Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, listens during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

U.S. Intelligence Warns That Russia and China Are Seizing on Global Turmoil

(Bloomberg) -- Russia and China are taking advantage of changes in the “strategic environment” that has prevailed for almost a century to gain influence and undermine American objectives, according to a new strategy issued by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The document released Tuesday says global trends such as the weakening of international institutions, attacks on Western democracy and isolationist tendencies within governments have emerged as major challenges.

U.S. Intelligence Warns That Russia and China Are Seizing on Global Turmoil

“Russian efforts to increase its influence and authority are likely to continue and may conflict with U.S. goals and priorities in multiple regions,” according to the strategy released by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. “Chinese military modernization and continued pursuit of economic and territorial predominance in the Pacific region and beyond remain a concern, though opportunities exist to work with Beijing on issues of mutual concern” including North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

While the concerns about Russia are at odds with President Donald Trump’s efforts to forge better relations with President Vladimir Putin, the worries about China are in sync with the president’s confrontation with President Xi Jinping over trade and intellectual property.

Space, Cyber Weapons

An international race to dominate space and rapid advances in technology, including cyber weapons, also pose new challenges for the U.S., according to the 36-page document, which is issued every four years to drive U.S. intelligence collection and analysis.

“The strategic environment is changing rapidly, and the United States faces an increasingly complex and uncertain world in which threats are becoming ever more diverse and interconnected,” the strategy states.

The reference to a weakened international order is a new element compared with the strategy issued in 2014. It comes amid political turmoil in the U.S. and allies, including moves by Trump to pull back from international obligations.

“Traditional adversaries will continue attempts to gain and assert influence, taking advantage of changing conditions in the international environment -- including the weakening of the post-WWII international order and dominance of Western democratic ideals, increasingly isolationist tendencies in the West, and shifts in the global economy,” according to the new document.

Space, which wasn’t mentioned in the 2014 report, is recognized as a new frontier in the new strategy. Trump has ordered creation of a Space Force and called for additional funding to expand U.S. missile defense systems, including the possible use of space-based sensors and directed-energy weapons.

“No longer a solely U.S. domain, the democratization of space poses significant challenges for the United States,” the new strategy states. “Russia and China will continue to pursue a full range of anti-satellite weapons as a means to reduce U.S. military effectiveness and overall security.”

The strategy also recognizes challenges associated with climate change and resource scarcity but it doesn’t elaborate on them.

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