confrontation, the Gorge Dispute has been seen as a testing ground for the rivalry between these two states. At times of conciliation, it has been seen as a microcosm of incompatibilities which needed to be resolved through peaceful compromise.
Though it initially began in 2813 as a limited dispute between the colonial states of the Neutrality Zone and Rambo Nation, the number of actors involved grew exponentially as attempts were made to resolve it. In 2815, the Draconid Imperium tried to mediate a summit between the Rambo and French monarchs. This ended in disaster when High King Rambert Ramveral abruptly withdrew from the conference and enacted harsh penalties on the Neutrality Zone in an effort to cow them into silence with a display of Rambo power. This aggressiveness and unilateralism forced status quo-minded Gigaquadrantic hyperpowers such as France, the Pan-Andromedan Ecumene, and the Delpha Coalition of Planets to side with the Neutrality Zone states in defense for their right to negotiate for a compromise. At the height of tensions, sanctions were imposed on Rambo Nation by the galactic governments of the Milky Way, Andromeda, and Bunsen galaxies for its aggressive and unilateralist behavior.
The Gorge dispute has a long and tortured history which finds its roots in the the Franco-Drodo colonization of the Quadrants starting in the 2790's. At a time of relative Rambo withdrawal from Quadrantian leadership in the aftermath of their war with the Galactic Empire of Cyrannus, the colonizers of the Quadrant 82 Neutrality Zone enjoyed great freedom and success in establishing their own markets, spheres of influence, and trade tied to commercial capitals in Xonexi such as Paris and Araveene. They did so with the implicit consent of Rambo Nation, though suffered from vague and uncoordinated relations with them despite repeated attempts to establish lasting ties.
Franco-Rambo Articles of Agreement (2811) Edit
In the 2810's, with the assassination of the beloved Rambo Empress Ramashe Le Rambo and the ascension of High King Rambert Ramveral, Rambo Nation made a forceful return to Quadrantian leadership. Understanding the historical responsibilities, power, and legitimacy of the Rambo within the Quadrants, the French Empire under Emperor Alexandre I and Premier Christian Marier sought to ally the Neutrality Zone with the Rambo monarch's mission to take back the Quadrants while ensuring that it would maintain self-governing status within Rambert's new Quadrantian order. In 2811, they negotiated the ambitious Franco-Rambo Articles of Agreement, whose opening lines bombastically claimed that the treaty governed "No less than the law of nations and the nature of peace in the Quadrant Galaxies for all of coming time."
The Articles of Agreement outlined the relationship of Rambo Nation to the Neutrality Zone, establishing the latter as a separate and unique entity with clearly defined borders and self-governing status. France recognized the guardianship of Rambo Nation over the Quadrants, including the Neutrality Zone, and pledged to do everything in its power to defend that "common peace." It also agreed that it could not carry out military operations within the Quadrants without first consulting Rambo Nation. Conversely, Rambo Nation recognized the limits of its jurisdiction over the Neutrality Zone and the primacy of the Neutrality Zone Treaty Organization within that space. Finally, it agreed that it could not carry out military operations within the Neutrality Zone except with the permission of that organization.
The Articles were hailed as a great success and a masterpiece in penmanship and statecraft, though it is unclear whether the High King fully understood the provisions of a treaty negotiated primarily by subordinates of the previous monarch and meant to bring the Neutrality Zone back under Rambo influence. These treaties were a tool to reassert Rambo primacy over areas which it had previously governed. From that perspective, only the overriding power of Rambo Nation was real. Everything else was fine print.
On their side, the Neutrality Zone states celebrated the document as formally establishing the framework for their relationship with Rambo Nation, and setting clear jurisdictional limits which would avoid conflicts or unwanted interventions in the future.
Rambo Incursion Crisis (2812) Edit
Barely a year later in 2812, these misperceptions as to the implications of the Articles of Agreement would come to a head during the Hutter Incursion War. As the Hutter Kingdom launched an invasion of the Heer Stekeveel territories contained within the Neutrality Zone with the goal of liberating the Heer Stekeveel and annexing them to their empire. Cooperation between France and Rambo Nation in response to the crisis began swiftly as they deployed joint naval forces to secure the northern portions of Ramsoria Run from Hutter encroachment. However, Rambert was increasingly concerned by reports of significant Heer Stekeevel nationalist movements rising up societies of the disparate states of the territory, causing Pro-Hutter unrest. Specifically, reports that Stekius Gaivel, a Heer Stekeveel war criminal and fugitive, was back in the Neutrality Zone spurred him to unilateral action. The High King's deep, visceral hatred of all of Heer Stekeveel as "vile creatures" had a profound effect on his decisions.
Without consulting the French or the NZTO, Rambert exercised what he thought was his right to unilaterally intervene in cases of extreme need, and deployed a Rambo task force with an army in tow. They entered the Neutrality Zone and, with military precision not seen from a Quadrantian state since before the war with the Empire, began seizing Heer Stekeveel planets and settlements and turning them inside out in search of Gaivel.
The total bafflement and outrage from the Neutrality Zone states was immediate and profound. From the perspective of these states, the Rambo had allowed themselves to be convinced by a shred of imprecise intelligence, general ignorance of the region, and deep racist hatred for the Heer Stekeveel to go ahead and not only to blatantly violate the non-intervention provisions of the Articles of Agreement, but to carry out acts of extreme violence against sovereign and legitimate state members of the NZTO. The response from the shocked NZTO was slow in coming initially, but one by one the states of the Neutrality Zone denounced Rambo aggression, urged on by their outraged publics. The French Empire and the Union of Imperial Quadrant States took the lead in demanding that the Rambo withdraw immediately. At the climax, both threatened to use force to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Heer Stekeveel states and the Neutrality Zone as a whole.
The Rambo were stunned. Never in their history had they been opposed in this way, and never in their own backyard. When French, Galactican, and Drodo assets began to converge on his task force, confirming that their threats of force were serious, Rambert withdrew from the Neutrality Zone. In protest, he also withdrew from cooperation with the French in securing Ramsoria Run, refused to protect French shipping, and refused to allow the French military to escort their shipping themselves outside of the Neutrality Zone. Later, he refused to authorize or take part in the French-orchestrated international blockade of the Hutter Incursion force which ultimately put an end to their Heer Stekeveel adventure. He denounced the multi-national naval action, which involved Rambo allies such as the Draconid Imperium and Delpha Coalition of Planets, as an invasion of the Quadrants by foreign forces reminiscent of the Seven Starr Alliance.
Raising of the Gorge (2813-2815) Edit
- Further Reading: Gorge
In the wake of the Rambo Incursion Crisis, the Rambo government was left with the puzzle of how to contain threats from the Neutrality Zone without actually being able to intervene there. The Rambo had limited access to the wealth of shared information, data, and analysis that Xonexian states thrived off of. From their vantage point, isolated from the Gigaquadrant, the Neutrality Zone and the Xonexi Cluster as a whole appeared to be filled with crises and dangers which the dominant systems and governments were not capable of handling. Rambert's first fear was that these chaotic forces and actors might spill over into the Quadrants. First among these was economic, social, and political trouble in the Heer Stekeveel territories, or local wars between natives on New Aratacia, which the rules and militaries of the NZTO appeared weak and incapable to address. It would fall to the Rambo strength and nobility to protect the Quadrants, contain the Heer Stekeveel threat within Neutrality Zone, and keep the foreigners from expanding their disruptive and destabilizing empires further into the Quadrants.
The Gorge, an ironclad series of fortifications and starbases, was erected around the Neutrality Zone for this reason despite outcry from the civilizations contained within. Any civilian vessels moving out of the Zone into the Quadrants would now be subject to Rambo customs and checks as if they were entering Rambo space. All Heer Stekeveel vessels, whether civilian or military, would be fired upon on sight if they approached the Gorge. This policy would later be dampened to only include military vessels at the advice of President Nexarón Valkistair of the New Cyrannian Republic.
However, these incidents which so occupied Rambert's view of the Xonexian world were in reality small disturbances in a sea of tranquility. The core of the Xonexian system had been at peace for eight years by that point, enjoying unprecedented economic growth, relative stability, and harmony. As the 2810's wore on, it was actually better equipped to respond to outside challenges than at any point in its history. The tragedy of Rambo perceptions of the outside world would continually unravel and baffle them over the course of the Gorge dispute.
First Gorge Negotiation Process (2816) Edit
From the perspective of the NZTO, the raising of the Gorge fundamentally changed the military situation of the Quadrants. The presence of Rambo military bases in the unclaimed territories along the border of the Neutrality Zone brought the Rambo Navy within easy striking distance of NZTO member states and greatly simplified the logistics of a Rambo incursion into the Zone. Further, the Gorge provided Rambo Nation with the ability to regulate traffic in and out of the Neutrality Zone and to impose a blockade upon it. This dual ability to militarily threaten and economically contain the previously unmilitarized states of the Neutrality Zone caused great alarm in NZTO capitals and concern in the Gigaquadrant as a whole.
Rambert and his government did not understand how their actions were being perceived by others, considering that their peaceful intentions and security requirements were evident enough and did not need justification. Everyone else would have to adapt to Rambo prerogatives. To the great frustration of Gigaquadrantic statesmen, Rambert refused to acknowledge that there was a problem. Seeing that their diplomatic entreaties were being ignored, the NZTO began implementing a series of initiatives it termed Zone Defense Programs. These initiatives consisted of preparations for a defensive war, ranging from the fortification of the GITO wormhole in the Republic of Galactica, the expansion and professionalization of NZTO militaries, the formalization of the NZTO command structure, the implementation of economic controls to ensure the Neutrality Zone could sustain itself if cut off from the rest of the Gigaquadrant, strategic capabilities to break the Gorge if necessary, etc. These programs, implemented by third- and fourth-rate powers, were primarily defensive in nature and had long completion times stretching past the end of the decade. The grand strategic goal of the programs, articulated by Director Marie Lebel of the Galactican Office of Strategic Affairs, was to "forestall war by ensuring that an opportunistic attack on the Neutrality Zone cannot result in a quick and bloodless victory."
Though outside powers such as the French Empire, Delpha Coalition of Planets, Drodo Empire, and Draconid Imperium played a role in facilitating the implementation of the Zone Defense Programs, the Zone Defense Programs were primarily a local initiative which the Xonexi great powers only mildly supported. On one hand, they needed the Neutrality Zone states to be able to defend their sovereignty and independence against Rambo revisionism if they were to stand a chance defending their concerns in negotiation. On the other, they could not empower the Neutrality Zone to the point of being able to rely solely on a military solution, as all wanted to avoid direct Rambo-NZTO confrontation, and the dramatic, costly, and painful reshuffling of alliances that would result. These powers urged the parties towards a negotiated settlement and sought to create a situation in which such negotiations might be possible. The Zone Defense Programs were therefore folded into a French negotiation strategy orchestrated by French Foreign Minister Patrice Lemelin as bargaining chips to be bartered away in exchange for Rambo concessions on the Gorge.
Rambert accepted to attend a mediation held by Maxios I of the Draconid Imperium between himself and Emperor Alexandre I of France, representing the Neutrality Zone. The summit was a disaster, seeing an outraged Rambert storm out of the negotiations, end relations with the Neutrality Zone states, and close the Gorge to their shipping and military vessels. He made it clear in the meeting that France, in his view, had no right to dictate Rambo policy and therefore had nothing to say about the Gorge.
Crisis and Escalation (2816-2818) Edit
It is still unclear whether Rambert's attempt to diplomatically and economically isolate the Neutrality Zone was a deliberate component of a larger coercive strategy, a prelude to an aborted invasion, or just an emotional outburst. Some have argued that his intention was to demonstrate Rambo power and freedom of action in an effort to cow them into silence. Others point to a strategy of forcing allies of both the French and the Rambo to choose a side, confident that they would pick him. Others still point to the move as preceding an opportunistic invasion which was called off in light of international outcry.
In the moment, Rambo Nation's intentions were frighteningly unclear. Rambert's abrupt and hostile diplomatic actions towards the Neutrality Zone set off a war scare in Gigaquadrantic capitals as the Neutrality Zone states began to mobilize to defensive positions and Xonexian states prepared to militarily intervene in the Quadrants in the event of war.
While both Rambo Nation and the NZTO were expanding their military presence around the area, both sides were faced that the native Quadrantians were growing concerned and didn't gave their consent for such a military build up. Further more, some of the more xenophobic and warmongering empires within the Quadrants, like the Hutter Kingdom began fearing for a SSA or Milky Way invasion of the Quadrants and began gearing up for war as well. Others, amongst them the Lizardian grew more active as well.