This is the 9 July 2020 issue of our weekly scan for political and geopolitical risks (open access).

Editorial: The tension with China does not stop rising, as the U.S. struggles painfully with the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world is now fraught with so much uncertainty, two actors notably, Turkey and India, try to take advantage of the situation to push forward their agenda, while the Islamic State is still around. Meanwhile, many European states and the EU, as well as the financial and economic world, for a large part, seem to have chosen to ignore the pandemic, even so the COVID-19 does not relent, far from it, even though we only start discovering possible long term neurological impacts of the disease after recovery. As Ed Yong, in The Atlantic puts it as far as Americans are concerned, but this can be applied to many actors, “the coronavirus pandemic has become white noise—old news that has faded into the background of their lives” ( “The Pandemic Experts Are Not Okay”, 7 July 2020).

As a result, from the ideal point of view of stability and security for all ensured by legitimate political authorities, warning signals are in the red. The longer the current situation lasts, the more likely the odds to see unpleasant outcomes for so many actors.

In this overall framework, we also need to ask a couple of disruptive questions, to be true to the red team approach. Which countries handle better the COVID-19 pandemic and thus appear to care more for their citizens: countries in the Far East such as South Korea, Japan and China, or many G7 countries? Does that imply that values such as “human rights” are questioned at a very deep level in the countries treating the pandemic as “white noise”? If core values are questioned, then what is the impact on society and on its governance? As a result, if people and citizens do not feel protected, and in case a foreign power were to develop smart offensive strategies to increase their influence – and assets – abroad, with whom would side the forlorn citizens?

Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

The 9 July 2020 scan→

Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including AI, QIS, technology and weapons, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.

Featured image: Milky Way above SPECULOOS / The Search for habitable Planets – EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars (SPECULOOS) is searching for Earth-like planets around tiny, dim stars in front of a panorama of the Milky Way. Credit: ESO/P. Horálek.

Published by Dr Helene Lavoix (MSc PhD Lond)

Dr Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the President/CEO of The Red Team Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for international relations, national and international security issues. Her current focus is on the war in Ukraine, international order and the rise of China, the overstepping of planetary boundaries and international relations, the methodology of SF&W, radicalisation as well as new tech and security.

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