Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, whose new book “Facts and Fears” is out now, has his eyes on Russia and China.
The big picture: Russia is building up its capacities for both military and information warfare “with one adversary in mind — the United States.” And "the long-term threat is China."
Why he's wary of Russia:
- “They want to exploit our schisms and the polarization in this country and unfortunately we are a ripe target. … They're waging this sort of soft war against us, and the other dimension that nobody pays too much attention to is their strategic nuclear weapons arsenal modernization."
- Russia is “bent on undermining our system any way they can,” Clapper says, and “it starts with Putin, who has intense animus for this countries and the values it stands for."
- Putin said Friday that he’ll respect the Russian constitution and step aside after his new six-year term ends in 2024. That’s no guarantee he’ll actually hand over power. Clapper says Russia will likely remain the biggest threat to the U.S. until he does.
What concerns him about China:
- "One, their economic power and two, their scientific and technical prowess.”
- "They are very committed to what they're doing in areas like artificial intelligence, genetic engineering quantum computing. And I'm not sure we're keeping up."
- "And they too have embarked on a very aggressive, impressive and scary military modernization strategy which is keyed exactly to what they believe are our strengths."
Just today, the South China Morning Post reported that China is conducting an average of five simulated nuclear tests per month — far outpacing the U.S. — as it develops a more advanced nuclear arsenal.
Worth noting: I also asked Clapper about a man he worked directly with for years and who features fairly prominently in his book — Michael Flynn. Clapper saluted Flynn’s military service and noted that he had supported his appointment as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency before playing a role in removing him from that post.
"I think it ate at him that he was terminated early and retired early, and I think he became an angry man. He was trying to reach out to several Republican candidates and latched onto Trump, and the rest was history."
Watch: Axios' Erica Pandey on China's debt trap diplomacy.