Ukraine, Taiwan: Joe Biden’s twin winter wars

In La Tribune 06/12/2021

Russia is in the driver’s seat. President Putin’s personal spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has said it many times: Russia will never accept that its near abroad, Ukraine or Belarus, should go over to Nato’s side. Otherwise it will retaliate, because a NATO Ukraine means that Moscow would only be at a missile range of less than 10 minutes.

A very large territory

This recalls an old conversation with a colonel in Krasnoyarsk. Although the USSR had already collapsed, he told me: “Russia won the Cold War. – How? – Our country was not invaded.” Indeed, Europe rarely understood the sickly Russian fear of invasion. During the years of the Cold War, Europe feared Russian invasion, while Moscow feared the opposite. Russia is a very large territory for such a small population.

That is why more than 200,000 men, half Ukrainian and half Russian, are massed on both sides of the border. Russia fears that Kiev will join NATO, but who wants Kiev to join NATO?

For its own security, Europe has no interest. On the Eastern European side, already incapable of large-scale military partnerships with France in Africa, which other European countries would defend Ukraine? Poland, Slovakia or Romania, but how much do they weigh in terms of forces? Hungary? One can doubt it. In Western Europe, at a time when Germany is installing a tricolor government, in the middle of the presidential campaign in France and to a lesser extent in Italy, how can we send soldiers to fight for Donetsk and Luhansk? Moreover, since Germany shot itself in the foot by eliminating its nuclear power, now that Russian natural gas is more essential than ever, how can we explain to Gazprom in the middle of winter to deliver its gas if German soldiers are fighting for Ukraine?

25,000 men ready to land

At the same time, on the other side of the world, China is opposed to Taiwan’s future far from Beijing. It is said to be training 25,000 men to land and establish a bridgehead, which Taipei believes will be possible by 2025. Caught in their strategic and commercial opposition, will the United States and China each refuse to let go of Taiwan?

In light of the disaster of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which Asian countries would confidently cooperate with the United States in defending Taiwan from China? Australia may be there, but what does it matter? It does not yet have an atomic submarine made in USA? As a small aside, let’s remember that in politics, the height of diplomacy is not to flush out the lies and the liars. Naïveté does not help, one must believe the intelligence or renew oneself with different blood rather than new blood. Will Korea sacrifice the surveillance of its northern border? Will Korea and Japan sacrifice their economic interests with China for Taiwan, but how much do they weigh in military capacity? Some suggest sending Nato soldiers. But under what authority, since Taiwan is not part of NATO’s collective security? Finally, would such military forces be sent in China Sea by planes flying over Russia, with whom they are at war in Ukraine?

A war ends if there is a winner

What would happen if Russia wins the battle of Ukraine? A coup d’état or an invasion till four borders of the EU: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. In this case, what will happen on these borders? Who will cooperate with whom? But if Russia loses, what would be Ukraine’s interest: to take back only its territories or to go further?

If China wins the battle of Taiwan, does the power in Beijing have a desire to conquer further afield? Will South Asian countries be threatened by uncertain borders in the China Sea; where would China stop? Conversely, if Beijing loses, will the winners advance into China’s mainland territory in Fujian?

The U.S. is worried about these two wars this winter, one against Russia, the other against China. Ultimately, what response are they making?

War in Ukraine seems the least likely since the West can avoid it by negotiating and leaving Ukraine out of Nato. Does Russia want a secure border or does it have an interest in going further, or would it have the means to do so without taking great risks? In Washington, the question seems to be solved, the United States is helping with armaments, but they will not have conventional military operations, official or regulatory, since they have already chosen and announced to threaten Russia only with the strongest economic sanctions. That is why they are pushing NATO soldiers in, without any legal reason to intervene. Ukraine will be left alone to defend itself, so it is in its interest not to join NATO to avoid a solitary war with Moscow.

Doing nothing is often wiser

The war in Taiwan appears more decisive on paper. Planting its flag in Taipei is such a raison d’être for Beijing that the status quo would be shattered if the United States were to move from “Washington takes into account one China including Taiwan” to “a defence of Taiwan”. What is there to negotiate? Time, showing strength, and the size of the U.S. fleet still gives it a deterrent advantage.

The United States probably does not have the human capacity, nor the support of its population, neither the desire to wage a war, or even two wars at once, and neither does Europe. Doing nothing is often the wisest course of action. But if Nato advances towards Kiev, if Washington engages with Taipei, a coordination, an alliance between the two presidents of Russia and China to wage two wars simultaneously could be in their interest. Is it such a prelude if Moscow shows signs of preparation and Beijing trains its aircraft in southwestern Taiwan? Is there a risk this winter?