The world continued its descent into chaos in 2014 with the odd coming together of the world at the festival of football in Brazil and the truly global commemoration of the outbreak of the First World War.
Britain remained engaged in the world, even if often far too ineffective to make much of a difference where it really mattered.
Brutality in the name of Islam
The Islamic terrorist network of the wrongly named Islamic State (it is neither Islamic or a State as far as I am concerned), Boko Haram, Taliban, Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, Islamic Jihad and Hamas went from strength to strength with their 7th century Islamic campaign of murder, butchery, kidnap, terror and torture underpinned by a perverted interpretation of Islam.A new tactic seems to be in play - targetting children. We saw this with 200 girls kidnapped in Nigeria and the sickening murder of over 100 school children in Pakistan.
These groups were not short of supporters living in Britain where it was revealed that over 40 terror plots had been planned by so-called British citizens since 2005. These were thankfully foiled by the police and the security services who we will no doubt remain indebted to through 2015.
On IS, the British Parliament responded with a timid approval to bomb them in Iraq, but not Syria, amid reports that due to cuts the RAF are unable to muster an around the clock squadron of fighter bombers. The politics of course, as we saw troops leave Afghanistan this year, was to get involved as little as we could.
Britain’s foreign policy in 2014 seemed to be a disengagement from providing the military hardware and will to uphold international peace and security. Instead we have opted to reactively try and clear up the consequences of disorder and bad governance and distance ourselves from bad international memories under the banner of empowerment.
Resurgence of the Russian Bear
2014 was the year of the 'Russian Bear', re-asserting itself with the annexation of the Crimea and the invasion of Eastern Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin, ever the great chess player, gambled that Europe and the UK as incompetent and impotent as ever would not respond militarily. The United States under President Obama, much to the disquiet of the hawks on Capitol Hill, also seems happy to be leading from behind in the world today. Putin rightly gambled that he could get away with his land grab; and he did.
The Russian involvement in Ukraine was demonstrated by appalling deception following the unprovoked attack on a Malaysian Airlines aircraft. 200 civilians, including a number of Britons, were murdered. The response - you guessed it, further appeasement.
A year of predictable crises
The usual and predictable crises rumbled on in 2014 such as the Iran nuclear issue, the North Koreans getting very irritated that no one is paying attention to them and then the daddy of them all, the Middle-East peace process. The saga of the Israeli-Palestine issue rumbles on into its seventh decade as we approach 2015. Britain, the EU and the US seem to have got bored with the whole thing and general public opinion in the West I’m afraid switched off through fatigue years ago.
Britain and the World in 2015
So what will 2015 bring to these international tensions Britain finds herself tied into?
Islamic extremists will no doubt continue their reign of terror and carnage through out the world. I am fearful that this will be met with little or no meaningful response from the western powers, except tough words and a bit of bombing of course.
The future for Iran and Russia may not be so bright. The falling oil price and sanctions imposed for actions on nuclear proliferation and the Ukraine land grab may well see them become the victims of a perfect storm. Certainly the economy in Russia is struggling and this means strange (and desperate) things can happen. Who knows, we may see the Tehran and Moscow spring earlier than we expected!
North Korea, for sure, will be rattling their sabres, perfecting their cyber techniques and stomping around in a strop. We may even see a new missile test in 2015; they haven’t done one of those for a while. Will there be a Hollywood rush to make more movies about this isolationist state? Possibly. (Sony seems to be making a lot of money from limited viewing)
Economically, my dark horse prediction is that we will see a resurgence of major crises in the Eurozone. This will mean spectacular consequences for an already fragile UK economy. Greece is holding an emergency election in January. We may look back in December 2015 and say this was where the problems began again.