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Ukraine and Taiwan Revisited

Updated: Feb 16

"Fool me once, shame on... shame on you. Ya fool me, you can’t get fooled again!" G.W. Bush

Nato expansion in Europe has always been a threat to Russia, just like Soviet missiles in Cuba would be a threat to the US. This is the organization that destroyed Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya and Serbia (Russia's ally), in 1999 (also bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade). Disregarding Russia's security concerns, Nato has been steadily expanding since 1999 when it admitted Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, three former Warsaw Pact countries. In 2004, it admitted seven more Eastern European countries including the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.


Above: The USCE tower on fire during the 1999 bombing in the former Yugoslavia, current day Belgrade, Serbia.

Nato expansion is one thing, but Nato expansion to Ukraine has been a redline publicly recognized over the years by countless White House (and Russian) officials, diplomats, statesmen, academics and pundits. Here is a brief list:

George Kennan, the architect of US Cold War policy Henry Kissinger, needs no introduction John Mearsheimer, leading realist IR scholar Jack Matlock, US Ambassador to the USSR under Reagan and HW Bush William Perry, Clinton's defense secretary Bill Burns, Ambassador to Russia under GW Bush, current director of CIA Bob Gates, US defense secretary under Bush and Obama Malcolm Fraser, 22nd PM of Australia Paul Keating, 24th PM of Australia Adam Tooze, everyone's favorite economic historian

Somehow, all of these warnings by experts have been erased from the western media since February 2022, hence the "unprovoked" descriptor that is ALWAYS attached to describe Putin's invasion.

The historical and cultural significance of Ukraine to Russia cannot be denied. Russia's origin dates back to the Kievan Rus (Rus Land) state of the late 9th century and one of its earliest rulers, Vladimir (or Volodymyr) the Great, is the patron saint of both Russia and Ukraine. The geostrategic significance of Ukraine and its importance to the security of Russia should be obvious. Russia has been invaded 5 times by armies slicing through the great plains of Ukraine. First the Poles in 1605, followed by the Swedes in 1707, then the French under Napoleon in 1812, and the Germans in both world wars.

Photo: Wikipedia

Above: Vladimir the Great on the Millennium of Russia monument in Novgorod

So did the US and Nato respect Russia’s redline? No. Since the 2014, the US backed the overthrow of the fairly elected President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. The US has been steadily arming and training the Ukrainian military and even paramilitary groups like the Azov Battalion which has committed genocide in the former Ukrainian territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, before Russia's recent annexation of these lands. Yanukovych was was pro-Russia and signed a much more favorable bail out package with Russia instead of with the EU. By September 2021, Ukraine had become a de facto Nato member as they openly declared in the Joint Statement on the US-Ukraine Strategic Partnership.

However, none of this justifies Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine. But is it really unprovoked? Putin's invasion has been a gift to the US. Nato has been reinvigorated, US oil and gas companies have a whole continent of new desperate customers, and US arms dealers have massive new contracts. Russia has been badly weakened.

Now lets traverse to East Asia Pacific. China does not like rival military bases on its border. It would prefer the US did not have military bases in South Korea, or Japan, or Singapore, or the Philippines. China would prefer the US to not have AUKUS and the Quad threatening it with military exercises in the South China Sea. These are not redlines, there is not much China can do about it. Taiwan declaring independence however is a redline. Taiwan becoming a military ally of the US is a redline.

Photo from Base Nation

Above: U.S. military bases all surrounding China.

Taiwan has been an important part of China for over 300 years, longer than the USA has existed. China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province in an ongoing Chinese Civil War. Up until very recently, both believed that there is only one sovereign state under the name China and Taiwan is part of China. In fact, under international law as per UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, there is only one China and the PRC is "the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations."

"...under international law as per UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, there is only one China and the PRC is "the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations."

China-Taiwan relations have waxed and waned but importantly avoided serious conflict for over 70 years because Taiwan has not declared independence under the umbrella of strategic ambiguity practiced by the US. Strategic ambiguity is the US policy of not declaring whether or not it would intervene militarily in a war between China and Taiwan. With this policy in place, China has not risked an invasion of Taiwan and Taiwan has refrained from declaring independence. The majority of Taiwanese do not want independence but the status quo. Trade between China and Taiwan has flourished and both have benefitted.

But strategic ambiguity is being eroded. Biden has repeatedly stated that the US would intervene to help Taiwan while the White House walks back his statement saying there has been no change in their One China Policy.

The Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 is even more provocative, recently approved by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The act calls for Taiwan to be designated a "major non-Nato ally." Taiwan would be provided with 4.5 billion in security assistance over four years to establish "a comprehensive training program with the Government of Taiwan." The act aims for "more interoperability between the US and Taiwanese militaries [along with] joint US-Taiwan contingency tabletop exercises, war games and what the bill calls 'robust, operationally relevant, or full-scale' military exercises,'' according to Asia Times. Taiwan is to become a de facto Nato member. Nato has come to the Pacific.

Nato of course stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Despite its moniker, Nato invited Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan which are countries in the Asia Pacific to its 2022 Madrid Summit and Nato's 2022 Strategic Concept refers to China for the first time.

Does any of this sound familiar? Would any of this be considered provocative? Will you be fooled again?


The Taiwan Policy Act of 2022

How Belgraders Remember the NATO Bombings

The Night the US bombed a Chinese embassy

Russia and the Curse of Geography

In Defense of Strategic Ambiguity in the Taiwan Strait

One China,is%20a%20part%20of%20China.

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