One of the possible ingredients for mixing up a perfect storm of conflict and crisis is the likelihood of European governments focusing on their own internal affairs under the impact of the economic crisis, especially if the crisis leads to social instability and violent protest. This would necessarily divert political attention and energy away from responding to the initial signs of crisis and conflict escalation on other continents. In that connection:
- Today’s Guardian looks at the farmers’ protests that are bringing Greece to a standstill.
- Right next to that article is a quick look at warning signs from eastern Europe, especially Latvia and Lithuania, where governments have less financial room for manoeuvre than the richer states of western Europe.
- A Reuters report two weeks back took a broader look at the same countries, adding concerns about China and Russia.
- France is preparing for a major strike on Thursday.
These are warning indicators that this economic crisis will have major social and political implications before it’s done. If conflict and crisis start to escalate towards a perfect storm in Africa or Asia, some governments may well be too busy focusing on domestic issues to play a part in international responses to the crisis. Of course, that’s what they have to do; ideally, other governments would compensate by ensuring that they are in a heightened state of awareness of international risks.
This is not a call to panic stations. The issue I raised in my post on 25th January on the risk of perfect storm is not about defeatism in the face of the problems, but about ensuring there is enough awareness of the risk to do something about it if it starts to materialise.