U.S. intel chief: Risk of global conflict at highest point since Cold War

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that the current threat environment was high and that the risk of interstate war was at its highest point since the Cold War.

“The risk of interstate conflict, including among great powers, is higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” he said.

“The most immediate threats of regional interstate conflict in the next year come from North Korea and from Saudi-Iranian use of proxies in their rivalry,” he said. “At the same time, the threat of state and non-state use of weapons of mass destruction will continue to grow.”

He said that “malign actors” including China and Russia would use conventional and asymmetrical means to challenge U.S. superiority around the globe, including cyber- and information-warfare.

Coats also said that the U.S. intelligence community is unanimous in predicting that Russia will attempt to disrupt or negatively influence the upcoming 2018 elections in the United States.

The DNI, along with CIA director Mike Pompeo, NSA director Mike Rogers, FBI director Michael Wray, DIA director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency director Robert Cardillo all reaffirmed their belief that Russia targeted the 2016 elections as well.

“We expect Russia to continue using propaganda social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen and other means to influence to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” said Coats. “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives that its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.” [source]

Analysis: Whether or not you support President Trump, he was right last week when he tweeted, “If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!” Specifically, he was addressing the special counsel’s indictment of 13 Russians for 2016 election ‘interference,’ but he is 100 percent correct that Moscow appears to have accomplished its goal of “disruption.” It doesn’t matter that Russia, and before it the Soviet Union, has been targeting American democracy for decades; what matters now is that the “Russia” issue is so politicized among the American electorate that neither side of the debate will believe the other, no matter what the truth really is. Caught in the middle of all of this is the Intelligence Community, which must still protect the country from a wide range of threats, including conventional ones, hence Coats’ reference to interstate conflict risk. 

As a nation, we need to insist that those responsible for investigating the various Russian collusion/Russian interference scandals do so in a bipartisan manner, otherwise roughly half the country will never accept the ultimate findings, and that’s going to be a threat to our civil society moving forward.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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