Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence, discussed the intelligence community’s assessment of China and Russia – the United States’ strategic competitors – during testimony before Congress this morning.
Haines told Parliament’s intelligence committee that China “remains an unmatched priority for the intelligence community.”
She said China is getting ever closer to being a peer competitor to the United States economically, militarily and technologically.
“China is particularly effective in bringing together a coordinated holistic approach to government to demonstrate its strength and force neighbors to agree to its preferences, including its territorial and maritime requirements and assert sovereignty over Taiwan,” she told a parliamentary panel. “President Xi Jinping and China’s other leaders are determined to force unification with Taiwan on Beijing’s tour.”
While China prefers to avoid an armed conflict, Chinese leaders have increased diplomatic, economic and military pressure on the island. “At the same time, Beijing is preparing to use military force if it decides it is necessary,” she said.
She noted that China is also committed to its largest expansion of nuclear forces and arsenal diversification ever in its history. The Chinese want to match or surpass American capabilities in space. The nation also presents “the widest, most active and persistent cyber espionage threat against U.S. governments and private sector networks,” she said.
Russia also remains a focus of the intelligence community, deserved in the light of Vladimir Putin’s recent and tragic invasion of Ukraine, which has produced a shock to the geopolitical order with implications for the future that we have only begun to understand but are certain of. to be consistent, “she said.
The intelligence community gave ample warning about Putin’s plans, and US officials shared these intelligence with the world. “This is a case where I think we all wish we had been wrong,” Haines said. “The invasion has actually proceeded in accordance with the plan we judged the Russian military would follow.”
Haines said Putin did not expect the fierce defense from Ukraine, nor did he expect the overall and swift response from the world.
Russia’s failure to quickly conquer Kiev and overwhelm Ukrainian forces has deprived Moscow of its rapid military victory [they] probably had originally expected would prevent the United States and NATO from being able to provide meaningful military assistance to Ukraine, “she said.” In addition, we believe that Moscow underestimated the strength of Ukraine’s resistance and the degree of internal military challenges we observe, which include a poorly constructed plan , moral problems and significant logistical problems. ”
Even if Putin ignores the condemnation of the world and the increasingly effective sanctions against Russia, “it will be particularly challenging for the Russians to maintain and control Ukrainian territory and install a sustainable pro-Russian regime in Kiev in the light of what we consider is likely to be a persistent and significant uprising, “she said.
Haines said the Russian and Ukrainian militaries are likely to have suffered thousands of casualties along with several civilian deaths. “Moreover, Russian forces operate at least with ruthless disregard for the security of non-combatants,” Haines said.
She criticized Russia for shelling civilian sites and firing missiles into the hearts of Ukrainian cities. She also specifically pointed to the Russian attack on a nuclear power plant as the culmination of contempt for civil security.
The West’s overall response to Russian aggression almost certainly surprised Moscow. “In particular, while Putin probably foresaw many of the current sanctions that would be imposed when he weighed the cost of the invasion, we estimate that he did not foresee the extent to which the United States and its allies and partners would take steps to undermine his ability. to mitigate Western actions, “she said. Putin also did not anticipate the withdrawal of the private sector from Russia.
Still, the intelligence community estimates that Putin will escalate – “substantially double” – to achieve Ukrainian disarmament and neutrality to prevent it from further integrating with the United States and NATO if it does not reach diplomatic talks, the director said.
“We assess that Putin feels offended, the West does not give him proper respect and perceives this as a war he cannot afford to lose,” she said. “But what he might be willing to accept as a victory may change over time, given the significant costs he incurs.”