As we move into 2024, many people may look back over the past two decades at calamity after calamity and wonder when the next crisis will occur.

In 2008 we witnessed the financial crash, almost imploding the entire world banking system. The crash caused a global economic recession, the remnants of which still affect us today. That same year Vladimir Putin demonstrated his ruthlessness by invading Georgia and annexing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in a violent conflict that left thousands dead.

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The Arab Spring erupted in Tunisia in December 2010, triggered by corruption and economic stagnation. It quickly spread across much of the Arab world, engulfing Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, with many leaders being deposed and protests leading to armed rebellions and civil war. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown on dissenting rebels, with the help of Russia and Iran, has so far claimed the lives of more than 600,000 people, mostly civilians. In Yemen, the Houthi rebels, also again backed by the Iranian mullahs, seized control of the capital Sanaa and much of North Yemen. The resulting flood of refugees from the Middle East besieged the EU and UK and rapidly developed into a humanitarian crisis, as hundreds drowned in small boats trying to cross the Mediterranean and the English Channel.

In 2014, bolstered by western appeasement, Putin struck again, annexing Crimea and invading the Donbas area of Ukraine. But preoccupied by Brexit and the UK’s decision in 2016 to leave the EU, western powers looked the other way.

The Herald: Putin will be looking forward eagerly to Trump’s re-electionPutin will be looking forward eagerly to Trump’s re-election (Image: PA)

Although the majority in Britain thought that Brexit was the solution, recent polls show that they now think that Brexit is the problem. Exploiting the Brexit conundrum, Putin ploughed on with his plans to aggressively expand Russian territory. He soon found an ally with the election in America of the populist Donald Trump, who described him as a “genius” for annexing Crimea and even proclaimed “the rest of Ukraine will fall…fairly quickly.” Putin will be looking forward eagerly to Trump’s re-election as US president this year, having fulfilled his prediction by invading Ukraine in February 2022, with more than one million casualties killed and wounded on both sides so far, again including tens of thousands of civilians.

Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine came just as the world was trying to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic and the associated lockdown that caused economic chaos, adding yet another layer to the global perma-crisis affecting us all. The lethal Covid-19 strain came from China, dramatically altering our lives and killing millions around the world. The combination of the Covid lockdown and the war in Ukraine triggered an energy crunch that saw business, industry and household bills soaring, adding to the cost-of-living crisis.

Against this dramatic background, society showed a great deal of ingenuity and flexibility. Working from home became the new norm and Zoom immediately grew into the favoured form of communication. Despite all the woes of spiralling energy costs and inflation, the general public still condemned Putin and supported sanctions against Russia. Security became a prime concern and the world’s attention focused on China and Taiwan, keen to avoid another invasion that could provoke a global conflict. Meanwhile a greater security issue was brewing. Inexplicably missed by Israeli intelligence, the terrorist organisation Hamas, utilising a network of sophisticated underground tunnels in Gaza, had spent several years preparing for a full-scale attack on Israel.

Hamas militants share a philosophy of hatred. They hate the Jews. They hate Christians. They hate atheists. They hate alcohol, music and western freedoms. These obsessions manifested themselves in a frenzy of brutality and murder on October 7 last year, when Hamas attacked young partygoers attending the Supernova music festival at the Re’im Kibbutz, just three miles from the border with Gaza. The all-night, alcohol-fuelled party would have represented the embodiment of all of the militants’ warped prejudices, unleashing a bloodbath of mass slaughter, torture, rape and butchery.

Israeli retaliation has led to over 20,000 deaths in Gaza to date, including thousands of innocent men, women and children. Whole towns and cities have been razed to the ground. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says that he will not stop until Hamas has been completely destroyed. But the terrible price he is exacting from Gaza will certainly create a new generation of terrorists who seek revenge, not only against Israel, but also against her western allies. 2024 may see a resurgence of jihadist terror outrages in America, the EU and the UK.

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As if all of this was not enough, the world now faces a climate emergency where human activity has seen global temperatures increase by 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period, causing extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts, flooding, winter storms, hurricanes and wildfires. Without global commitments to reduce climate-polluting emissions, entire populations are at risk.

But let’s avoid pessimism and despair. There’s already enough of that. We need to work together to overcome adversity. The UK, EU and US need to unite to tackle the perma-crisis. We must remain resolute in our backing of Zelenskyy and Ukraine. We must abandon our naïve addiction to appeasing dictatorships like China and Iran. We need to be better prepared for the major transition to our lives that will be required to meet the challenges of climate change. We have to get ahead of the competition, by strengthening our industrial base and making Scotland and the UK more attractive to investment and innovation. If we are to find our place in the new world economically and politically, we need to do so in close cooperation with our friends and allies globally.

Nelson Mandela said: “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.”

Struan Stevenson represented Scotland in the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014. He was Vice President of the European People’s Party/European Democrats (EPP/ED) Group 2004-2009