U.S. Wary of Russian Finance

WASHINGTON -- The United States should be worried that Russia, China and OPEC countries could use their growing financial clout to advance political goals, the top U.S. spy chief told Congress on Tuesday.

U.S. National Director of Intelligence Michael McConnell voiced the concern to Congress in an annual assessment of potential threats, in which economic matters joined terrorism, nuclear proliferation and computer-network vulnerabilities as top security issues.

Discussing U.S. financial vulnerabilities, McConnell voiced "concerns about the financial capabilities of Russia, China and OPEC countries and the potential use of their market access to exert financial leverage to political ends."

Russia was positioning itself to control an energy supply and transportation network from Europe to East Asia. China's global engagement was driven by a need to access markets and resources, McConnell said.

A weak dollar had prompted some oil suppliers to ask to be paid in other currencies or to delink their currencies from the dollar.

"Continued concerns about dollar depreciation could tempt other producers to follow suit," McConnell said.

Last year, McConnell warned the Senate that Russia was taking a step backward in its democratic progress and could be heading for a controlled succession to President Vladimir Putin. Moscow responded by describing his remarks as "outdated assumptions."