Russia is likely to be more aggressive in global affairs and more unpredictable towards the US, a top American spymaster has said, a day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met President Donald Trump at the White House. Daniel Coats, the director of the National Intelligence, said that the US intelligence community assess that Russia will also be more authoritarian in its domestic policies. During the Congressional hearing yesterday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Coats said, “We assess that Russia is likely to be more aggressive in global affairs, more unpredictable in its approach to the US.” He said Russia will continue to leverage its military support to the Bashar Al-Assad regime to drive a political settlement process in Syria “on their terms”.
Moscow is also likely to use its military intervention in Syria in conjunction with efforts to capitalise on fears of a growing threat from the Islamic State group and other extremists to expand its role in the troubled Middle East, he said. “We assess at Moscow’s strategic objectives in Ukraine, maintaining long-term influence over Kiev and frustrating Ukraine’s attempts to integrate into western institutions, will remain unchanged in 2017,” Coats said. His remarks came a day after the Russian foreign minister met Trump at the Oval Office in what was the first face-to- face meeting between the US president and a senior Russian government official.
The remarks were significant as the Trump presidency is battling accusations that his 2016 presidential campaign had links with Russia and that the Russians tried to influence the November polls that brought Trump to the White House.
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Immediately before his meeting with Lavrov, Trump fired FBI chief James Comey, who had been leading an investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.
Responding to questions from senators about the alleged Russian interference in the polls, Coats said the US will continue to use all the assets it has to collect and analyse the influence that has been and potentially could be. “Russians have spread this across the globe,” he said, adding that the Russian interference in their political system was the main topic of discussion when he met the Prime Minister of Montenegro, which is the latest nation to join.
“So it sweeps across Europe and other places. It’s clear though, the Russians have upped their game using social media and other opportunities that in ways that we haven’t seen before.
“It’s a great threat to our democratic process and our job here is to provide the best intelligence we can to the policy makers as they develop a strategy in terms of how to best reflect a response to this,” Coats said.