Is the “Russian-Ukraine Crisis” a dress rehearsal for a cross-strait war? Four ways the US can help Taiwan

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is imminent, but it is clearly half a world away from Taiwan. Why do foreign media such as The New York Times and Bloomberg say that Taiwanese should pay more attention to the Russia-Ukraine crisis?

The world is worried that the war is imminent, which may affect the global oil, natural gas and food prices soaring and further exacerbate inflation. In addition, if Russia invades Ukraine, it will face severe economic sanctions from the European Union and the United States. The two sides will retaliate with sanctions one after another, which will inevitably impact the overall European economy and the performance of emerging markets such as Russia and Ukraine.

For Taiwan, it is even more inseparable from the cross-strait situation, because the possibility of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised concerns about China’s invasion of Taiwan, indicating that the United States needs to prepare for a possible cross-strait crisis.

Both sides of the strait are concerned: Is the US military going to defend Taiwan?
Hal Brands, a professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in a Bloomberg review, pointing out that the current Eastern European drama seems to be a rehearsal for how the West will respond to the Taiwan Strait crisis. The U.S. response has given the world a glimpse of how this democratic power will face China’s provocation. The collapse of the Eastern European defense line may force the U.S. to devote more resources to assist, giving Beijing more opportunities to expand its power in Asia.

The New York Times reported that the confrontation between Russia and the United States over the situation in Ukraine resonated across the Taiwan Strait, highlighting the respective strategic calculus of the two sides for the outbreak of an armed military conflict.

China believes that the Russian-Ukrainian conflict can weaken the US’s support and attention to Taiwan. It is a potential crisis for the United States and diverts the military resources the US military has deployed in the Pacific to counter China’s ambitions. From Taiwan’s point of view, it is an opportunity to verify Taiwan’s strategic assumptions. That is, whether the US military will intervene to stop China’s invasion of Taiwan.

“If the Western powers do not respond to Russia, it will encourage China to act boldly on Taiwan,” said Lai Yizhong, executive director of the Cross-Strait Exchange Vision Foundation. Even Wu Qiang, an independent Chinese political scientist, pointed out that, in some respects, Taiwan is more vulnerable than Ukraine, because Taiwan’s diplomatic status has not been officially recognized internationally, so if a war in the Taiwan Strait breaks out, international intervention will be more complicated.

In order to study this European crisis, which is actually very close to Taiwan, and to understand how it will affect relations with China, President Tsai Ing-wen ordered the establishment of a task force to continuously track the situation in eastern Ukraine. The New York Times pointed out that perhaps Taiwanese understand better than the world what it feels like to live in the shadow of hegemony.

From the perspective of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, how the United States can help Taiwan in four ways
Brandes urged that if China attacks Taiwan, the United States must help Taiwan defend the first wave of offensive, and at the same time, it needs to convene a multilateral military alliance and make Beijing pay a heavy price. The Russia-Ukraine crisis highlights four preparations that Washington can advance.

First, the United States must develop and continue to improve a dual-track approach to economic sanctions. The most effective sanctions rely on multilateral cooperation, but the United States also needs to act unilaterally. This is because the Russian-Ukrainian crisis has shown how difficult it is to obtain broad recognition for severe sanctions. For example, if the United States and Europe want to kick Russia out of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), which is related to financial transactions, it will not only hurt the economy of Russia, but also the United States, The same is true for markets such as Germany.

Therefore, the Biden administration has begun to emphasize unilateral U.S. sanctions, including a ban on the export of high-end semiconductors to Russia. Considering China’s importance to the global economy, sanctions in the Taiwan Strait war will be more difficult than Russia and Ukraine. In addition to taking the lead in imposing unilateral sanctions, the United States will also form a larger economic alliance.

Second, it is best to strengthen the presence of the US military before the conflict in the Taiwan Strait breaks out. Because once tensions escalate, the U.S. military’s advance will be regarded as provocative and even destabilize the region. If war breaks out, the U.S. Marine Corps plans to establish bases on Japanese islands near Taiwan to counter the Chinese fleet, the sources said. However, the gap between the cross-strait crisis and the invasion of Taiwan was actually very short-lived, and it was difficult for the US military to deploy military forces.

In order to reduce the risk of military paralysis at critical moments, Brandes believes that the United States and Japan should strengthen military exercises and deploy military forces on a regular basis. Even, the United States should consider expanding the deployment of troops in Taiwan, secretly strengthening the scale of cooperative operations, and increasing the frequency of tasks. Washington will be able to build small but excellent elite troops in advance.

Third, Taiwan and the US should immediately jointly strengthen their cyber defense capabilities. The situation in Ukraine was tense, but it was reported that the website of the Ukrainian government department suffered a large-scale cyber attack, and Russia was accused of being the mastermind behind it. Taiwan is even more dangerous. It is no longer news that Taiwan is frequently attacked by the Chinese cyber army. Experts predict that any crime against Taiwan will be accompanied by overwhelming cyber attacks, with the aim of paralyzing Taiwan society and forcing its leaders to surrender. Taiwan’s important infrastructure is highly digitized, including natural gas, water conservancy, and electricity, all of which are under great threat.

Klon Kitchen, a defense and cybersecurity expert at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a Washington-based think tank, and Bill Drexel, a researcher, suggested that the U.S. Cyber ​​Command and the National Security NSA) actively hunts for cyber threats to servers in Taiwan.

Fourth, Taiwan and the United States need to have closer daily exchanges. The dispute between Western democracies and Ukraine has shown that even close diplomatic partners cannot easily cooperate in coordinating messages and actions. Not to mention Taiwan, because it has no formal diplomatic relations with the United States, the situation of cross-strait conflicts is even more difficult.

Brandes said Washington does not need to revisit the “one-China policy,” but as Dan Blumenthal, an Asia expert at the American Enterprise Institute, said, the United States can expand military ties with Taiwan and facilitate political and diplomatic interactions. And establish crisis communication procedures, so that the leaders of the two countries can also maintain communication when a conflict breaks out.

The Russian-Ukrainian crisis is undoubtedly a catastrophe for the world, and the only hope is that the United States has learned from it how to prevent an even bigger disaster: the war in the Taiwan Strait.

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