0723 GMT February 21, 2020
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Tuesday that the Russians remained committed to an "assertive foreign policy," including efforts to hamper "Ukraine’s attempts to integrate with Western institutions."
"They're greatly concerned about being contained," Clapper said in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"Events in Ukraine raised Moscow's perceived stakes for increasing its presence in the region to prevent future regime change in the former Soviet republics and for accelerating a shift to a multi-polar world in which Russia is the uncontested regional hegemon in Eurasia," the spy master added.
Clapper said that Russia was increasingly “paranoid” about NATO’s installation of a missile system in Europe.
"So, a lot of these aggressive things that the Russians are doing, for a number of reasons -- great power status, to create the image of being co-equal with the United States etc -- I think could probably… go on, and we could be into another Cold War-like spiral here," he added.
Relations between the US and Russia have slipped to their lowest level since the Cold War over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
The US and EU have imposed several rounds of economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine since early 2014.
Homegrown terror most serious threat
In his annual assessment of threats to the United States, Clapper said that homegrown attacks by violent extremists, including by the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group, pose the most significant threat to Americans in 2016.
“The perceived success of attacks by homegrown violent extremists in Europe and North America, such as those in Chattanooga and San Bernardino, might motivate others to replicate opportunistic attacks with little or no warning, diminishing our ability to detect terrorist operational planning and readiness,” he stated.
Clapper also said that disruptions in cyberspace presented another serious security challenge for the United States this year.
The warning was the latest signal that the administration intends to make cyber security a top priority in President Barack Obama’s last year in office.
Obama’s budget plan for fiscal year 2017 has envisioned an increase of more than a third over this year in funding for cyber security.
North Korea expanding nuclear work
Addressing the rising concerns about North Korea, which in recent weeks has conducted a nuclear test and fired a long-range rocket, Clapper said that Pyongyang has expanded a uranium enrichment facility and resumed work on a plutonium reactor, which was closed in 2007.
The reactor could begin to recover plutonium "within a matter of weeks to months," he said.