No, the Ukraine isn't a litmus test for Tawain
The WSJ has jumped on the Gov/Media bandwagon to support our involvement in a war that makes little sense (unless you enjoyed Vietnam).
Unlike Ukraine which is essential to US strategic interests, Tawain is among other things the epicenter and source of the world's complex microchips.
Additionally, while Putin has troops and artillery to have locked up the Donbas, an invasion of Tawain is a naval war, one where the US and Japan have 10 times the firepower.
The Taiwanese Are Worried That the U.S. Will Abandon Ukraine
Japan, Australia and South Korea also see the war with Russia as a test of American resolve.
By Seth G. Jones
Sept. 15, 2023 3:12 pm ET
American allies in Asia are increasingly concerned about stalling aid to Ukraine. These worries are particularly acute in Taiwan, where leaders told me this month that a major decline in U.S. military assistance to Kyiv would embolden Beijing and weaken deterrence in Asia.
Opposition to supporting Ukraine is building among some members of Congress, who argue that America should concentrate exclusively on China and the defense of Taiwan. These officials contend that our resources are finite, that weapons exports to Ukraine come at Taiwan’s expense, and that sustained focus on war in Europe benefits China. Some even maintain that every dollar spent on Ukraine is a waste of taxpayer money that could be better used on domestic priorities, such as combating the spread of fentanyl.
These arguments are misguided and dangerous. As senior political and military leaders in Australia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have pointed out, a collapse of American support in Ukraine would have serious ripple effects across Asia.
The views in Taipei, the most likely flashpoint with China, are striking. Taiwan’s national-security leaders warn that reduced U.S. aid to Ukraine would heighten Taiwanese concerns about American resolve. A declining percentage of the island’s population believe the U.S. would send troops in case of a war. One poll, conducted by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation, found that only 36% of Taiwanese believe America would do so.
Taiwan’s fears aren’t surprising. Though Mr. Biden has stated on several occasions that the U.S. would come to the island’s defense, his administration’s policies have failed to reassure Taiwan. In 2021, the U.S. withdrew its military forces from Afghanistan, leading to the quick collapse of the Afghan government and Taliban victory. A year later, Mr. Biden ruled out sending U.S. troops to Ukraine, raising anxieties in Taiwan.
Meantime, China’s Xi Jinping has explicitly warned that he “will never promise to give up the use of force ” and that he reserves “the option to take all necessary measures” to seize Taiwan. Over the past several months, Beijing’s military has ramped up pressure around Taiwan. China’s air force now routinely flies into Taiwan’s air defense zone and sends fighter aircraft across the Taiwan Strait’s median line, which had served as an unofficial barrier. China also routinely sends drones near or over Taiwan’s islands in the South China Sea, such as Kinmen and Matsu.
According to Taiwan officials, abandoning Ukraine would reinforce Mr. Xi’s view that the U.S. is a declining power. To exploit these sentiments, the Chinese Communist Party is already running aggressive disinformation operations on the island. In one campaign, analyzed by the U.S. cybersecurity company Mandiant, Chinese government-linked outlets published articles on more than 72 fake-news sites claiming that America would abandon Taiwan following a potential invasion.
It’s a false dichotomy to argue that the U.S. needs to choose between China and Russia. Both are authoritarian regimes cooperating on two major axes. Beijing and Moscow have deepened their military, economic and diplomatic ties since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In July the two regimes conducted joint naval exercises in the Sea of Japan, and a few months ago they conducted another naval operation off the coast of Alaska.
The U.S. can’t afford to dither. It should develop a two-front strategy that works with allies and partners—including Taiwan and Ukraine—to counter China and Russia. These fronts require different weapons packages, training programs and defense postures for very different wars. The Indo-Pacific is mostly an air-sea battle, while Europe is primarily an air-land conflict.
American allies and enemies alike see Ukraine as a test of Western resolve. A long-term commitment that weakens Russia and helps Ukraine stand up to tyranny will strengthen deterrence in Asia and reassure Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Australia that America is still a dominant world power and trusted partner.
Mr. Jones is senior vice president and director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as well as author most recently of “Three Dangerous Men: Russia, China, Iran and the Rise of Irregular Warfare.”
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