Co-authored by J. Stapleton Roy
In a February 13, 2022, essay that was published in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Ukraine Is a Distraction From Taiwan,” Elbridge Colby and Oriana Skylar Mastro argue that the United States will increase the danger of prompting an opportunistic Chinese attack on Taiwan if it deploys military forces to deal with Russia’s threat to Ukraine.
To support this argument, the authors assert that “…China poses an increasingly imminent [emphasis added] threat to Taiwan,” and, given its huge military power, “…reasonably doubt[s] that the U.S or anyone else would mount a meaningful response to an invasion of Taiwan.” In addition, the authors assert that any additional U.S. ground troop deployments to Europe will weaken the U.S. capacity to defend Taiwan, and hence will indeed tempt China to attack.
To make this perceived threat even direr, the authors argue that Taiwan must be kept from China because it is “a vital link in the first island chain in the Western Pacific” the loss of which will make it harder for the U.S. “…to defend critical allies like Japan and the Philippines…,” and allow China to “project its naval, air, and other forces close to the U.S. and its territories….”
The authors present these assertions as if they are truisms, rather than shaky speculations derived from worst-case assumptions or untested theories about Chinese and American intentions and capabilities. The U.S. policy framework for managing its interests with regard to Taiwan has never treated the island as a strategic asset against mainland China. Nor are U.S. defense commitments to its Asian allies dependent on the use of Taiwan for this purpose. There is a low probability that Beijing doubts the likelihood of U.S. involvement in some fashion in response to a mainland invasion of the island, given the language of the Taiwan Relations Act, and the many recent Congressional bills expressing the sense of Congress on the matter.
Read the full article in The National Interest.