Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… We present below some of the most interesting or relevant features for each section.

World (all matters related to war, international and national security) – Besides developments in the Islamic State War, and on the broader Jihadi front, continuing tensions between NATO and Russia, and related uncertainties for the situation in Ukraine, what stands out this week is, potentially, how much the U.S. and their supremacy are under threats and how they could fight back, or not. Interestingly, this perception of multiple threats to the U.S. only emerges if one considers various sections together, namely, world (of course), technology and armaments, energy and economy. We thus have together the decline of oil prices as well as a potentially obsolete U.S. defense missile system, each with probably combining impacts in economic, military and influence terms.

The drop in oil prices is most likely to seriously damage the shale industry, with potential serious adverse domestic economic impacts, all the more so that energy companies cannot participate in the new Arctic Russian projects because of sanctions. The secondary effect would be to seriously hamper U.S. hopes to find back an energy independency. This is actually not a danger but a threat, as the latter implies a will, and we here have a deliberate action by OPEC and other producer countries (read our 15 December 2014 forthcoming article on this issue).

Meanwhile, the development of China’s hypersonic missile has the potential to make obsolete the whole U.S. missile defense system (see corresponding article in the Weekly for more details and references). The consequences are not only to be thought in military terms but also in influence and economic terms: indeed, if the missile defense system is obsolete, will the U.S. still be able to sell it abroad, including through NATO? Will, for example, Eastern European countries still be keen at joining an alliance in such conditions? And if a perception of a weakening U.S. starts spreading, then will various nations be so inclined to sign something like the TTIP? The development and test of the Navy’s new laser weapon, as well as successes in space such as Orion’s flight last week, could be a way to counter perceptions of a declining America.

Now, it is necessary to wonder why those threats arose. Is there a real will to harm the U.S. or are we more in the case of various actors trying to protect their own interests? In the second case, which is much more likely, then this would mean that the U.S. leadership would need to seriously reassess their policies, as well as the perceptions their various actions, or non-actions according to case, and behaviour generate abroad, and then to design grand strategy, strategy and policy accordingly. The obvious answer, which would be to respond aggressively to multiple threats coming from various actors, would most probably have adverse consequences, as it would only reaffirm others in the need to try protecting their interests. We might then head towards a seriously tense, escalating and accelerating situation.

Energy and environment security – Besides the host of articles on energy prices, from an environmental perspective, Dr Keith Daum underlines “The big news this week is the Climate Summit in Lima, Peru. Some countries are finding it hard to make a commitment. Even the U.S. despite presidential plans, must face other forces at work.” Dr Daum estimates that “there will be a bottom-up push against CO2 rules worldwide by some affected populations, as shows the example of the Crow Indian Tribe in Montana.  These people are already hurting financially and reducing coal production will hurt them directly. This scenario is most likely to be played out in many local areas around the world. “

Science – A lot of interesting articles were crowd-sourced this week, with notably a potential further destabilization of the climate through a warming of the ocean that would unbalance methane seafloor deposits, a synthesis on the state of machine intelligence and advances towards carbon capture and removal of toxic wastes.

Ebola – One good and a potentially very bad news need to be pointed out. On the positive side, trials for the Canadian vaccine are proceedings and showing good results. Much more negatively, the Ebola outbreak has now reached the Indian subcontinent, with a first diagnosed case coming from Liberia. This is an imported case, thus the situation is not dramatic. However, should the comforting pattern of absence of widespread domestic contagion we saw in the US and Europe not repeat itself, then the situation would have the potential to evolve very negatively. The situation in India should be closely monitored. According to the WHO latest situation report, we now have “a total of 17942 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of EVD and 6388 deaths … reported up to the end of 7 December 2014.”

Read the 11 December scan → 

The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues. It was started as an experiment with Paper.li as a way to collect ideas, notably through Twitter. Its success and its usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilizing problems and issues.

If you wish to consult the scan after the end of the week period, use the “archives” directly on The Weekly.

Featured image: “C-band Radar-dish Antenna”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons