The director of the CIA said that China is ‘a silent partner’ when it comes to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ‘aggression’ in Ukraine.
William Burns spoke bluntly Thursday and warned China posed the ‘greatest challenge’ and ‘most profound test’ the agency has ever had to deal with, as he marked his first year in charge of the agency with a speech at the Georgia Institute of Technology on Thursday.
Burns highlighted the ‘immediate threat posed by renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine,’ and the ‘longer term problem posed by China’s ambitious leadership,’ declaring it to be ‘the single most important geopolitical challenge’ of the 21st century.’
‘A silent partner in Putin’s aggression, Xi Jinping’s China is our greatest challenge, in many ways the most profound test the CIA has ever faced,’ Burns said as he called China a ‘formidable competitor lacking in neither ambition nor capability.’
‘It seeks to overtake us in literally every domain, from economic strength to military power, and from space to cyberspace,’ adding China is ‘intent’ on replacing the U.S. as ‘the preeminent power in the Indo-Pacific.’
‘As an intelligence service, we have never had to deal with an adversary with more reach in more domain,’ Burns said.
CIA Director William Burns called China, led by President Xi Jinping, ‘a silent partner in Putin’s aggression’
Burns also outlined his vision for the future of the agency, noting that it was nothing like the one that was envisaged at its founding during the Second World War.
‘It’s a more complicated and contested world, featuring the rise of an increasingly adversarial China and a pugnacious and revisionist Russia,’ Burns said in a transcript seen by Fox News.
Burns said said that the agency will ‘have to reimagine itself to compete successfully in this new age.’
Burns highlighted the ‘immediate threat posed by renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine,’ and the ‘longer term problem posed by China’s ambitious leadership.’ Above,Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in 2014
Last month, the Biden administration said that it had ‘deep concerns’ when it came to Russia’s ‘alignment’ with China.
Following its invasion of Ukraine, intelligence officials revealed how the Russian Kremlin approached Beijing for both economic and military aid.
In March, President Biden spoke with President Xi for two hours in which he warned China that there would be ‘consequences’ if China ‘provided material support’ to Russia.
Burns is experienced when it comes to Russia and dealt with Putin in his former role as a U.S. ambassador based in Moscow.
Burns revealed how the agency had changed tactics with a new policy of publicly releasing declassified intelligence about Russia’s plans to help the Ukrainian’s. Pictured, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, is seen earlier this week
‘His risk appetite has grown, as his grip on Russia has tightened. His circle of advisers has narrowed. And in that small circle, it has never been career enhancing to question his judgement or his stubborn, almost mystical belief that his destiny is to restore Russia’s sphere of influence,’ Burns said.
Burns also revealed that how the CIA was able to find out plans for Ukraine’s invasion as early as last fall.
‘In November, President Biden asked me to travel to Russia to convey directly to Putin and several of his closest advisors the depth of our concern about his planning for war and the consequences for Russia of attempting to execute that plan.
‘While it did not yet seem that he had made an irreversible decision to invade Ukraine, Putin was defiantly leaning in that direction, apparently convinced that his window was closing for shaping Ukraine’s orientation,’ Burns said noting that he ‘seemed convinced winter offered a favorable landscape.’
Burns revealed that at the start of the invasion he did not have high hopes for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy or the Ukrainian resistance but both he and Putin had been ‘proven wrong’.
Volunteers load bodies of civilians killed in Bucha onto a truck to be taken to a morgue for investigation, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. President Biden has said ‘war crimes’ took place
He noted how the CIA has continued to share intelligence with Ukraine.
‘As allied leaders and counterparts have emphasized directly in my travels to Europe, the credibility of U.S. intelligence helped cement the solidarity of the alliance at President Biden’s direction,’ Burns said the U.S. had also been ‘taking unprecedented steps to declassify intelligence and use it publicly to preempt false narratives and false flag operations, which Putin has used so often in the past.’
‘By being open with some of our secrets, we made it harder for Putin to obscure the truth of his unprovoked and vicious aggression. Those decisions can never be taken lightly given the importance of protecting sources and methods, but, in this case, they have made a crucial contribution to a successful whole of government strategy.’
Burns said that the change of approach was different to how the agency had operated in the past and was indicative of ‘the need for new thinking and new tactics in this new and demanding era for intelligence.’
A Ukrainian serviceman walks amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. Russia is bracing up for a massive new offensive in eastern Ukraine, hoping to reverse its fortunes on the battlefield after a catastrophic start of the invasion
‘The last chapter in Putin’s war has yet to be written as he grinds away in Ukraine [but I have] no doubt about the cruel pain and damage that Putin can continue to inflict on Ukraine or the raw brutality with which Russian force is being applied.’
President Biden has described the actions of Russia in Bucha as ‘genocide’ adding that it has become ‘clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian.’
Referring to some of the ‘horrific war crimes’ that have been committed in Bucha, Burns said the will of Ukrainians remains unbroken.
‘Putin’s Russia has inflicted massive material and reputational damage on itself. American intelligence has been vital throughout and offers valuable lessons for the future of our profession — how to develop good intelligence, use it as the basis for good policy, share it systematically as the basis for good alliances and partnerships, and deploy it openly and creatively to discredit the false narratives on which adversaries so often thrive.’
President Biden has described the actions of Russia in Bucha as ‘genocide’ adding that it has become ‘clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian’. Biden is pictured during a speech on Thursday
The partnership displayed by the U.S. appears to be appreciated by Zelenskyy, who has described Biden’s comments as the ‘true words of a true leader.’
‘Calling things by their names is essential to stand up to evil,’ Zelenskyy tweeted. ‘We are grateful for US assistance provided so far and we urgently need more heavy weapons to prevent further Russian atrocities.’
Russia responded saying such comments by the American president were ‘unacceptable.’
‘We consider this kind of effort to distort the situation unacceptable,’ Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.
‘This is hardly acceptable from a president of the United States, a country that has committed well-known crimes in recent times,’ he added.
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