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CIA’s Burns Chooses To Attack Putin, Praise ‘Anglo-American Partnership’ in Ditchley Foundation Speech

July 2, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—CIA Director William Burns chose an address to Britain’s Ditchley Foundation to make repeated attacks yesterday against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia, stating that the CIA has a wide opening to recruit people in Russia, and expressing “an enduring appreciation of the power and purpose of the trans-Atlantic Alliance and of the particular significance of Anglo-American partnership.”

The Ditchley Foundation, a force of British intelligence, was founded in 1958, in Oxfordshire to promote Anglo-American working relationships. Chairman Jonathan Hopkin Hill, Baron Hill of Oareford, is a director of The Times newspaper, member of the House of Lords, former Leader of the House of Lords, and former Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, responsible to the British Sovereign for administration of the Duchy, which is a private estate owned by the monarch.

In the course of the 59th Ditchley Annual Lecture July 1, Burns, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia (2005-2008), described his speech as a homecoming: “I first came here in 1979 as a young and unformed Marshall Scholar at Oxford ... but the effect it had on me was profound.” His enduring appreciation of the Anglo-American partnership was a guiding thread of his speech.

Burns remarked:

“In a transition memo that I drafted for the incoming Clinton Administration at the end of 1992, I tried to capture the dim outlines of the challenges ahead. ‘While for the first time in 50 years we do not face a global military adversary,’ I wrote, ‘it is certainly conceivable that a return to authoritarianism in Russia or an aggressively hostile China could revive such a global threat.’ ”

Casting Russian President Vladimir Putin as an authoritarian, Burns asserted:

“The most immediate and acute geopolitical challenge to international order today is Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.... One thing I have learned is that it is always a mistake to underestimate Putin’s fixation on controlling Ukraine and its choices, without which he believes it is impossible for Russia to be a major power or him to be a great Russian leader. That tragic and brutish fixation has already brought shame to Russia and exposed its weaknesses.... Putin’s war has already been a strategic failure for Russia—its military weaknesses laid bare; its economy badly damaged for years to come; its future as a junior economic colony of China being shaped by Putin’s mistakes....”

Increasingly, Burns’ tone against Putin is viscerally bitter. He calls Putin “brutish.”

“I’m proud of the work that CIA and our partners across the U.S. intelligence community have done to help President Biden and senior policymakers, and especially Ukrainians themselves, thwart Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. And I’m proud of our close partnership with our British allies, in particular the women and men of the Secret Intelligence Service [MI6] led by my friend Sir Richard Moore, for whom I have the greatest respect.... Together, we provided early and accurate warning of the war that was coming—the essential function of any intelligence service....

“Disaffection with the war will continue to gnaw away at the Russian leadership beneath the steady diet of state propaganda and practiced repression. That disaffection creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us at CIA—at our core a human intelligence service. We’re not letting it go to waste....”

Burns did warn, as U.S. Ambassador to Russia, that Russia saw the expansion of NATO as a threat, but 15 years later, while he still may have acuity, his earlier mindset may have somewhat diminished.

With respect to China, Burns said, “we pay special attention to what they do, and here President Xi’s growing repression at home and his aggressiveness abroad—from his no-limits partnership with Putin to his threats to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait—are impossible to ignore.” Burns did say that, “The answer to that is not to decouple from an economy like China’s, which would be foolish, but to sensibly de-risk and diversify....” Chinese leaders have pointed out several times that “de-risking” is no different than decoupling.

He concludes: “And it is an honor to highlight that partnership here at Ditchley, where so much of the trans-Atlantic spirit found its spark.”

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