FOREWORD In the coming year, the United States and its allies will face a diverse array of threats that are playing out amidst the global disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and against the backdrop of great power competition, the disruptive effects of ecological degradation and a changing climate, an increasing number of empowered non-state actors, and rapidly evolving technology. The complexity the threats, their intersections, and the potential for cascading events in an increasingly interconnected and mobile world create new challenges for the IC. Ecological and climate changes, for example, are connected to public health risks, humanitarian concerns, social and political instability, and geopolitical rivalry. The 2021 Annual Threat Assessment highlights some of those connections as it provides the IC’s baseline assessments of the most pressing threats to US national interests, while emphasizing the United States’ key adversaries and competitors. It is not an exhaustive assessment of all global challenges and notably excludes assessments of US adversaries’ vulnerabilities. It accounts for functional concerns, such as weapons of mass destruction and technology, primarily in the sections on threat actors, such as China and Russia. Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, and Pyongyang have demonstrated the capability and intent to advance their interests at the expense of the United States and its allies, despite the pandemic. China increasingly is a near-peer competitor, challenging the United States in multiple arenas especially economically, militarily, and technologically—and is pushing to change global norms. Russia is pushing back against Washington where it can globally, employing techniques up to and including the use of force. Iran will remain a regional menace with broader malign influence activities, and North Korea will be a disruptive player on the regional and world stages. Major adversaries and competitors are enhancing and exercising their military, cyber, and other capabilities, raising the risks to US and allied forces, weakening our conventional deterrence, and worsening the longstanding threat from weapons of mass destruction. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to strain governments and societies, fueling humanitarian and economic crises, political unrest, and geopolitical competition as countries, such as China and Russia, seek advantage through such avenues as “vaccine diplomacy.” 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. Countries with high debts or that depend on oil exports, tourism, or remittances face particularly challenging recoveries, while others will turn inward or be distracted by other challenges. Ecological degradation and a changing climate will continue to fuel disease outbreaks, threaten food and water security, and exacerbate political instability and humanitarian crises. Although much of the effect of a changing climate on US security will play out indirectly in a broader political and economic context, warmer weather can generate direct, immediate impacts—for example, through more intense storms, flooding, and permafrost melting. This year we will see increasing potential for surges in migration by Central American populations, which are reeling from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme weather, including multiple hurricanes in 2020 and several years of recurring droughts and storms. The scourge of illicit drugs and transnational organized crime will continue to take its toll on American lives, prosperity, and safety. Major narcotics trafficking groups have adapted to the pandemic’s challenges to maintain their deadly trade, as have other transnational criminal organizations.