Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said Thursday that Chinese President Xi Jinping is “a silent partner” with Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, according to a report by Fox News.
The publication reported that the Chinese president is working to support Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “aggression” in Ukraine and that China poses the “greatest challenge” and “most profound test” that the agency has ever faced.
The CIA director spoke at the Georgia Institute of Technology on Thursday as his first public appearance in his position and said there would be a “new era” for his agency and said the international pitfalls are “vastly different” than they were at the inception of the CIA.
“It’s a more complicated and contested world, featuring the rise of an increasingly adversarial China and a pugnacious and revisionist Russia,” Burns said, noting that the agency will “have to reimagine itself to compete successfully in this new age.”
Burns pointed to the “immediate threat posed by renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine,” and to the “longer term problem posed by China’s ambitious leadership,” calling it “the single most important geopolitical challenge” of the 21st century.
“A silent partner in Putin’s aggression, Xi Jinping’s China is our greatest challenge, in many ways the most profound test the CIA has ever faced,” Burns warned, calling the People’s Republic of China a “formidable competitor lacking in neither ambition nor capability.”
“It seeks to overtake us in literally every domain, from economic strength to military power, and from space to cyberspace,” he said, adding that China is “intent” on replacing the United States as “the preeminent power in the Indo-Pacific.”
“As an intelligence service, we have never had to deal with an adversary with more reach in more domain,” Burns said. The director of the intelligence agency previously served as the U.S. ambassador in Moscow and his experience with Putin.
“His circle of advisers has narrowed.”
“His risk appetite has grown, as his grip on Russia has tightened,” Burns said. “His circle of advisers has narrowed. And in that small circle, it has never been career enhancing to question his judgement or his stubborn, almost mystical belief that his destiny is to restore Russia’s sphere of influence.”
Burns has said that the CIA has been gathering intelligence about Russia’s military plans, and began that preset last fall:
“In November, President Biden asked me to travel to Russia to convey directly to Putin and several of his closest advisors the depth of our concern about his planning for war and the consequences for Russia of attempting to execute that plan,” Burns said, noting he was “troubled” by what he heard.
“While it did not yet seem that he had made an irreversible decision to invade Ukraine, Putin was defiantly leaning in that direction, apparently convinced that his window was closing for shaping Ukraine’s orientation,” Burns said, adding that he “seemed convinced” that winter “offered a favorable landscape.”
According to Berns there is a need for “new thinking and new tactics in this new and demanding era for intelligence.”
“The last chapter in Putin’s war has yet to be written as he grinds away in Ukraine,” Burns warned, saying that he has “no doubt about the cruel pain and damage that Putin can continue to inflict on Ukraine or the raw brutality with which Russian force is being applied.”