The Kremlin will seek to maintain and expand its influence throughout the former Soviet Union countries, which it asserts are within its sphere of influence, representatives of the US Intelligence Community said in the recent Worldwide Threat Assessment.
The report was presented by Daniel R. Coats, Director of US National Intelligence, at the session of the Senate Select committe on intelligence on January, 29.
According to the US intel experts, Russia’s major offensive on Ukraine is ‘operationally feasible but unlikely’ in 2019, unless one side perceives the other is seriously challenging the status quo.
“Bilateral tensions will continue to rise in the Black and Azov Seas as each side asserts its sovereignty and naval capabilities. Russia will continue its military, political, and economic destabilization campaign against Ukraine to try to stymie Kyiv’s efforts to integrate with the EU and strengthen ties to NATO. Russia’s interception of Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait and detention of the ships’ sailors in November 2018 demonstrates Russia’s willingness to limit Ukrainian freedom of navigation in the area,” the report reads.
Russia is also taking steps to influence the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine, applying a range of tools to exert influence and exploit Kyiv’s fragile economy, widespread corruption, cyber vulnerabilities, and public discontent in hopes of ousting Poroshenko and bringing to power a less anti-Russia parliament, the US side stressed.
Durning the panel’s Worldwide Threat hearing, Coats also warned that Russia and China were becoming increasingly aligned as the two nations seek to compete against the U.S. and its allies. Intelligence officials also said the two countries might seek to target U.S. elections in 2020.