Politics

United States faces ‘increasingly fragile world order,’ spy chiefs say

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WASHINGTON — US intelligence agencies said on Monday the country faces an “increasingly fragile world order,” strained by great power competition, transnational challenges and regional conflicts, in a report released as agency leaders testified in Congress.

“An ambitious but anxious China, a confrontational Russia, some regional powers, such as Iran, and more capable non-state actors are challenging longstanding rules of the international system as well as US primacy within it,” the agencies said in their 2024 Annual Threat Assessment.

The report largely focused on threats from China and Russia, the greatest rivals to the United States, more than two years after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, as well as noting the risks of broader conflict related to Israel’s campaign against Hamas in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attacks.

China is providing economic and security assistance to Russia as it wages war in Ukraine, by supporting Russia’s industrial base, the report said. It also warned that China could use technology to try to influence this year’s US elections.

“(China) may attempt to influence the US elections in 2024 at some level because of its desire to sideline critics of China and magnify US societal divisions,” the report said.

In her testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines urged lawmakers to approve more military assistance for Ukraine. It was “hard to imagine how Ukraine” could hold territory it has recaptured from Russia without more assistance from Washington, she said.

The threats report noted that trade between China and Russia has been increasing since the start of the Ukraine war, and that Chinese exports of goods with potential military use rose more than threefold since 2022.

Republican House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, an ally of former President Donald Trump, has so far refused to call a vote on a bill that would provide $60 billion more for Ukraine. The measure has passed the Democratic-run Senate.

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Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns, like Haines, said continuing support for Ukraine would send a message to China about aggression toward Taiwan or in the South China Sea.

“It is our assessment that (Chinese leader) Xi Jinping was sobered, you know, by what happened. … He didn’t expect that Ukraine would resist with the courage and tenacity the Ukrainians demonstrated,” Mr. Burns said.

Ms. Haines noted concerns that the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas could spread global insecurity. “The crisis in Gaza is a stark example of how regional developments have the potential of broader and even global implications,” Ms. Haines said.

She noted attacks by Houthi militias on shipping and said the militant groups al Qaeda and ISIS “inspired by Hamas” have directed supporters to conduct attacks against Israeli and US interests.

After a protester interrupted the hearing with shouts about the need to protect civilians in Gaza, Mr. Burns was asked about children in the Palestinian enclave.

“The reality is that there are children who are starving. They’re malnourished as a result of the fact that humanitarian assistance can’t get to them. It’s very difficult to distribute humanitarian assistance effectively unless you have a ceasefire,” he said.

Emotions rose in the hearing as some senators discussed immigration across the US border with Mexico, which Mr. Trump has made a focus of his campaign to defeat Democratic President Joe Biden in the November election.

FBI Director Christopher Wray expressed concern about the “terrorism implications from potential targeting of vulnerabilities at the border,” noting rising threats from Americans inspired by Islamist groups and other foreign militants since Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct 7.

“The threat has gone to a whole new level,” Mr. Wray said. — Reuters