Global Conflict Intensity Spikes To 7-Year High

If it’s not one geopolitical concern these days it’s invariably another. If today’s story isn’t weak-handed Greece escalating the rhetoric in its hopeless game of chicken with eurozone creditors, it’s ISIS ratcheting up the shock factor in a campaign to scare U.S. coalition partners away from an increasingly ineffectual bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq. If it’s not an escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine, it’s logrolling between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia with the fate of the Assad regime, Gazprom, and the Russian economy at stake. As we’ve seen over the past several months (e.g. crude in a veritable tailspin) and over the past several days (e.g. hourly news out of Greece raining on the BLS’s non-farm revision parade), markets are becoming increasingly tethered to the vagaries of geopolitics -- and don’t expect that trend to abate any time soon.

Fortunately, BBVA is on the case, noting that “geopolitical analysis is becoming a key element on the agenda for 2015.” Indeed. That’s why the bank has just launched their first ever “BBVA Research conflict & social unrest monthly update.”

From BBVA, on conflict:

During January, the presence of ISIS in the Middle East continued to be a threat while the Russian-Ukrainian crisis escalated, increasing geopolitical worries in the region. In contrast, territorial disputes and geopolitical tensions eased in South-Eastern Asia. Social unrest related to demands for democracy (North Africa), together with terrorism and economic demands (Europe), have also increased…

 

...key hot spots continued to be the Russia-Ukraine and ISIS conflict. The Russian-Ukraine crisis escalated again in January (see our previous hot topic) after a relatively calmer period during October-November. This triggered a new meeting in the EU level to discuss new sanctions. The situation in neighbouring countries (Armenia, Belarus, Georgia…) also remained tense.  In the Middle East, the International coalition forces regained some ground in Northern Syria (Kobane) and were able to stop the advance of ISIS in Iraq. However, it will take more time to secure peace in the region. Tensions also increased in Western Europe after the attacks in Paris and in Belgium.

And on protests:

Protests around the world have continued to intensify in January. Thus, the worsening trend since the fourth quarter of 2014 is still alive…

 

This means a return to tensions after the relaxation during last two years after the peak during the Arab Spring in 2011…

 

In regional terms, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries continued under social pressure. Demonstrations also intensified in western and central Europe and some Latin American countries, while they remained contained in most countries of East Asia.

Conflict and protest levels visualized:

 

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As you can see, the number of world conflicts to total world events is at its highest level in seven years and the number of protests to total world events has spiked of late after falling precipitously since the good old days of the Arab Spring and 7% periphery 10-year yields.