By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2009 – (This is the third in a series on the intelligence community’s annual threat assessment.)
Russia’s perceived strengths and its policies, tensions in Eurasia, Caucasus and Central Asia, and instability in the Balkans all pose challenges to U.S. interests in Europe, the director of national intelligence said Feb. 12.
Dennis C. Blair, a retired Navy admiral, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that Russia continues to rebuild its military and, as events in Georgia last year show, use those forces to impress on the world that the nation is still relevant.
“Russian challenges to US interests now spring more from Moscow’s perceived strengths than from the state weaknesses characteristic of the 1990s,” Blair said in prepared testimony.
“U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and general anti-Americanism have created openings for Russia to build alternative arrangements to the US-led international political and economic institutional order,” he said.
Russia is attempting to increase its ability to influence events, he said, by “actively cultivating relations with regional powers, including China, Iran, and Venezuela.”
Blair said Russia’s energy policy is aimed at increasing the country’s importance on the European continent.
“Moscow also is trying to maintain control over energy supply and transportation networks to Europe to East Asia, and protect and further enhance its market share in Europe through new bilateral energy partnerships and organizing a gas cartel with other major exporters,” he said.