In horror, the West is looking at the images coming from Kabul. Instead of within weeks, as experts were still predicting on Friday, the Taliban took over rule in Kabul within days, actually even hours. Photos from the presidential palace illustrate this powerfully. This shows one thing above all: Western governments and NATO have never really understood Afghanistan and the Taliban – and new misconceptions are already looming. Since Afghanistan has relied heavily on Western aid in recent years, the Taliban will very quickly use the ongoing talks in Doha with the West to further economic cooperation and ask for aid payments, according to the current expert assessment.
This may be a possibility, but if the past has taught us anything, it is that the Taliban do not behave in line with Western expectations. China, which is already targeting Afghanistan’s rare earths, and a renewed expansion of drug plantations are likely to be more attractive alternatives for the Taliban.
The reason for the war against the Taliban 20 years ago were the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001. Although the Taliban themselves were not held responsible for the attacks, for the U.S. and its allies they were complicit and enablers. Given a similar constellation, why should the Taliban say “no” to international terrorism today? The main concern in this context is the low level of resistance to the Taliban by the armed forces and civilian population, which have been dominated by the West for decades. It seems that the era of violence and harsh ideology is back. Western countries and the business world should prepare for this.
MBI CONIAS Risk Intelligence supports you in the analysis of conflict situations. For more information, please contact us.
About the author: Dr. Nicolas Schwank Chief Data Scientist Political Risk Michael Bauer International GmbH
Supply chain visibility with MBI CONIAS Risk Intelligence Data
On June 11, 2021, the German parliament passed the “Act on Corporate Due Diligence in Supply Chains”. The new Supply Chain Act obliges companies above a certain size to better meet their responsibilities in the supply chain with regard to respecting internationally recognized human rights. It will be binding for companies with more than 3,000 employees from January 1, 2023, and for companies with more than 1,000 employees from 2024.
New law demands transparency and risk management along the entire supply chain
Many companies perceive the new Supply Chain Act as a major challenge: It requires transparency and risk management along the entire supply chain and, at the same time, special knowledge about the status of human rights violations and environmental offenses on site. Failure to comply with the new requirements on minimum social and environmental standards within the supply chain could result in loss of image, loss of sales, fines and exclusion from federal procurement procedures.
The upcoming law confronts companies with new tasks and obligations for which there is often too little in-house expertise. Risks have to be identified, analyzed and appropriate measures taken. The lack of transparency within fragmented supply chains in particular makes risk management difficult for companies. Obtaining data involves a great deal of effort and assessing the situation is associated with great uncertainty.
Solution for the analysis and visualization of risks supports risk minimization
This is where the joint approach of MBI and the VertiGIS companies comes in. MBI CONIAS data is integrated into the risk management and business continuity solution of VertiGIS. This provides an effective and globally applicable solution that enables the analysis and visualization of risks along the entire supply chain. Risks can be identified, evaluated and suitable countermeasures can be taken. In this context, indicators and further information on the human rights situation as well as the environmental situation can be shown for locations worldwide, risks can be anticipated and mitigated through appropriate measures.
CONIAS has its origins in the early detection of conflicts: This means that it not only shows where there currently are violations of the Supply Chain Act, but also where human rights violations and climate damage measures are improving or worsening. This creates transparency in the supply chain and sustainability is already achieved in the procurement process. The CONIAS data is continuously updated. In the event of changes in the characteristic values, users are informed in detail and measures are recommended. Risks can be reduced or avoided altogether through foresighted risk assessment and adequately coordinated catalogs of measures.
It’s a paradox: Political risks, including wars and political violence, are consistently ranked among the biggest risk factors for business managers. Supply chains can be disrupted, inventories can be destroyed, sales markets can disappear. Nevertheless, the area of early detection and warning of political risks receives little attention from internationally operating companies. It is often assumed that crises and wars are too complex to be effectively predicted – but the scientifically based CONIAS approach was developed for precisely that purpose. One of the basic methods used to understand and more quickly classify the multi-layered risk situations is pattern recognition.
Pattern recognition is derived from general human approaches
For the complex field of political risks, pattern recognition is so well suited because it closely resembles general human behavior. An example of this is the following scenario: Two people, 20 and 50 years old, start their new job in a small company with ten employees on the same day. While the younger of the two tends to be quiet and reticent about the new situation, acting rather defensively and preferring to listen rather than speaking himself, the older one benefits from many years of professional experience and several job changes. Having experienced this situation many times before, the older person can therefore better and more quickly assess people he encounters in the new situation. He compares their behavior, their body language, the sound of their voice, but also their position with people he met on earlier “first days at work”. In doing so, the older person recognizes patterns that give him orientation in the new situation and derives conclusions for his behavior.
The MBI CONIAS database records non-violent early phases and other conflicts
People make use of pattern recognition – no matter whether through their own experience or through experience acquired through telling or reading – and thus orient themselves in new situations. The CONIAS approach and the CONIAS database are also committed to this idea. Unlike conventional conflict databases, which only record wars or violent phases of conflict, the CONIAS database also records the non-violent early phases of these later wars. In addition – and this is what makes the CONIAS approach so special – other conflicts that begin similarly to later wars but ultimately take a peaceful course are also recorded. Only in this way is it possible to make statements about the vulnerability of certain conflict constellations. This can be explained as follows: It is true that a large proportion of the few interstate wars since 1945 have been fought over territory. Examples include Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (1991) or the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorny Karabakh region (2020). Nevertheless, conversely, it would be wrong to say that territorial or border disputes lead to war particularly frequently. Currently, there are about 120 recorded border disputes between states, almost all of which are settled without violence only at the diplomatic level. Other sources speak of an even higher number of unresolved border disputes.
Only a comprehensive collection of data allows to properly assess the risk potential of border disputes
In total, the CONIAS conflict database contains information on the course of more than 1,900 intra- and interstate, violent and non-violent conflicts since 1945. A large number of indicators are recorded for each conflict and actor involved, reflecting all dynamic changes in conflict resolution, but also in the socio-economic environment. Thus, the CONIAS database provides millions of data points supplying statistical information on global conflict behavior. One of the most important findings of empirical conflict research can also be confirmed by CONIAS: Democracies do not wage wars against other democracies. We have already integrated this “law” of democratic peace into our thinking to such an extent that, for example, even the most severe low blows in bilateral relations between Germany and the U.S. did not cause any fear of war even among the greatest pessimists.
Especially in areas not illuminated by other conflict databases, the CONIAS database reveals more points of reference
The database has shown, for example, that culturally driven conflicts have become significantly more important since the end of the Cold War in 1990 and especially after 9/11/2001. At the same time, however, the CONIAS database shows that over time, it is not the number of different religions in a country that makes it vulnerable to intrastate violence, but the number of different languages spoken in the country.
The CONIAS conflict database is continuously maintained, and current conflict events continue to be recorded. Every quarter, knowledge about the evolution of conflicts around the world grows by tens of thousands of data points. Currently, the CONIAS team is working to better understand the links between political conflicts, human rights violations, and damage or destruction to natural livelihoods. The new supply chain law, as well as an ever-growing sense of responsibility for human rights and the environment, requires companies and ultimately every individual to act carefully in this regard. We would be pleased not only to provide you with points of reference, but also to support you with our comprehensive know-how and long-standing expertise. If you are interested, please contact our Sales Team.
About the author:
Dr. Nicolas Schwank
Chief Data Scientist Political Risk
Michael Bauer International GmbH
References:  Allianz (Ed.): Allianz Risk Barometer, Various Years. Last 2021  Trappl, Robert (Ed.) (2006): Programming for peace. Computer-aided methods for international conflict resolution and prevention. Dordrecht: Springer; Schrodt, Philip A. (2000): Pattern Recognition of International Crises Using Hidden Markov Models. In: Diana Richards (Ed.): Political complexity. Nonlinear models of politics. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, pp. 296.  Schwank, Nicolas (2012): Konflikte, Krisen, Kriege. Die Entwicklungsdynamiken politischer Konflikte seit 1945. Baden-Baden: Nomos (Weltregionen im Wandel, 9); Schwank, Nicolas, et al. “Der Heidelberger Ansatz Der Konfliktdatenerfassung.” Zeitschrift Für Friedens- Und Konfliktforschung, vol. 2, no. 1, 2013, pp. 32–63.  https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook  Schwank, Nicolas (2012): Konflikte, Krisen, Kriege. (vide supra)  Small, Melvin; Singer, J. David (1976): The war-proneness of democratic regimes, 1816-1965. In: The Jerusalem journal of international relations. 1 (4), pp. 50–69.  Croissant, Aurel (2009) et al.: Kulturelle Konflikte seit 1945. Die kulturellen Dimensionen des globalen Konfliktgeschehens. 1st edition. Baden-Baden: Nomos (Weltregionen im Wandel, 6). Stiftung, Bertelsmann (2010): Culture and Conflict in Global Perspective. The Cultural Dimensions of Global Conflicts 1945 to 2007. Guetersloh: Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung.  Ibid.
The signals are worrisome: The Russian Federation’s troop concentrations on the Ukrainian border are unusual and at the same time frightening. After all, there are clear parallels with the last outbreak of war. Moreover, since this Russian-directed war in the Ukrainian Donbass region and the occupation of Crimea by Russian soldiers, relations between the two states are worse than any between other European states.
Is there a threat of war between Russia and the Ukraine?
Overall, the situation has to be described as very serious and the criticism from the Ukraine and other eastern NATO states that Germany and other Western states do not understand the situation in all its depth and threat is probably correct. Evaluations from our MBI CONIAS Conflict Database, in which the course of more than 1,000 political conflicts since 1945 is stored, also clearly show that in well over 50% of all recorded cases such troop concentrations were followed by wars or other highly violent military conflicts. Most recently, a report spread in Russia by the state-controlled media stating that the Ukraine was planning reconquests was highly concerning. Actions like this prepare the important domestic legitimacy needed by the Russian government for another war against the Ukraine. Companies are advised to be extremely mindful of this tense situation, to refrain from avoidable travel to the Ukraine, and to prepare for disruptions in the Ukrainian supply chain in contingency plans.
Why is this development taking place now?
An analysis of the situation always includes the question: What is the significance of the timing of the action? In other words: Why is the deployment taking place now, why not two months ago, what has changed? At least two answers are possible here, one confirming the dangerousness of the action, the other potentially providing a rational argument raising hope for a peaceful outcome to the situation. What has to be observed critically is that Russia has extensively issued passports to the population in the disputed regions of eastern Ukraine in recent years. Estimates put the number of new Russian citizens at at least 400,000. This could give Russia an argument for now wanting to protect this segment of the population on official Russian territory as well.
Is Russia testing the new U.S. President?
The second view dates back to the days of the Cold War, but given the current state of the international system, it may be accurate for precisely that reason: Russia could be testing the new U.S. President. Joe Biden has been in office for less than 100 days. His plans for a huge domestic economic stimulus program, the announcement of the withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan, and the additionally tense budget situation after COVID make it clear that he shouldn’t have any interest in further international military engagements. Joe Biden, however, now has to demonstrate how he will respond to the provocations from Russia: It could be the overture for U.S.-Russian relations for years to come. It seems clear that U.S. President Biden is not going to engage in a military confrontation for the Ukraine any more than U.S. President Obama did during the previous crisis in 2014. In this context, he has to make it clear that the U.S. will not accept a similar approach as in 2014. Only if Biden acts quickly and decisively now and credibly conveys that the U.S. has a renewed interest in playing the role of the world’s policeman, the build-up can be halted and the Russian troops on the border to Ukraine under more or less credible justifications can be reduced. Otherwise, Russia might try to take advantage of the power vacuum created by the U.S. – as other regional powers have done. The result would be a further weakening of the international system with many more international crises to come.
Political risks have so far been considered complex and difficult to grasp. To learn more about MBI’s CONIAS Risk Intelligence and how it can support businesses in identifying risks and developing targeted adaptation strategies, contact our Sales Team.
About the author:
Dr. Nicolas Schwank
Chief Data Scientist Political Risk
Michael Bauer International GmbH
Being a specialist for small-scale data for Geomarketing, Michael Bauer International has grown to one of the largest global data providers for over ten years. MBI unites passion and scientific know-how to provide globally consistent and comparable geographic data.