Geopolitical Risks Persist Amid Pandemic

April 7, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated many of the geopolitical risks we track every day–issues that are harder to monitor amidst continuous breaking developments related to coronavirus. While Predata’s clients continue to have access to a suite of Dashboards to monitor the spread and impact of the Coronavirus, they have also been receiving notifications in advance of emerging instability and violent threats around the world.

Early Warning for Recent Escalations

Predata customers received early warning ahead of escalating instability in West Africa and Venezuela.

West Africa: Militants Prey on Fragile Governments
On February 27, Predata alerted clients to the elevated near-term risk of a significant terrorist incident in Nigeria, based on recurring patterns in online attention last seen ahead of a Boko Haram militant attack in July 2019.

Just under a month later, on March 23, Boko Haram militants conducted two large scale attacks, one targeting Nigerian soldiers in Borno State and one targeting Chadian soldiers near Lake Chad. At least 70 were killed in Nigeria and 92 in Chad, the deadliest attack ever against the country’s military. Since then, jihadist militants have remained active across the region, driving attention to fragile governments too overwhelmed with coronavirus to respond to the threat, such as in Burkina Faso.

Venezuela: Early Signs Pandemic Would Amplify Crisis
On March 5, Predata customers received a notification that a number of instability indicators for Venezuela were rising simultaneously. Most notably, attention was increasing to the Brazil-Venezuela border, which was the site of increased migration and violent government crackdown at the height of the Venezuelan unrest early last year.

Since then, the collapse in global oil prices and an increase in cases in South America have only made the situation worse, leading to mass shortages of medicine, food, and fuel. Brazil closed its border with Venezuela on March 17 to contain the spread of the virus.

Risks on the Horizon

Other risks are still developing. Predata customers have received alerts on emerging instability in Ukraine and the European Union.

Ukraine: Zelensky’s Opposition Spiraling out of Control
After abruptly dismissing his cabinet at the beginning of March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky decided to begin negotiations with Russian-backed breakaway republics in Eastern Ukraine to resolve the ongoing conflict. Unsurprisingly, this prompted increased online attention to nationalist themes and groups, indicating backlash to the moves amongst nationalist circles.

Since then, as the coronavirus pandemic intensified, online attention moved beyond nationalist themes to corruption and Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration.

Zelensky won the presidency on an anti-corruption and pro-European platform that united his diverse electoral coalition. Increased scrutiny of these issues could be a sign of weakening domestic support, which would limit his ability to enact much needed rule of law reforms necessary to maintain access to world credit markets and stabilize public finances.

EU: Coronavirus Empowering Far Right Politics
Far right groups and ideology received increased attention across Europe as governments successively imposed lockdown measures throughout the middle of March.

Lockdown measures also drove Europeans to draw historical parallels with the continent’s past far right regimes. Italian attention to fascism surged when the government extended its lockdown nationwide and Spanish attention to counter-terrorist paramilitaries spiked after the government assigned the military to enforce social distancing measures. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has referred to coronavirus as the EU’s ‘biggest test’ since its founding; the increased salience of the largely eurosceptic far right suggests EU leaders face tremendous pressure to deliver.

Predata will continue to keep customers informed on how the coronavirus is affecting geopolitical risks as well as warning of other threats as they emerge.


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