In Europe the late 1980s and early 1990s were busy.
The members of the European Union believed that they had to prove themselves to be just as capable as the United States and the Soviet Union.
The economic ties that had been built up during and after the Oil Crisis, had brought an economic boom to the European Union. Companies of the heavy industry as well as the high tech industry had found partners much closer to home, allowing profitable co-operations and short logistic lines.
The infrastructure was expanded to help with the intra-european trade and the Schengen Treaty slowly decreased the time needed at border checkpoint to zero. Spain and Portugal, provisional members of the European Union also profited from the increase in intra-european trade, making them more eager to implement the needed reforms to become full members of the EU and reap the full positive effects on their own economies.
To further increase trade and speed up travel times for cargo and people, the European Union decided to build the Trans-European Rapid Express Network of passenger and cargo maglev trains. Transrapid International and GEC Alsthom developed the trains for the network and the first line between Cologne and Paris was finished in 1994, followed by a Paris-Madrid line in 1997.
Greece on the other hand took their time for their reforms, as they had proven themselves to be hard with groups of society protesting the change of the existing rules and legislations. But even they could not help but notice an increase of their own wealth thanks to the existing tied to the European Union.
By 1990, Sweden and Finland applied for the European Union, and they were given the same provisional membership as Spain, Portugal and Greece. Norway was undecided whether or not to join, fearing for having to forsake their claims of North Sea Oil. However by 1992 Norway had decided to apply for membership, with a provisional one being granted, after a EU research grant for offshore energy production using wave-turbines and conventional windturbines.
By 1991, Spain was the first of the provisional members to be granted full membership status of the European Union, followed by Sweden in 1992. Portugal and Finland joined them by 1994, while Greece still had to fight their own population to realize the reforms.
Internationally the European Union strengthened its economic and political ties with the Far East and most of South America. Only Argentina proved to be something a problem, following their disagreement over the Falkland Islands with Great Britain. Brazil on the other hand proved to be a much more interested South American partner.
On the military side, competing interests within the Euroforce and the national militaries proved to be something of a problem. The adoption of the G-11 by the Bundeswehr did not help matters as the caseless ammunition of the weapons was incompatible with the ammunition of the other Euroforce members.
The Veneran Crisis and the sudden possibility of the Cold War going hot, made Euroforce forget about internal problems for a while. For nearly one and a half year Euroforce units along the Iron Curtain were put into an increased alert state, prepared to go out and fight against the Soviet Union and their vassals.
It was of course not lost to East Germany, who had increased their own alert state as well, that the Nationale Volksarmee and Soviet troops were preparing to meet Euroforce and NATO on the battlefield.
The increased alert and a national state of emergency within East Germany did little to decrease simmering unhappiness within the population. In 1989 the elections to the Volkskammer had come under scrutiny of the population. While they were technically allowed to watch the counting of votes, the Stasi hindered them massively and hundreds of ‘western spies’ disappeared in the following weeks.
The relations between East Germany and the Soviet Union had also suffered. The Berlin Politburo was less than pleased to see Gorbachev raise to power. The economic revolution of the Soviet Union and the successful implementation of the Prirost system was met with massive disbelieve to the largely Stalinist government and thought to be just mere propaganda.
Joachim Gauck, an ‘incorrigible anti-communist’ and leader of the East German ‘Wir sind das Volk’ movement who fled into West Germany, would later quote Christian Morgenstern about the reasons why the Berlin Politburo lost the connection to reality during the early 1990s.
‘For, he reasons pointedly That which must not be, can not be.’
In late 1993 the situation in East Germany worsened. While the Veneran Crisis had ended and the Soviet Forces in East Germany had moved down to normal readiness, the NVA remained on high alert, the Politburo reasoning that the European Union and especially ‘fascist’ West Germany would attack the moment they saw a weakness and a drop of readiness. Many later attributed this to the late stage effects of cancer on Erich Honecker.
Following Honeckers death in 1994, Egon Krenz took over as the leader of the Politburo, but faced increased pressure from Erich Mielke and the Stasi. Being forced by Mielke, Krenz put up several new laws that increased the oppression of the population, this in turn lead to a general decrease of productivity. The Stasi slowly took over the ‘less productive companies’ and workers were fired or disappeared.
In December 1995 the population of East Germany began to protest against the Politburo after another Volkskammer election with faked results. At first the protests were suppressed by units of the Volkspolizei and the Stasi, but eventually they grew so large that units of the NVA were called in to disperse them.
On May 1, 1996 the International Workers Day parades in large cities were disrupted by peaceful protests. The protest in Rostock turned bloody as an NVA soldier apparently lost his nerves and fired a shot into the demonstrating mob. The rest of the soldiers followed, as well as Stasi units, turning the peaceful protest into a massacre with nearly five hundred people killed.
The Politburo and the Stasi tried to suppress the news about the Workers Day Massacre in Rostock, but were not able to keep it from spreading. It lead to the first riots against the Stasi and the NVA, where weapons were used to disperse them, killing several hundred more rioters. More died after being found guilty to be western spied and sentenced to death by fast Stasi courts.
In May 17, 1996 the first NVA units began to act against their orders and protected the rioters and other protesters, calling themselves the Volksbefreiungsarmee. During May and June more NVA units had switched sides to the VBA, escalating the situation into a Civil War as the VBA came under increased attacks by NVA and Stasi units.
The Soviet Union surprised the East German Politburo as units of the Red Army came to the aid of the population and the besieged VBA units, defending them and begin offensive operations against the NVA. Gorbachev claimed that the way the Berlin Politburo and Stasi acted was not in accordance with the wishes of the workers and that the Soviet Union would support the workers, rather than the East German government in this case.
A further escalation happened on June 20, as an NVA air defense unit shot down two Luftwaffe Tornado jets flying reconnaissance near the border. The West German government called for the V-Fall, which was granted by the German parliament on June 22 and proclaimed on June 23.
Germany only called for help in this situation from the European Union and Euroforce, while NATO and especially the United States were asked not to provide assistance. While the United States understood the decision and accepted, the Pentagon still put their forces in West Germany into an increased state of alert.
On July 2 VBA units crossed the border into West Germany near Eschwege, fleeing from the superior numbers of the NVA, firing the first shots on West German soil. The Bundeswehr and several units of Euroforce responded to the threat, defending the VBA units.
West Germany, as part of the European Union, had been in diplomatic contact with the Soviet Union and Gorbachev, while interested in better diplomatic relations with Western Europe, stated that the Soviet Union would not agree with any movement of European forces into East Germany.
The VBA units were offered asylum by the West German government, while NVA units were forced back beyond the border, settling into an uneasy ceasefire as Euroforce was not allowed to cross the border out of fear to start a war with the Soviet Union.
In the Month of July several more attempts were made by VBA units to cross into West Germany, but several more warnings of the Soviet Union made sure that Euroforce denied them entry. This had the effect that the East German population, in the beginning hoping for a West German intervention, were disillusioned and began to put their hope into the Soviet Union, even though they did not fully trust the Soviets after what their own ‘communists’ had done.
Over the course of the next few days more and more VBA units joined in with the Red Army, defeating many of the the regular NVA units and driving them into defensive positions around Berlin. The western part of the city, by then filled with American and Euroforce troops was like a knife pointed at the heart of the Politburo.
Seeing no other way to escape East Berlin with the Soviet siege, Egon Krenz committed suicide on September 4, with Erich Mielke taking over his position. Having become disgusted with Mielke and the Stasi-methods, Günther Schabowski murdered Mielke soon thereafter and subsequently got killed by the Stasi Bodyguards.
The chaos following the deaths of Krenz and Mielke allowed the Soviet Union to break through the NVA defensive line. The remaining NVA forces surrendered, allowing the Red Army to take East Berlin without a massacre. By surrendering, the NVA averted the possible destruction of the entire city and instigating World War Three.
In the aftermath, the Soviet Union installed a puppet government for the initial period of rebuilding East Germany. Later they allowed somewhat free elections, even though making sure that any new East German government would follow the Soviets suggestions more readily.
West German Chancellor Björn Engholm had to face massive negative publicity in the aftermath of the East German Civil War, leading to the SPD-Green coalition losing to a CDU/CSU-FDP coalition in the next election.
ESA on the other hand slowly had grown and prepared itself for larger challenges.
And larger challenges meant a need for better launch vehicles. ESA had developed two new families of launch vehicles. The first was the Ariane II family of medium to heavy lift launch vehicles.
The Ariane II was based on the original Ariane family, but with both stages stretched and equipped with new engines. It was based on the same principles as the Ariane family, with a central core booster and two or four liquid booster stages that were derived from the cores first stage. Additionally the Ariane II made use of a fuel crossfeed technology that was similar to the one that had been developed by NASA for their Saturn CC family.
The increased payload of eight tonnes for the Core launcher allowed ESA to develop the Enhanced Taurus. With the Enhanced Taurus, ESA increased the length and power of the Service Module and the length. The Orbital Module was expanded in length to increase the internal volume and was equipped with a pair of solar panels. A modified docking system allowed the Orbital Module to stay behind in orbit as a free flyer or remain docked with Columbus or another space station, a cheap way to provide additional habitation space.
The first flight of the Ariane II was in May 1988, carrying an Enhanced Taurus to Columbus, where the orbital module remained behind. The two other versions of the Ariane II followed in 1989 and 1990. The Ariane II 12 with two boosters launched a second 20 tonne heavy Cook module to Columbus. The heaviest Ariane II 14 with four boosters could have brought a 30 ton payload into low earth orbit, but was first used to launch a fourteen tonne observation satellite into a geostationary orbit.
The second launch vehicle was the Theia family. The Theia, capable of launching up to 30 tonnes into low earth orbit with its central core, cheaper and easier than the Ariane II 14. The Theia Heavy, with two boosters with fuel crossfeed developed from the first stage, was capable of lifting up to 80 tonnes into orbit.
The Theia first launched on September 1994, delivering several truss elements to Columbus, where they were used to prepare for a large solar panel array, delivered by a second Theia in November 1994.
The Theia Heavy played a big role in ESA’s lunar aspirations and the unofficial race to the Moon with the Chinese. In May 1995 the first Theia Heavy delivered a lunar transfer stage into low Earth orbit, followed by an Ariane II 12 carrying a lunar lander and an enhanced Taurus carrying a crew of three.
On June 2, 1995 the two first Europeans, Arne Fuglesang and Michel Tognini, took their first steps on the moon, beating the Chinese by two years.
A second mission to the moon followed in November 1995.
But not everything went as peaceful as the expansion of Columbus or the three moon landings. With the Veneran Crisis and the armament of the United States and the Soviet Union in space, the European Union felt threatened by either side. They felt the need to protect themselves in space.
Euroforce was called upon to provide pilots and soldiers that would be trained as astronauts and then used to defend European interests in space. Weapons were found relatively easy. Where the United States and the Soviet Union reworked older weapons, Europe tried to go for modern weapons to arm their spacecraft and military astronauts.
Europe already had access to a more modern personal weapon in form of the German G-11. The electrically ignited caseless weapon was designed to minimize the amount of moving parts and it was relatively easily to modify, using a lubricant that could be used in space.
As long ranged missile weapons ESA and Euroforce selected the French MBDA MICA in the active radar seeking variant. It was relatively simple to rework the missile to a reaction control system as it already was equipped with a thrust vectoring system.
Rheinmetall offered a space capable version of their Mauser BK-27 as projectile weapon for short ranged combat.
To provide a way to deploy these weapons in space, Dassault modified the Orbital Module of the Enhanced Taurus, integrating two BK-27 in a fixed position forwards and launchers for twelve MBDA MICA missiles, combining it with a RBDA2 phased radar array of the Rafalle for targeting.
Due to the nature of the Orbital Module they could easily be connected to a space station like Columbus. However it was normally carried by an Enhanced Taurus variant called Minotaurus, which was launched using an Ariane 12.
The East German Civil War did little to interrupt the day by day operations of ESA. West Germany had felt almost helpless, unable to help the East Germans and press for the reunification that was part of their Basic Law. To show that were still capable as the United States and the Soviet Union, Germany put a bit of political pressure on ESA, who was all too willing to show what was possible for them. Armed with the remains of an alien aerospace craft, ESA set out to Mars with Project Discovery.