The US government's annual assessment of worldwide threats, which was released Tuesday ahead of congressional hearings, focuses significant attention on threats from foreign countries, including Iran.
Iran presents a threat despite its weakening economy through both its conventional and unconventional military strategies, including its network of proxies, it said.
China, the document warns, is likely to continue its efforts to spread its influence and undercut US power, and is likely to press Taiwan to move toward unification with the mainland. Russia is likely to continue developing its military and cyber capabilities while also seeking "opportunities for pragmatic cooperation with Washington on its own terms.”
North Korea, meanwhile, remains committed to nuclear power and poses an increasing risk to the US and to the region.
The report sees four foreign adversaries — Russia, China, Iran and North Korea — as posing the greatest cybersecurity concerns. China is capable of cyber operations that at minimum can cause temporary and local disruptions to critical infrastructure in the US while Russia “almost certainly considers cyber attacks an acceptable option to deter adversaries, control escalation, and prosecute conflicts," according to the document.
The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are expected to contribute over the next year to “humanitarian and economic crises, political unrest, and geopolitical competition,” said the report.
“The American people should know as much as possible about the threats facing our nation and what their intelligence agencies are doing to protect them,” Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement accompanying Tuesday's report.
The report raises concern over the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed nearly 3 million people worldwide, warning of the ways in which the recovery will “strain governments and societies.”
The pandemic has already disrupted crucial health services in certain areas of the world and will lead to continued health emergencies, and it has raised tensions as countries compete for advantage, according to the report. The economic fallout in developing countries has been especially severe, with food insecurity worldwide at its highest point in more than a decade, intelligence officials say.
“No country has been completely spared, and even when a vaccine is widely distributed globally, the economic and political aftershocks will be felt for years,” the report says.