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CIA’s first podcast disses Russia as a ‘declining’ power, warns China is a ‘central geopolitical challenge’

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CIA Director William Burns called Russia a “waning” power in the first episode of the intelligence agency’s new podcast, while warning that China is a “central geopolitical challenge” for the US

The CIA’s podcast, “The Langley Files,” launched Thursday and featured Burns as its first guest.

The podcast comes during the CIA’s 75th anniversary — a time, Burns said, for the agency to “think about how we must organize ourselves to successfully navigate an incredibly complicated international terrain.”

Burns warned that there is “great power competition with emerging powers such as China” on the ground, which he called a “central geopolitical challenge”.

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CIA Director William Burns testifies at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on global threats on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on April 15, 2021.
(AL DRAGO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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Burns pointed to the CIA’s creation of the China Mission Center, which was created to counter Beijing and put the agency “the best position” to deal with China’s current and future national security problems.

Earlier this year, Burns warned that China’s Xi Jinping has even served as a “silent partner” in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.

Chinese President Xi Jinping talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Sept. 15, 2022. (Sputnik/Alexandr Demyanchuk/Pool via REUTERS)

Chinese President Xi Jinping talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Sept. 15, 2022. (Sputnik/Alexandr Demyanchuk/Pool via REUTERS)

“We’re dealing with declining powers, not just rising powers, like Russia,” Burns said. And Putin shows every day that declining powers can be at least as disruptive as rising ones.

Burns pointed to Russia’s war in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of CIA intelligence.

“We were able to paint a pretty clear picture of Putin’s plans to launch a major new invasion of Ukraine last fall, months before he actually launched that invasion on February 24,” Burns explains. “That enabled us to help Ukrainians defend themselves. It helped us build Allied unity.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin will chair a meeting on the country's transportation sector via video link in Sochi, Russia, on May 24, 2022.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will chair a meeting on the country’s transportation sector via video link in Sochi, Russia, on May 24, 2022.
(Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin via REUTERS)

“It helped bring to light the fact that Putin was a naked, unprovoked aggression, and we reinforced that with the president’s decision to release some of our secrets as well,” he said.

Burns referred to intelligence released by President Biden earlier this year that revealed Putin’s plans to carry out false flag attacks as a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine.

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Meanwhile, Burns pointed to the “successful” US counter-terrorism operation in Afghanistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri last month, an attack that affects the terror network’s ability to operate.

But Burns said the US still faces “the ongoing challenge of terrorism”.

“It may take different forms today than it has in most of the past 20 years, but it’s still a big challenge,” he said. “We still have significant capabilities at this agency and working with partners across the U.S. government, and that’s going to be one of our top priorities.”

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President Biden to be shown at a meeting on July 1, 2022 "to discuss the counter-terrorism operation to take out Ayman al-Zawahri."

President Biden is shown at a meeting on July 1, 2022 “to discuss the counterterrorism operation to take out Ayman al-Zawahri”.
(White House)

He added: “It’s a balancing act, that’s what it’s going to be.”

Burns went on to say that “ingenuity and dedication” are crucial to the work of the CIA, but also stressed that the agency is “apolitical”.

“[O]it is not your job to bend information to the preferences or agendas of political parties or policy. It’s to deliver the best information we can collect, the best analysis we can put together, with honesty and integrity,” Burns said. “Our job is to tell policymakers what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. “

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Burns, who has worked under six presidents and both Republican and Democratic administrations, said that without operating in an apolitical manner, “we’re only going to get ourselves into trouble as a nation, and we’re making bad policy choices, when we don’t understand those very fundamental truths.” to forget. “

As for the CIA’s decision to launch the podcast, Burns acknowledged that intelligence agencies should “collect and keep secrets and not talk too much about them.”

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“We usually operate in the shadows, out of sight and out of mind,” he said. “Our successes are often obscured, our failures are often painfully visible, and our sacrifices are often unknown.”

“We have a deep duty to protect agents and officers who risk their lives in support of our mission to help protect Americans,” Burns continued. “But I am convinced, as I know you, that in our democracy, where trust in institutions is so scarce, it is important to try to explain ourselves as best we can and demystify a little bit of what we do. “

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