In the Cold War when the Soviet Union and US were locked in Global
competition international relations were like steering a ship along
the narrow Suez Canal. In the nineties, after the fall of the Berlin
Wall, it was like navigating the English Channel - water on all sides
but with land visible. Now it's like being on the high seas - water
everywhere and no land to steer by!
THE IRAN PROBLEM
Two of the biggest threats to international security in 2013 are Iran
getting a nuclear weapon and Iran being bombed to stop it getting
that nuclear weapon. Both would precipitate a long and dangerous conflict
in the already unstable Middle East. Both would be a disaster!
There is a way through however - to allow Iran to exercise it's rights
under international treaties to enrich uranium for peaceful energy-generating
purposes BUT ONLY IF it agrees to inspection arrangements that allow
the world to be convinced that there is no Military dimension to their
RUMOURS OF WARS
There are 9,000 British soldiers still in duty in the continuing war
in Afghanistan. But it is as of large the "forgotten war"
with media and public attention shifting to the killing fields of
Syria. There is no end in sight as the fighting escalates. Much like
in Egypt and Libya, brave Syrians are demanding Freedom and regional
powers are supplying arms to the rebels. But as stated the big risk
to British lives lies still in Afghanistan. Our troops and Aid workers
have made a big contribution there, whether you support them or not.
The official withdrawal of troops is set for 2014 but for true stability
to reach the region there needs to be some kind of Political settlement
even including talks with the Taliban.
WHAT WILL THE CHINESE DO?
The biggest novelty of 2013 will be new leadership in China. Very
little is known of the views of the new leaders who will rule the
country for 10 years. BUT we do know they are the first generation
of Chinese leaders, mainly educated in the US, who have spent the
majority of their lives in a China "opening up" to the rest
of the world. Before only 3 or so Western films and music albums were
allowed release a year, while now the country has more billionaires
than ever before - communism is nearly a foot note.
It seems likely the nu leaders know there is no escape from global
engagement. It remains to be seen how much further they will open
up their society and economy. In the mean time we in the UK need to
be continuing to show how we are serious about solving problems together
- from managing the global economy to tackling climate change and
turning to renewable energy.
Of course the Uk's economy and environmental foot print are smaller
than those of the Chinese but one reason they've taken us serious
so far on the subject of reducing carbon emissions is that we have
been fulfilling our side of the bargain. Don't believe those who say
just because we can't save the planet on our own we should abandon
wind farms and nuclear programmes that can get us all off coal.
LOOK FOR CHANGE IN AFRICA
The biggest opportunity in 2013 is in Africa. It has seven of the
ten fastest growing economies in the world! In Nigeria alone there
are 100 million people with mobile phones. In total there are 300
million African's - five times the population of England - who are
classed as Middle Class. The potential to help more people out of
poverty, develop new markets for the world and contribute to global
problem solving is immense. The Chinese realise this! Their development
spend is bigger than even that of the infamous World Bank and they
are present in every country with a development programme. We - the
UK - need to support African development and I also think fully developed
countries should be helping them set up green power grids and infrastructures
- the country is ideal for Solar Towers and Vertical Farms in it's
THE EURO QUESTION
The biggest economic risk this year is still the on-going Euro Crisis.
Resolving it requires some bold decisions. That means more effort
by richer countries to support the poorer - that's the price of a
Euro that is competitive against major currencies across the globe.
We shouldn't be afraid of more central authority to run the euro.
It's governance arrangements won't affect us. But we should watch
out - IF the Euro does stabilise then international markets are going
to start asking hard questions about the UK's economic management!
A LESSON FROM AMERICA
The good news story of 2013 is the recovery if old ally the good ol'
US of A. It is a very lucky country. Just when you think the price
of oil is too high sustain their standard of living, shale gas promises
an energy boom! We're not just talking cheaper prices, suddenly the
US is set to become the world's largest energy exporter.
But it's not just good luck. America has also had leaders ready to
defy conventional wisdom. That is what President Obama has done in
rejecting austerity economies. He now looks set to reap the dividend.
Having inherited a crash he's now on the verge of sustained economic
growth. His Government kept the economy growing when the private sector
lacked confidence to invest, and now as business get their mojo back
he's pushing for a deal to settle government finances. As long as
the Republicans in Congress don't trip him up, he's set the standard
of "how to help your economy recover!"
INCREASE DA GREEN PEACE
This July some of the biggest oil companies in the world like the
USA's Exxon Mobil and Russia's Gazprom will be heading to the Arctic
to drill for oil and Green Peace is doing everything they can to stop
them. Primarily they're trying to raise £80,000 by 30th April
so they can build, equip and deploy a Pod in time to occupy oil rigs,
ships and ports in the Arctic this summer. The Action Pod is essential
equipment when working in hostile conditions. Last year Gazprom staff
used metal projectiles, water cannons and fire hoses to stop them
taking action. The Pod will provide protection for their activists
to ensure they can prevent drilling for longer periods this year.
You should remember apart from destroying the Arctic and the creatures
who live in it's ecosystem drilling there is also producing a lot
more oil at a time when the world really needs to embrace clean energy.
We're talking flood and famine at best and a new ice age at worse
and if you want proof you need only look out of your window.
A few days back even the internet was brought to a crawl by "Hacktivists"
and "Cyber Criminals". A spamming cyber war between rival
websites has slowed some internet and email services around the world.
The battle between an anti-spam website and a web hosting company
it blacklisted has seen up to 300 gigabytes of data a second being
unleashed across the internet.
Among the sites affected was video- streaming service NetFlix but,
with just 50gb of data enough to crash a bank's servers, there were
fears the problem could escalate.
The target of the week-long attack is Spamhaus, a non profit organisation
based in London and Geneva. It says it is retaliation for blacklisting
Dutch company Cyberbunker which is based in a former Nato bunker and
offers to host anything online except Terror Sites and Child Porn.
So far this attack is widely acknowledged as being the largest of
its type so far seen.
A group calling itself the STOPhaus Movement accused Spamhaus of "abusing
its influence" as a self appointed censor. Five national cyber-police
forces were investigating the attack which it is claimed had enough
power to take down Government internet operations.
NORTH KOREA GOES BANG!
And now the maniac son of a maniac is acting up. North Korea has said
it is entering a "state of war" with South Korea in the
latest escalation of rhetoric against its neighbour and the US. A
statement promised "stern physical actions" against "any
provocative act". North Korea has threatened attacks almost daily
after it was sanctioned for a third nuclear test in February. However,
few think the North would risk full-blown conflict, and the two sides
have technically been at war since 1953 as no peace treaty has been
signed. An armistice at the end of the Korean War was never turned
into a full treaty.
The North carried out its third nuclear test on 12 February, which
led to the imposition of fresh sanctions. The annual US-South Korean
military exercises have also taken place, angering Pyongyang further.
Many analysts believe that all-out war with South Korea and its ally
the United States would be suicidal for the North, says the BBC's
Lucy Williamson in Seoul. How ever despite this North Korea has made
multiple threats against both the US and South Korea in recent weeks,
including warning of a "pre-emptive nuclear strike" on the
US and the scrapping of the Korean War armistice. In truth I think
all we can do now is hope and pray things turn out as lightly as this.