The fall of 68FT-6 in Impass to Against All Authorities (-A-) and the Southern Russian Coalition last week appears to have broken the back of organized resistance in the region by Circle of Two (CO2) and The Initiative (INIT). CO2 subsequently ordered a stand-down in Impass and its pilots appear to have pulled back to CO2 holdings in Providence. Meanwhile, -A- operations in Impass appear to be meeting little resistance on the part of The Initiative, indicating that INIT is writing the region off for the moment; using the time it will take -A- to consolidate their gains in Impass to rest and re-organize INIT forces along a new front.
The most likely concentration of INIT forces will be near the entry-points to Catch. Long the seat of -A- power, and currently the region boasting the highest concentration of INIT forces, Catch is a natural flash-point for both sides. INIT forces striking -A- forces in Impass will come from there. -A- forces looking to take back their old seat of power will strike at those entry points.
While tempted by the emotional importance of Catch, -A- is not likely to overlook Teneferis. As it was for -A- before it, sleepy Teneferis is a source of great wealth for the alliance that holds it. The Initiative has followed -A-'s example of seeding the region with renters who provide INIT with a tidy source of revenue and, no doubt, capital ships.
-A- would do well to begin a secondary offensive in Teneferis either before, or in tandem with an attempted invasion of Catch. If INIT chooses to defend the region, that will draw forces away from the Catch front. If INIT declines to defend (and to some extent, even if it doesn't), many Teneferis renters will shut down operations and the region will quickly dry up as a source of revenue and supply.
Further, the impact on morale of many systems (even renter systems) falling quickly to the invaders should not be overlooked. This is precisely the tactic INIT employed to good effect during its invasion of -A- space earlier this Fall. If The Initiative hadn't been so confident of an -A- failscade soon thereafter, INIT might have taken the lesson and developed their own renters into a meaningful regional defense force. However, if INIT relations with their PvP vassal alliances is any indication, the The Initiative hasn't taken any such trouble and is, like -A- before them, content to use their renters as little more than an ATM.
Should the Southern Russians successfully invade Teneferis, they should be open to Initiative Associate renters wishing to cut a deal with the inbound -A- forces. Recall that a number of Initiative Associate corporations were, in fact, AAA Citizen corporations before INIT took over the space. As I've written elsewhere, for many of these corporations renting space is a transaction, not a matter of loyalty. Allowing an apolitical renter to occupy the same space merely by switching alliances is simply good business. It saves the renter the need to move or lose valuable infrastructure. It brings the revenue-generating potential of the renter's systems back online as soon as hostilities move past those systems. It saves the invader the headache of recruiting new renters and jump-starts the income flow from the conquered space. Some selective outreach here works to the invaders tactical advantage as well. A renter with no reason to fear the new landlord is less inclined to assist the old landlord in defense of rented space.
How matters resolve themselves between INIT and the Southern Russians going forward will depend on timing and the numbers both sides can bring to the fight. The Initiative and -A-, on their own, are pretty much at numeric parity. Their return as the new lords of Impass should bolster -A- membership and, possibly, bring some seasoned veterans back to the fold. However, Initiative Mercenaries, based out of Catch, is a sizable block of pilots, tipping the balance in favor of The Initiative. Barring a convenient collapse in INIT's morale, -A- is going to need their Southern Russian brethren in the fight if they hope to retake Catch.
While taking Catch will have enormous emotional importance to -A-, it may be less of a priority to Stain Empire and Red Overlords who, having pushed The Initiative and its minions off their doorstep, may be content to consolidate their gains rather than launch another offensive. Red Overlords in particular may be reluctant, as White Noise is still a presence in Feythabolis, and must be dealt with before that region is secure and Overlords are placed to assist -A- in Catch.
Then there are the usual wild cards to consider; Pandemic Legion and IT Alliance.
Pandemic Legion seems well occupied in the North where the Drone Russian Coalition (RUS) have hired them to perform enfilading attacks to take Northern Coalition pressure off RUS forces in Etherium Reach. Barring RUS canceling that contract, or The Initiative making PL an offer RUS is unwilling or unable to match, a significant PL presence in the South is unlikely.
Aside from sending a 200 ship fleet to the defense of 68FT-6, IT Alliance has had only marginal involvement in the fighting between The Initiative and the Southern Russians. However it's important to recall that IT Alliance, rushing to the aid of the victors, opened up a second front on the last pockets of -A- resistance when INIT invaded Catch and then turned the conquered -A- systems over to The Initiative. Having taken an IT Alliance shiv in the back, -A- is unlikely to be kindly disposed toward their former allies.
The prospect of a potentially hostile -A- parked on the borders of Querious and Delve may move IT Alliance to take a substantive role in the defense of The Initiative's holdings in Catch. However, throwing the full weight of IT Alliance behind INIT at a time when an impending Goon invasion is building against IT elsewhere is a high-stakes enterprise. If The Initiative falls the resulting appearance of weakness would do much to encourage the growing notion that IT Alliance is a paper tiger - the Hapsburg Empire of New Eden.
As leader of the largest PvP alliance in New Eden, SirMolles's actions since IT's failed invasion of the North early this year seem risk-averse. He has focused on small, low-risk offensive actions that occupy IT Alliance pilots, but the success or failure of which are of little consequence to the alliance at large. With more to lose that to win in most engagements, SirMolle's actions of late seem hesitant - chosen with an eye to protecting the BOB/IT Alliance brand and legacy rather than taking the storied alliance someplace new.
An invasion of Catch by the Southern Russian Coalition will test that hesitancy and put IT Alliance's leadership in the position where passive, low-risk choices are no longer an option.