This speech by Pauline Neville-Jones, a senior Tory spokeswoman in the House of Lords and a former chairwoman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee, is worth reading in full, but I’d highlight, in particular, this:
The United States intelligence community has looked at some of these issues. Its current Threat Assessment observes that “roughly a quarter of the countries in the world have already experienced low-level instability such as government changes because of the current slowdown. Europe and the former Soviet Union have experienced the bulk of the anti-state demonstrations”. In other words, have already been and will continue to be a rise in social unrest directly attributable to the economic downturn. No doubt not all of it will be peaceful.
The US Threat Assessment goes on to say that “although two-thirds of countries in the world have sufficient financial or other means to limit the impact for the moment, much of Latin America, former Soviet Union states and sub-Saharan Africa lack sufficient cash reserves, access to international aid or credit, or other coping mechanism. Statistical modeling shows that economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they persist over a one to two year period”.
In simple language, some parts of the world have less resilience than others and if the crisis goes on for more than a couple of years or so some governments are likely to be toppled. The political insecurity of governments can itself be a potent driver of both repression and economic nationalism which they may see as shortcuts to greater security. In reality such actions are likely both to exacerbate political tension and prolong the global downturn.