St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow
"The President; is he here?" Russian Prime Minister Valentina Baranova asked a dark-suited FSO agent at the entrance of the iconic cathedral. "He is attending the mass, Ma'am." She walked in and quietly positioned herself next to another presidential guard in the grand ceremonial hall which was decorated with gold reliefs and sacral murals, waiting for the procession to finish. President Suvorov was known to be a religious man; not a narrow-minded hardliner, but upright and traditional enough to recognise the value the church held in the hearts of his people. Ever since the outbreak of the war, St. Basil's Cathedral had once again been the site of weekly services where many Muscovites would gather to pray for their fighting friends and family members in Europe. Much to the chagrin of the Federal Guard Service, the President insisted upon attending the mass regularly in an effort to get back in touch with his people and, as some members of his inner circle would claim behind closed doors, seek atonement for the catastrophe that he had unleashed upon the world.
After the mass came to an end, Baranova witnessed the President as he exchanged some words with the priest and a few citizens, trying to provide satisfactory answers to piercing questions about the course of the war, the possibility of a ceasefire or the rationing of food and fuel. Upon exiting the church, she confronted him with her message: "Sir, we have a problem!" "Hm! So what's new then?", the President grumbled snidely as he put on his black fur cap and buttoned his coat to protect himself from the cold winter breeze that blew over the Red Square. "The Chinese, Mister President. Our most recent intel indicates that they're mustering several mechanised and armoured divisions on their side of the Mongolian border and we've just received reports from one of our radar outposts in the Far-East that a PLA air patrol has violated our airspace." The President sighed. Earlier this year, the tide of war had turned for the worse: The Federation had pushed its luck too far and backed the Europeans into a corner from which they lashed out by unleashing a nuclear inferno on their own soil.
General Aleksandr had constantly assured him that one final, grand offensive would put them out of the fight for good, but it was at this point when Suvorov started to question the strategic genius of his long-trusted partner. And yet, he was secretly afraid to speak out against him, fearing his brutal ways and the control that his pervasive Shock Divisions might have over the regular military. Making matters worse, the self-centred Americans exploited this desperate act as a chance to get back on the good side of their former European allies: Their military intervention, even though strictly limited to an enforced no-fly zone, Marine expeditionary landings and covert operations, took a heavy toll on the Federation's air and logistics capabilities, levelling the playing field between the demoralised forces of Russia and the Europeans, who were now throwing everything they had into the fray. Due to the efforts of the many resistance groups, Russia's grip on the countryside outside the cities had long been flimsy at best, allowing the determined ECA forces to regain the initiative while more and more elements of the Russian Army had to withdraw from the front in order to maintain control over their own supply lines in the occupied territories. Now, the fighting had once again shifted north, where the Dutch and Belgian battle groups were about to link up with a sizeable British/American landing force whilst the French and German contingents continued their relentless advance into the Alsace region.
"It was a mistake", Suvorov judged. "The patriotic frenzy of war has merely procrastinated our problems. It worked well as long as we were winning but...soon, the war will come back to us, to haunt our cities; it'll be our land, our blood. We have to find a way to end the madness and keep our face in front of the people." As the two politicians strolled back to the Kremlin amidst a pack of security agents, Suvorov's weary eyes wandered. Among the crowds of passing people, he noticed a mother with her son; a short, blond-haired boy little more than 10 years old. He was wearing little black boots and a child-sized version of the same Flora-patterend battle dress uniform worn by Russian soldiers, undoubtably issued to him by one of the various military-patriotic clubs for working-class children and teenagers. Suddenly, the boy turned around. Upon recognising the President, his innocent face hardened as he stood to attention and rendered a salute while his mother glanced over to him with frightened eyes. Instantly, Suvorov paled with horror while a cold shiver ran down his spine. Indeed, the madness had to end soon.
Even before the creation of the ECA, the nations of Europe were home to many renowned special forces such as the Polish GROM, the German KSK or the Norwegian Jegerkommando. Trained in covert operations and unconventional warfare under the most difficult conditions, many of these units went underground as their countries fell. Now, they form the professional backbone of the armed resistance groups in the occupied territories, providing their irregular comrades with expert knowledge, gathering critical intel and engaging in direct actions against the Federation.
With much of continental Europe under Russian control, the British Special Air Service, Royal Marine and Parachute Regiments remained some of the few special forces that still operated in direct coordination with ECA high command. The Commandos had their finest hour in the late autumn of 2048, after a sizeable detachment of Russian airborne troops had seized control of the European space centre in French Guiana in an attempt to shut down the Solaris network. With only a few firewalls between them and complete domination over Europe's most important power source, its satellite communications and space capabilities, the three elite units were dispatched to South America at once. After a dramatic night time insertion, the Commandos converged on the space port which was held by a large, dug-in VDV force. Against seemingly impossible odds, they managed to reach the command centre and re-routed control of the vital space assets to Spain, preventing a major disaster after the Russians had already used the satellite 'Newton' to fire a solar burst at the USS Spirit of Freedom off the coast of Ireland, rendering one of her flight decks inoperable and forcing the Americans to destroy the satellite with one of their own Particle Cannons.
In combat, the Commandos can only be called into action by experienced commanders. They will then covertly infiltrate the designated area on a moment's notice. One Commando section consists of two anti-tank specialists with Carl Gustav recoilless rifles, two demolitions experts who can place their charges anywhere on the field and one combat medic, all of whom are armed with a specops-modded L85A3 rifle.
The Fennek is a fast, lightly armoured reconnaissance vehicle developed by Germany and the Netherlands. Easy to transport thanks to its low weight, the Fennek is often inserted alongside ECA Commando units. The vehicles used by these elite special forces have been modified with a variety of unique features, making the Fennek a highly versatile support vehicle for sustained operations behind enemy lines. Its small and inconspicuous silhouette make it easy to conceal when stationary and it is equipped with tear gas grenades that sow chaos and confusion among enemy forces.
Its primary armament is the recently developed 'Jackhammer' heavy support weapon, a triple barrelled 40mm smoothbore cannon capable of switching between fully- and semi-automatic fire as well as canister shot and slug rounds. In addition, the Fennek can place a small, stationary sensor pod which keeps the surrounding area revealed and marks targets for rapid precision fire until the battery runs out. This multitude of practical abilities allows the Fennek to provide the Commandos with crucial support for reconnaissance and raiding missions.
Clocking in at a mere 6 tons in weight, this light scout tank is oddly reminiscent of the historical tankette vehicles that were developed between the First and Second World War, when the true military role of armoured vehicles was yet to take shape. Affectionally called the 'Hopper' by the PLA for its amazing agility and comical shape, the new vehicle entered service very recently. Whilst American military experts were quick to dismiss it for its anachronistic role and 'ridiculous' design, the Chinese like to point out that a single one of these vehicles is still more resource-efficient and quick to produce than a Humvee, to the point where Hopper Tanks are always built in twos. This allowed China to complete 10.000 units in a single year, which are now serving in the ranks of the PLA and a number of domestic police units.
The Hopper can use its stubby 75mm cannon to destroy lightly armoured targets and draw the attention of heavier adversaries away from the actual battle tanks. Its armour is capable of resisting bullets, but doesn't stand much of a chance against larger calibres, let alone dedicated anti-tank weapons, making the Hopper a vehicle that is best used as part of a massive offensive. The crew consists of only two people: A driver and a commander, who also serves as the gunner. True to vehicle's function as a scout, the commander can be ordered to peek out of the hatch and spy ahead with his binoculars, substantially increasing the Hopper's sight radius at the cost of not being able to attack until the commander has re-assumed his position behind the gun. Amazingly for an otherwise low-tech vehicle, the Hopper Tank can also be equipped with depleted uranium shells and a miniature atomic battery.