What was the most significant geo-political event of 2014? It depends on your perspective. The return of American military intervention in the Middle East – including strikes against jihadist insurgents in Iraq, with US and Iranian planes sharing the same airspace – was an important moment. Washington also intervened in Syria’s messy civil war in 2014, an on-going four-year conflict that has so far cost an estimated 250,000 lives.
Those focussed on domestic issues may rightly regard the vote against Scottish independence, the preservation of our now 308-year-old United Kingdom, as the most important event of last year – even if, as seems increasingly likely, we’ll face another independence referendum relatively soon.
Both the ousting of Ukraine’s President Yanukovich last February and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea are up there among the major international developments of the last twelve months. Certainly, the geo-political aftershocks of both moves could be with us for years to come.
Phhhhew, we got through the summer. So often, certainly in recent years, August has been a wicked month when it comes to financial markets. Back in August 2010, the Dow Jones index of leading American stocks lost a hefty 4.5pc. In 2011, the August sell-off was bigger, as US equities fell 5.1pc.
Last summer, of course, throughout August sovereign bond yields spiraled across the Eurozone periphery. Numerous well-manicured nails were bitten to the quick as investors fretted about one or more nations crashing out of the single currency.
Late last Tuesday, after months of intense lobbying, and campaigning visits to 47 countries, Roberto Azevedo was confirmed as the next director general of the World Trade Organisation. Amidst the Queen’s Speech and the resignation of a certain football manager, Azevedo’s appointment barely flickered on the UK news radar. Yet it was an event of some significance that could have major implications for the future shape of the global economy.
While less well-known than the International Monetary Fund, the WTO is the most important economic multilateral on earth. With 159 member states, this Geneva-based organisation can be likened to a vast and highly specialised international court, designed to arbitrate on complex trade disputes between governments that come into conflict, so as to keep protectionism in check.
Political tensions on the Korean peninsula have lately escalated. In February, North Korea carried out a nuclear weapons test, defying tighter United Nations sanctions.
Kim Jong Un’s regime has since been threatening pre-emptive nuclear strikes against Pyongyang’s enemies, the recently-installed 30-year old “supreme leader” clumsily attempting to rally the moribund population of one of the world’s most secretive states.