The long-term global impact of the pandemic will be devastating – leaving societies fractured and reshaping political and economic realities, according to a report by the U..S. intelligence community.
The 2020 report, known as the Annual Threat Assessment, was released Tuesday. Its release had been delayed because of wrangling between the then-Trump administration and Congress, CNN noted.
"The economic fallout from the pandemic is likely to create or worsen instability in at least a few — and perhaps many — countries, as people grow more desperate in the face of interlocking pressures that include sustained economic downturns, job losses, and disrupted supply chains," the report warns.
Dire economic conditions brought on by the pandemic will increase the risk of internal conflicts, surges in cross-border migration, and even the collapse of governments, officials said in the report.
They also caution the world cannot yet relax — despite the vaccine development. The virus will remain a threat "to populations worldwide until vaccines and therapeutics are widely distributed," the report warns. And a resurgence in infections early this year "may have an even greater economic impact as struggling businesses in hard-hit sectors such as tourism and restaurants fold and governments face increasing budget strains."
The report also offers warnings about China and Russia and the two nations' covert influence operations.
It puts China’s push for "global power" first on the list of threats, followed by Russia, Iran, and North Korea, according to The New York Times.
"Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Pyongyang have demonstrated the capability and intent to advance their interests at the expense of the United States and its allies, despite the pandemic," the report said. "China increasingly is a near-peer competitor, challenging the United States in multiple arenas — especially economically, militarily and technologically — and is pushing to change global norms."
The intelligence agencies say that Iran "is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities" needed to build a nuclear device, the newspaper said.
But Iranian leaders, the report said, are most likely to remain reluctant to engage in talks with the United States without sanctions relief.
And, according to the Times, the report notes that China uses its electronic surveillance and hacking capabilities to not only repress dissent inside its borders but also to conduct intrusions that impact people in other nations, the report said
The intelligence assessment of Russia makes clear that American spy agencies still see it as a pre-eminent threat. And the report notes how a Russian supply chain hacking operation created vulnerabilities in some 18,000 computer networks worldwide.
The assessment said Russia would use influence campaigns, mercenary operations, and military exercises to advance its interests and undermine those of the United States.
"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," said Avril B. Haines, the director of national intelligence, whose office released the report.
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