Statement before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence:
The Worldwide Threat 2004: Challenges in a Changing Global Context (excerpted)
George J. Tenet
Central Intelligence Agency
February 24, 2004
Mr. Chairman, I have consistently warned this committee of al-QA`ida's interest in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. Acquiring these remains a "religious obligation" in Bin Ladin's eyes, and al-QA`ida and more than two dozen other terrorist groups are pursuing CBRN materials.
We particularly see a heightened risk of poison attacks. Contemplated delivery methods to date have been simple but this may change as non-Al-Qa`ida groups share information on more sophisticated methods and tactics.
Over the last year, we've also seen an increase in the threat of more sophisticated CBRN. For this reason we take very seriously the threat of a CBRN attack.
Extremists have widely disseminated assembly instructions for an improvised chemical weapon using common materials that could cause a large numbers of casualties in a crowded, enclosed area.
Although gaps in our understanding remain, we see al-QA`ida's program to produce anthrax as one of the most immediate terrorist CBRN threats we are likely to face.
Al-QA`ida continues to pursue its strategic goal of obtaining a nuclear capability. It remains interested in dirty bombs. Terrorist documents contain accurate views of how such weapons would be used.
To conclude my comments on proliferation, I'll briefly run through some WMD programs I have not yet discussed, beginning with Syria.
Syria is an NPT signatory with full-scope IAEA safeguards and has a nuclear research center at Dayr Al Hajar. Russia and Syria have continued their long-standing agreements on cooperation regarding nuclear energy, although specific assistance has not yet materialized. Broader access to foreign expertise provides opportunities to expand its indigenous capabilities and we are closely monitoring Syrian nuclear intentions. Meanwhile, Damascus has an active CW development and testing program that relies on foreign suppliers for key controlled chemicals suitable for producing CW.
Finally, we remain alert to the vulnerability of Russian WMD materials and technology to theft or diversion. We are also concerned by the continued eagerness of Russia's cashapped defense, biotechnology, chemical, aerospace, and nuclear industries to raise funds via exports and transfers—which makes Russian expertise an attractive target for countries and groups seeking WMD and missile-related assistance.
In RUSSIA, the trend I highlighted last year—President Putin's re-centralization of power in the Kremlin—has become more pronounced, especially over the past several months. We see this in the recent Duma elections and the lopsided United Russia party victory engineered by the Kremlin and in the Kremlin's domination of the Russian media.
Putin has nevertheless recorded some notable achievements. His economic record—even discounting the continuing strength of high world oil prices—is impressive, both in terms of GDP growth and progress on market reforms. He has brought a sense of stability to the Russian political scene after years of chaos, and he restored Russians' pride in their country's place in the world.
That said, Putin now dominates the Duma, and the strong showing of nationalist parties plus the shutout of liberal parties may bolster trends toward limits on civil society, state interference in big business, and greater assertiveness in the former Soviet Union. And the Kremlin's recent efforts to strengthen the state's role in the oil sector could discourage investors and hamper energy cooperation with the West.
He shows no signs of softening his tough stance on Russia's war in Chechnya. Russian counterinsurgency operations have had some success. Putin's prime innovation is the process of turning more authority over to the Chechen under the new government of Akhmad Kadyrov, and empowering his security forces to lead the counter-insurgency.
Although this strategy may succeed in lowering Russia's profile in Chechnya, it is unlikely to lead to resolution.
Moscow has already become more assertive in its approach to the neighboring states of the former Soviet Union, such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova. Russian companies—primarily for commercial motives, but in line with the Kremlin's agenda—are increasing their stakes in neighboring countries, particularly in the energy sector.
The Kremlin's increasing assertiveness is partly grounded in a growing confidence in its military capabilities. Although still a fraction of their former capabilities, Russian military forces are beginning to rebound from the 1990s nadir. Training rates are up—including some high-profile exercises—along with defense spending.
Even so, we see Moscow's aims as limited. Russia is using primarily economic incentives and levers of "soft" power, like shared history and culture, to rebuild lost power and influence. And Putin has a stake in relative stability on Russia's borders—not least to maintain positive relations with the US and Europeans.
Russian relations with the US continue to contain elements of both cooperation and competition. On balance, they remain more cooperative than not, but the coming year will present serious challenges. For example, Russia remains supportive of US deployments in Central Asia for Afghanistan—but is also wary of US presence in what Russia considers to be its own back yard.