For the last week, my attention has been on Ukraine and the Balkans.
Both offer a highly concentrated dose of zeitgeist reality checks, but the Balkans also offers hope for a vision of post-conflict recovery and reconstruction, whether politically, socially, economically or even psychically.
In Ukraine, the war seems to have reached a stage of what can (at least from a non-Ukrainian perspective), be seen as some sort of ‘background normalcy’. It is there and it continues to rumble on, but the world’s focus and attention seems to be looking for other points of discussion, and it is no longer at the centre of our consciousness.
In the Balkans, on the surface at least, the horrific legacies of the post-Yugoslavia break-up and the political, geographical and ethnic hatred that created seems to have, to a large degree, dissipated, though there are still hotspots that are causes for worry and always have the potential to re-ignite into conflagration.
However fragile that might be, it is certainly better than the other option, which is open hostility and active acts of provocation.
As in so many cases, the easiest solution to such issues is often simply economic prosperity and well- being, which seems to relegate all other issues to secondary importance and in turn reduces the need for politicians to use such issues to deflect attention away from economic hardship by elevating other issues to the top of the political agenda.
In the UK, Rishi Sunak is our third Prime Minister in three months (and the first non-white person, first Hindu and youngest for 200 years to hold the office), and comes with the reputation of being a grown-up who ha can bring some seriousness to the conversation. There seems to be a general desire for him to be given a chance to do the right thing, certainly by the global financial markets which went into melt-down over Liz Truss’s attempts to re-boot the UK economy, but only succeeded in significantly destroying that, as well as the UK’s reputation for sensible government.
However, the UK will continue to face what Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt called ‘decisions of eye-watering difficulty’, and there is no doubt that the on-set of winter will create genuine challenges for a significant part of the population.
The UK economy, which was 90% the size of Germany’s pre-Brexit, has now shrunk to 70%, and there is no sign of the global trade agreements that were meant to be part of the Brexit package that would come to the rescue.
And….there is 24 days to the Qatar World Cup. More than most, this is turning into a political rather than sporting event. Recent comments about the need for LGBTQ visitors to tone down their behaviour so as not to offend local sensitivities, combined with discussion around general working conditions and the safety (and deaths) of construction workers, means that football might be the secondary issue for many commentators.
Join us to discuss these and many other subjects on our weekly Global Crisis Watch 204, on Friday 28th October 2022, at 10:00 am /BST/.