United States faces 'increasingly fragile world order,' spy chiefs say

March 12, 2024 10:00 am

[Source: Reuters]

U.S. 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 the U.S. Senate.

“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 U.S. 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.

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China is providing economic and security assistance to Russia as it wages war in Ukraine, by supporting Russia’s industrial base, the report said.

“Trade between China and Russia has been increasing since the start of the war in Ukraine, and (Chinese) exports of goods with potential military use rose more than threefold since 2022,” it said.

Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, urged lawmakers to approve more military assistance for Ukraine. She said it was “hard to imagine how Ukraine” could hold territory it has recaptured from Russia without more assistance from Washington.

She said it is “absolutely critical” that Congress pass a bill that would provide $60 billion in new military assistance for Kyiv. Republican House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, an ally of former President Donald Trump, has so far refused to call a vote on the measure, which has passed the Democratic-run Senate.

Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns told the Senate Intelligence Committee that U.S. intelligence assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not serious about negotiating an end to the conflict, despite economic consequences “fast making Russia the economic vassal to China.”


Burns, like Haines, strongly urged continuing support for Ukraine both to bolster the government in Kyiv and send a message to China about aggression toward neighbours, such as Taiwan or in the South China Sea. He said new U.S. military assistance would give Kyiv leverage in future “serious” talks with Moscow.

“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,” Burns said.

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,” 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 U.S. interests.

After a protester interrupted the hearing with shouts about the need to protect civilians in Gaza, 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.