Does the US focus on helping Ukraine make Taiwan more vulnerable to Chinese invasion? | Taiwan News

In the famous Thirty-six Stratagems (三十六計), a classic of Chinese warfare strategy, the fourth stratagem states “Wait at ease for the weary enemy (以逸待勞)”. What does it mean? The clever opponent will wait until the enemy is tired and weak before striking. What is the connection between this aphorism and the tensions of the Taiwan Strait?


American public opinion in favor of the war is at its lowest since the end of the Vietnam War for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons is the horrific way the United States withdrew from Afghanistan. More than a thousand American citizens have had to find their own way out of a country controlled by the Taliban, while Washington abandoned at least seven billion dollars worth of weapons and equipment.


The American population is war-weary after 20 years of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars required servicemen and contractors to make back-to-back deployments to one country or the other. Compounding war fatigue in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has engaged in other conflicts that the media has not covered closely. President Obama’s Final War Powers Resolution letter to Congress in 2017 listed 19 locations where U.S. military personnel have been deployed and equipped for combat in its Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) application: Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Kenya, Niger, Cameroon, Uganda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Cuba and Kosovo. As of April 18, 2022, the date of President Biden’s last speech letter in Congress, the United States has deployed forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia. Biden did not remove the AUMF for Afghanistan even though the United States withdrew its forces and the same goes for Iraq. Yes, war-weary is an understatement.


President Biden recently asked Congress to approve the colossal sum of $33 billion present this year to Ukraine in addition to US$4.6 billion that the United States has already given to Ukraine since the start of the Biden administration in January 2021:


  • $20.4 billion for military aid
  • US$8.5 billion for economic aid
  • $3 billion for additional humanitarian aid
  • $500 million for “aid to national food production [that] will support the production of American food crops that are experiencing a global shortage due to the war in Ukraine”


Annual 2020 military assistance to our allies and partners is approximately US$12 billion, including US$3.9 billion for Afghanistan. The Biden administration is proposing to triple its foreign military aid in 2022.


Instead of backing down at Biden’s request, the House of Representatives offered a US$40 billion package that included more funds for Ukrainian humanitarian aid. The Senate will consider the House proposal and Senator Mitch McConnell has said he wants focus on the war effort.


With so much American support to provide military aid to Ukrainians fighting Russia, what are the effects of putting all our “eggs in one basket” by providing unconditional aid to Ukraine?


Internally, more government spending means higher inflation and a higher cost of living for the average American citizen. The actions of the Biden administration have increased “normal” inflation. These actions include reversing America’s energy independence (the United States was a net exporter of oil until the Biden administration shut down several programs), taking US$1.2 trillion on infrastructure projects, canceling trade with Russia and adding US$2.77 trillion in 2021 to the national debt (the total national debt at the end of 2021 was US$28.43 trillion). Americans in the middle to lower income bracket suffer the most from higher inflation. Their purchasing power and cash reserves are extremely thin. The Biden administration blames the inflation on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but inflation was rising before the Ukraine crisis.


What about our partners abroad?


Taiwan is also suffering from the enthusiasm of the Biden administration and Congress to support Ukraine. Why?


First, the United States’ extravagant arms donations to Ukrainian forces undermine the United States’ ability to help others. US arms stockpiles are shrinking to levels that jeopardize the ability of US forces to fight. Until the United States replenishes these stockpiles, the United States will not be able to supply weapons to other countries that may fall victim to Russian invasions, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), or others. The CCP and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are happy with this situation because the United States will not have the funds or weapons available to send to Taiwan.


Second, a CCP-ordered embargo on non-PRC ships and planes flying to Taiwan limits options for American and Asian allies to support Taiwan. A nuclear war with China to end an embargo on Taiwan is not a politically feasible option.


Why couldn’t US and Taiwan allies send weapons or other supplies to Taiwan? Because the CCP will declare that supplying weapons or other materials to Taiwan is interference in China’s internal affairs. Indeed, acts contrary to the embargo would be considered as casus belli, acts of war.


If Russia had been able to close all of Ukraine’s borders, Russia would have made the same statement regarding interference in Ukraine. Unfortunately for Russia, it did not control Ukraine’s western borders between Belarus and the Black Sea, which include the following NATO countries: Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Through these NATO countries, military and other aid flows to Ukraine. Taiwan is an island and if the PLA Navy and Air Force control the ocean and air around Taiwan, then the CCP may prevent other countries from helping Taiwan in the future. conflict.


On May 4, 2022, Admiral Charles Richard, Commander of United States Strategic Command, Noted in his testimony to Congress that the CCP is “watching the war in Ukraine closely and will likely use nuclear coercion to its advantage in the future. Their intention is to achieve military capability to reunify Taiwan by 2027, if not sooner.


Friends and allies of the United States and Taiwan should try to send military aid now and provide training before the fighting begins. Providing military aid and training now might be enough to deter the CCP long enough for Taiwan to become unpalatable for the CCP to “eat”, at least in the short term. The anti-Russian coalition’s war fatigue, lack of supplies, funds and foresight suggest that Taiwan should prepare to defend itself.


Eventually, the allies of the United States and Taiwan will be able to replenish their stockpiles of weapons. Fortunately, as long as the COVID chaos continues and other internal challenges persist in the PRC, Taiwan has a chance to prepare for the worst and benefit from its allies.



Guermantes Lailari is a retired USAF foreign area officer specializing in the Middle East and Europe as well as counterterrorism, irregular warfare, and missile defense. He studied, worked and served in the Middle East and North Africa for over 14 years and in Europe for six years. He served as Air Force Attaché in the Middle East, served in Iraq, and holds advanced degrees in international relations and strategic intelligence. After retiring from the USAF, he served in a variety of positions, including four years with the Assistant Secretary of Defense’s Irregular Warfare Technology Support Directorate for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict (ASD-SOLIC) . He was selected to be program director for the asymmetric warfare program at Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation, followed by assignments in the Middle East where he managed a forward-based U.S. missile defense radar and a variety of other technical positions. He was selected to be a 2022 Taiwanese scholar by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan and is researching for the year at National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan.

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