COVID challenges to US could spill over to 2022 - GulfToday

COVID challenges to US could spill over to 2022


A report presented to the Congress raises concern over the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reuters

A new report on the wide-ranging effects of the coronavirus is worrying and warrants urgent attention.

There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has sent the whole world into a tailspin. It has also thrown normal life out of gear for millions of people around the planet, who after more than a year that it struck, are still struggling to cope with its effects.

The impact is likely to spill over to next year, contributing to “humanitarian and economic crises, political unrest, and geopolitical competition,” according to a new intelligence report.

The report also warns about the threats from foreign adversaries and violent extremists inside the United States.

The US government’s annual assessment of worldwide threats, released on Tuesday ahead of congressional hearings expected to cover similar territory, charts a broad array of potential dangers anticipated by the intelligence community over the coming year.

Its grim assessment of diverse threats echoes in some ways the conclusions of a separate intelligence report from last week that examined likely global challenges, including related to the pandemic, over the next 20 years.

“The American people should know as much as possible about the threats facing our nation and what their intelligence agencies are doing to protect them,” Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement accompanying Tuesday’s report.

The report raises concern over the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed nearly 3 million people worldwide, warning of the ways in which the recovery will “strain governments and societies.”

The pandemic has already disrupted crucial health services in certain areas of the world and will lead to continued health emergencies. The economic fallout in developing countries has been especially severe, with food insecurity worldwide at its highest point in more than a decade.

A Biden presidency with a majority Republican Senate could offer the worst case for the economy in 2021 because Republicans are likely to oppose a substantial stimulus package, said Matthew Luzzetti, chief US economist at Deutsche Bank, said in November.

There have been fears that new waves of social unrest could erupt in some countries if government measures to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic are seen as insufficient or unfairly favouring the wealthy, the IMF said.

“No country has been completely spared, and even when a vaccine is widely distributed globally, the economic and political aftershocks will be felt for years,” the report says.

The report sees four foreign adversaries – Russia, China, Iran and North Korea –as posing the greatest cybersecurity concerns. China, the eternal bugbear for the US, is likely to continue its efforts to spread its influence and undercut US power, and is likely to press Taiwan to move toward unification with the mainland. Russia is likely to continue developing its military and cyber capabilities while also seeking “opportunities for pragmatic cooperation with Washington on its own terms.”

North Korea, meanwhile, remains committed to nuclear power and poses an increasing risk to the US and to the region. Iran, too, presents a threat despite its weakening economy through both its conventional and unconventional military strategies, including its network of proxies.

Talking of risks to the American system, two major cyber breaches, one by suspected Russian hackers targeting federal agencies and the other affecting Microsoft Exchange email software, have exposed vulnerabilities in the public and private sectors’ cyber defences. And the deadly Jan 6. insurrection at the US Capitol laid bare the threat posed by violent extremists in America.

Inside the US, domestic extremists motivated by feelings of white racial superiority and anti-government grievances pose an elevated threat to the US, the report says.

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