|Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testified on Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the intelligence community’s assessment of worldwide threats. Lawmakers largely focused on the successes and shortcomings of U.S. intelligence in assessing Russia’s capability in Ukraine and how they relate to China’s calculus regarding Taiwan. Berrier said that Chinese President Xi Jinping is watching closely how Russia’s war in Ukraine unfolds and the global response as Beijing weighs the risks of potentially invading Taiwan. “It’s going to take some time for them to sort out all elements of — diplomatic, information, military, economic — that have occurred with this crisis,” he added. Haines said that Beijing would rather take control of Taiwan through diplomatic and economic pressure, but the threat of a military takeover between now and 2030 remains acute. “It’s our view that they are working hard to effectively put themselves in a position in which their military is capable of taking Taiwan over our intervention,” Haines said. “They would prefer not to use military force to take Taiwan. They’d prefer to use other means,” she added.
Berrier and Haines both listed China as an unparalleled priority for the intelligence community and a major security challenge for the U.S. and called its expanding nuclear arsenal “historic.” They said lessons learned from Ukraine’s defensive war against Russia and American assistance have provided key takeaways for how Washington can engage with Taipei, pointing to how Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s leadership has inspired the forces, the success of small tactical military units against Russian units incapable of acting independently, and “effective training with the right weapons systems.”
Haines also said on Tuesday that Russia’s refocus on the Donbas after failing to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv was likely “only a temporary shift” and assessed that “Putin’s strategic goals have probably not changed.” “The uncertain nature of the battle, which is developing into a war of attrition, combined with the reality that Putin faces a mismatch between his ambitions and Russia’s current conventional military capabilities likely means the next few months could see us moving along a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory,” Haines testified. “At the very least, we believe the dichotomy will usher in a period of more ad hoc decision making in Russia.” Haines added that Putin could seek “more drastic means” on the home front and abroad to achieve his objectives, including imposing martial law, shifting industrial production to sustain the war effort and “potentially escalatory military actions.” Berrier testified that Russia seeks to create a land bridge from Crimea to Transnistria, but cannot do so without further military mobilization.
Berrier said terrorist groups within Afghanistan are still about a year away from being able to attack targets in western countries, but remain a significant concern for U.S. military planners. When asked about the threats from al-Qaeda and ISIS in Afghanistan, Berrier said, “I’m more concerned about ISIS-K in Afghanistan, and the fact that they have had some successful and catastrophic attacks within Afghanistan.” “Al-Qaeda has had some problems with reconstituting leadership, and to a degree the Taliban have held to their word about not allowing al-Qaeda [to] rejuvenate,” he added. “But it’s something that we’re watching very, very carefully.” Associated Press, CNN, Reuters, The Hill, Wall Street Journal
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