Recently, the intelligence community released an unclassified national threat assessment. In testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), offered some rare insight on the top challenges to U.S. and international security.
The DNI described the current and future threats as “a toxic mix of strategic competitors, regional powers, weak or failed states, and non-state actors using a variety of tools in overt and subtle ways to achieve their goals.” He singled out China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran—the “BIG 4” as he called them—for their particular threat to the U.S. and its international allies and partners.
The comprehensive report is divided into two parts: Global and regional threats. The former encompasses more abstract threats to national security, such as cyberattacks, terrorism, counterintelligence, influence and information operations in the United States, economic warfare, transnational organized crime, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation, and human trafficking. The latter section is concerned with more concrete and identifiable threats in each specific region.
With regard to Iran, the report predicts that Tehran will utilize its improved military capabilities to directly and indirectly attack U.S. interests in the region and even farther away. This truculence is driven by a “perception of increasing U.S., Saudi, and Israeli hostility,” writes the report, “as well as continuing border insecurity, and the influence of hardliners.”
When it comes to Europe, the report focuses on Russia’s influence operations that aim at estranging several European countries from the U.S. and leveraging this hold in order to lessen the economic sanctions imposed on Moscow. Interestingly, the report doesn’t mention the expansion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that is under heated debate both within and outside Europe. If constructed, the expanded pipeline will be pumping an astonishing 3.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from Russia into Europe, which will amount to a quarter of Europe’s energy needs.
Concerning China, the report states that Beijing is pursuing a multifaceted strategy that involves economic, political, and military aspects with the overall aim of achieving global superiority. In his statement, the DNI said, “As part of this trend, we anticipate China will attempt to further solidify and increase its control within its immediate sphere of influence in the South China Sea and its global presence farther abroad.”
The report also delineates Turkey’s regional ambitions as a potent destabilizing factor in the region, and particularly in Syria and Iraq.
You can read the full report here.