US intel chief says risk of global conflict highest since Cold War

(CNN) — US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned Tuesday that the current risk of a global conflict is higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

“The risk of interstate conflict, including among great powers, is higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” Coats told lawmakers during a hearing on worldwide threats before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“The most immediate threats of regional interstate conflict in the next year come from North Korea and from Saudi-Iranian use of proxies in their rivalry,” he said. “At the same time, the threat of state and non-state use of weapons of mass destruction will continue to grow.”

Specifically, Coats noted that US adversaries and “malign actors,” including Russia and China will use several tactics, including cyber and information warfare to challenge US influence around the world.

Coats also highlighted the increasing threat posed by North Korea’s unwillingness to “negotiate its nuclear weapons and missiles away,” as the regime views its nuclear weapons as “critical to its security.”

According to Coats, the intelligence community remains unanimous in its assessment that Russia will target the 2018 US midterm elections.

“We expect Russia to continue using propaganda social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen and other means to influence to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” he said. “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives that its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”