One of the most popular video game series of all time, Call of Duty, has encompassed conflicts from World War II to the Cold War to the future. The sub-series that made it the success it is today, Modern Warfare, depicts a fictional conflict between the West (Mostly through American and British characters) and a Russian political movement known as the Ultranationalist Party. The series consists of three games, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and the next three articles are going to focus on the political and warfare aspects of each game individually.
The first game, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, was released on November 5th, 2007 and depicted a fictional civil war in the Russian Federation between the government (Referred to as the Loyalists) and the Ultranationalists, a group seeking to return the Soviet Union. The game is set in 2011 (The near-future at the time of its release) where British SAS (Special Air Service) commandos are sent to stop the Ultranationalists, and more specifically the leader of the movement Imran Zakhaev. In reality, there are groups that have advocated the return of Soviet-era policies and are hostile towards the West, such as the National Bolshevik Front. However, such groups are generally considered a minority and have not engaged in armed or even open conflict with the Russian government. Another inaccuracy is that the Loyalist forces, despite being the official Russian military, use older-style uniforms including ushankas (Complete with Soviet hammer-and-sickle over red star insignias) and use outdated weapons.
For example, the AK-47 assault rifle was the main Red Army assault rifle, but it was eventually replaced by the AKM in 1959, and replaced again until the modern rifle, the AK-74M was adopted for the Russian military. Loyalists also carry the RPD, a light machine gun developed in 1944 but eventually replaced with the RPK, the current version in use being the RPK-74M. If there was a Second Russian Civil War, the Loyalists would have access to modern equipment and weaponry such as the AK-74M or the AK-12, instead of having to use Red Army surplus.
On the opposite side, the Ultranationalists should presumably be using the Red Army surplus in contrast to the Loyalists, as they would be the side without an official supplier. However, some of the Ultranationalists wear blue tiger-style camouflage such as that worn by OMON (Otryad Mobil’nyy Osobogo Naznacheniya, or Special Purpose Mobile Unit) units, although others wear older uniforms and gas masks. Oddly, only some of the Ultranationalists use the AK-47 or RPD, as many use the German G3 and G36C, as well as the Belgian FN P90. The main issue is that these three weapons are developed in NATO countries, and would thus require NATO-caliber ammunition. That would mean the Ultranationalists would be unable to use as much Red Army surplus or Russian weaponry, and import NATO ammunition from elsewhere. That would be especially difficult as NATO would obviously be staunchly anti-Ultranationalist, and thus the weapons and the ammunition would be much more difficult to attain.
The American perspective of the game arises when a group of extremists take over an unnamed country in the Middle East with Ultranationalist support. Strangely, the nation itself is never named although cut-scenes in the game clearly show it is Saudi Arabia. There are other references as well, such as the rebellious forces (Also never named aside from “Al-Asad’s forces,” after Khaled Al-Asad, the fictional leader of the movement) overthrowing a monarchy that was allied in the past with the West, as well as the nation being “oil rich.” This prompts an invasion by the U.S., clearly an allegory for the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan. This scenario in and of itself is not totally implausible, as Saudi Arabia is a Sunni-Muslim country as compared to Shiite-Muslim, which has frequently placed it at odds with other countries in the region such as Syria, Iran, and Iraq and is a major U.S. ally sharing many common enemies.
An ongoing event, the Syrian Civil War, is similar in this situation in that the U.S. considered military intervention to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons to prevent them from being used, as well as to help defeat the regime of Bashar al-Assad. However, U.S. and Western intervention was prevented by Russian naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as Russian troops in the port of Tartus. In Modern Warfare‘s scenario, the Russian Federation would have been dealing with issues related to the Civil War and thus would have been unable to intervene to possibly prevent a U.S. invasion.
Oddly, this also presents the issue that absolutely no forces loyal to the Saudi regime are shown fighting Al-Asad’s forces. That’s not to say the whole Saudi military could have revolted, as no forces are encountered fighting the Americans wearing Saudi military uniforms and utilize older Russian vehicles such as the T-72 tank and MiG-29 “Fulcrum” fighter aircraft. And even if there was a revolt, then at least some rebel forces would be using the U.S.-supplied weapons provided to Saudi Arabia such as the American M1 Abrams. In the case of Syria (Even at the lowest points of the Ba’athist regime) there were still government forces organized fighting the rebels, wearing visible uniforms and such.
Two of the more famous levels of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare depict an SAS sniper team infiltrating Pripyat, Ukraine in an effort to assassinate Imran Zakhaev before he becomes a powerful figure during 1996. The effects of the Chernobyl disaster set the backdrop for the mission, as the team must sneak past Ultranationalist patrols and observe an arms deal for spent fuel rods taking place within the city. While certainly dramatic, this is a peculiar location for such an important event for the Ultranationalists, as Pripyat is located within Ukraine, as well as inside the Zone of Alienation. This area is under the control of the Ukrainian government, so it would be very difficult to move large numbers of BMP’s armored personnel carriers, trucks, and Mi-28 helicopters into the area without government notice, as well as the troops and the supplies necessary to keep them healthy in such an irradiated and abandoned environment.
Ultimately Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare ends with a joint American-SAS task force averting a plot by the Ultranationalists to launch a MIRV (Multiple Independently-target-able Reentry Vehicle) at the United States with the leaders Khaled al-Asad, Imran’s son Viktor Zakhaev and Imran Zakhaev having all been killed, while a news report claims the Ultranationalist Party is dealing with infighting. This is a seemingly happy ending, despite the sequels that will follow. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is not the most realistic war game out there, but the story it presents is certainly plausible, at least within it’s own circumstances although certain smaller details may be inaccurate.
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