According to CNN, Burns is receiving bipartisan praise from lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee who made clear they intend to support his candidacy as the first lifelong diplomat to serve as director of the nation’s preeminent spy agency.
“There are, however, a growing number of areas in which Xi’s China is a formidable, authoritarian adversary — methodically strengthening its capabilities to steal intellectual property, repress its own people, bully its neighbours, expand its global reach, and build influence in American society,” CNN quoted Burns as saying to lawmakers.
At the hearing, Burns outlined how he will approach China and Russia.
Burns said, “For CIA, that will mean intensified focus and urgency — continually strengthening its already-impressive cadre of China specialists, expanding its language skills, aligning personnel and resource allocation for the long-haul, and employing a whole-of-agency approach to the operational and analytical challenges of this crucial threat.”
Burns also stressed the importance of “firmness and consistency” in responding to Russia.
The Trump administration was notoriously soft-handed in dealing with aggression from Moscow, CNN reported.
Burns said he learned through his foreign policy work “in dealing with those threats, responding to them and deterring them, firmness and consistency is hugely important, and it’s also very important to work to the maximum extent possible with allies and partners.”
“We have more effects sometimes on Putin’s calculus when he sees responses coming, firm responses coming not just from the United States, but from our European allies and others as well. So, it pays off to work hard at widening that circle of countries who are going to push back,” he added.
Burns also said that “it’s always a mistake to underestimate Putin’s Russia,” noting that under Vladimir Putin’s leadership it can be at least as disruptive as a rising power like China.
“So we have to be quite cold-eyed in our view of how those threats can emerge,” CNN quoted Burns as saying.
Burns is a career diplomat who served in the US Foreign Service for 33 years and holds the highest rank in the service.
Burns also served as deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama and has held other diplomatic posts over a three-decade career in Republican and Democratic administrations.