Excerpts from a US Intelligence report
The photo is from when an analogous assessment was presented to the US Senate in 2016. The author is Brian Murphy, DNI
The analysis of the situation in the South Caucasus and its conflict zones, and that of developments in Russia, Ukraine and Turkey were part of a yearly assessment of threats to US national security presented to the US Senate by the new Director of National Intelligence, Daniel R. Coats.
JAMnews offers a wrap-up of what the 26-page report titled ‘Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community’ said about the South Caucasus and its neighbours – Russia, Ukraine and Turkey.
In Georgia, the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) coalition’s decisive electoral victory in 2016 is likely to facilitate GD’s efforts to target the former ruling United National Movement and expand political control. GD will continue to pursue greater Euro-Atlantic integration by attempting to cement ties with NATO and the EU.
Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh
Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh flared in April 2016, and both sides’ unwillingness to compromise, and mounting domestic pressures, suggest that the potential for large-scale hostilities will remain in 2017.
In Azerbaijan, ongoing economic difficulties are likely to challenge the regime and increase its tendency to repress dissent to maintain power while it continues to try to balance relations with Russia, Iran, and the West.
Russia is a full-scope cyber actor that will remain a major threat to the US Government, military, diplomatic, commercial, and critical infrastructure.
In 2017, Russia is likely to be more assertive in global affairs, more unpredictable in its approach to the United States, and more authoritarian in its approach to domestic politics.
Emboldened by Moscow’s ability to affect battlefield dynamics in Syria and by the emergence of populist and more pro-Russian governments in Europe, President Vladimir Putin is likely to take proactive actions that advance Russia’s great power status.
Putin will seek to prevent any challenges to his rule in the run-up to presidential elections scheduled for 2018.
He is likely to continue to rely on repression, state control over media outlets, and harsh tactics to control the political elite and stifle public dissent.
Putin has long sought to avoid structural reforms that would weaken his control of the country and is unlikely to implement substantial reforms before the presidential elections.
Russia is likely to continue to look to leverage its military support to the Assad regime to drive a political settlement process in Syria on its terms.
Moscow is also likely to use Russia’s military intervention in Syria, in conjunction with efforts to capitalize on fears of a growing ISIS and extremist threat, to expand its role in the Middle East.
Also, Russia is likely to sustain or increase its propaganda campaigns. Russia is likely to continue to financially and politically support populist and extremist parties to sow discord within European states and reduce popular support for the European Union.
Moscow’s strategic objectives in Ukraine – maintaining long-term influence over Kyiv and frustrating Ukraine’s attempts to integrate into Western institutions – will remain unchanged in 2017.
Putin is likely to maintain pressure on Kyiv through multiple channels, including through Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine, where Russia arms so-called “separatists”.
Moscow also seeks to undermine Ukraine’s fragile economic system and divided political situation to create opportunities to rebuild and consolidate Russian influence in Ukrainian decision-making.
The struggle of Ukraine to reform its corrupt institutions will determine whether it can remain on a European path or fall victim again to elite infighting and Russian influence.
Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s narrow win in the mid-April popular referendum on expanding his powers and the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP’s) post-coup crackdowns are increasing societal and political tension in Turkey.
Turkey’s relations with the United States are strained because Ankara calculates that the United States has empowered Turkey’s primary security threat—the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – by partnering with the Syrian Kurdish Peopie’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey alleges is aligned with the PKK.
European admonition of Turkey’s conduct during the referendum – including limitations European countries placed on Turkish campaigning on their soil – is further straining Turkish ties to the EU.