Washington, Feb. 23 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director John Deutch says the CIA believes that Russia is likely to slow the pace of its reforms and be less willing to cooperate with the United States and the West, regardless of who wins the presidential election in June.
However, Deutch also says the CIA believes, "that even if a hard-line government takes power, Russia will not likely be transformed back into the Soviet Union, which collapsed because of the failure of its economic system."
Deutch met Thursday with members of the U.S. Senate Select Intelligence Committee to review what the CIA sees as the greatest threats to U.S. security.
"The June presidential election marks a critical juncture of Russia's post-Soviet evolution," Deutch said. He said the Russian people welcomed democracy and free market economics after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and he says Russia has made progress toward reaching these goals .
"But market reforms have brought economic hardship, and the growth in criminal activity has led many Russians to question the benefits of reform," Deutch asserted. He says this is why the June elections are so important.
While he says that a slowdown in reforms and a less cooperative foreign policy are likely in the near term, Deutch also says that "democracy and a market economy have created new interests in Russia which will not easily surrender their gains, and in addition much power has been dissolved from Moscow to Russia's outer regions."
Deutch says that the greatest threat of instability may lie on the Indian subcontinent.
"The relationship between India and Pakistan continues to be unsatisfactory," he said. "And the potential for conflict is high." Deutch says the fact that each nation has the means to construct nuclear weapons makes the region especially troublesome.
"We are concerned that India is considering the possibility of a nuclear test," Deutch said. "And we have judged that if India should test, Pakistan would follow. We are especially concerned about Pakistani efforts, some in cooperation with China, to acquire additional nuclear technology."
After the Indian subcontinent, Deutch says the CIA is most concerned about the Middle East, particularly Iraq.
"In Iraq, Saddam Hussein continues to pose a threat to Kuwait and the Arabian peninsula" Deutch said. "He shows no inclination to improve the conditions of the Iraqi people or to stop seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction."