I have great respect for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But if she visits Taiwan this week against the wishes of President Biden, she may be doing something that is completely reckless, dangerous and irresponsible.
Nothing good will come of it. Taiwan will not be safer or more prosperous as a result of this purely symbolic visit, and many bad things can happen. These include a Chinese military response that could result in the US being in indirect conflict with a nuclear-armed Russia and a nuclear-armed China at the same time.
And if you think that our European allies – who are facing an existential war with Russia over Ukraine – if America’s conflict with China over Taiwan stems from this unnecessary visit, you’re horribly wrong with the world. way of reading.
Let’s start with the indirect conflict with Russia, and how Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan now hinges on it.
There are moments in international relations when you need to keep your eyes on the prize. Today that prize is quite clear: we must ensure that Ukraine is able to at least bluntly – and, at most, reverse – an unprovoked invasion of Vladimir Putin that, if successful, would pose a direct threat to the stability of the whole. . The European Union.
To help make the most of Ukraine’s chances of reversing Putin’s invasion, Biden and his national security adviser Jake Sullivan held a series of very difficult meetings with China’s leadership, including by providing military aid to Russia from Beijing. Ukraine urged not to enter the conflict – and especially now, when Putin’s arsenal has been reduced by a five-month peace war.
According to a senior US official, Biden personally told President Xi Jinping that if China entered the war in Ukraine on behalf of Russia, Beijing would cut access to its two most important export markets – the United States and the European Union. will put you at risk. (China is one of the best countries in the world at manufacturing drones, which is what Putin’s troops need most right now.)
By all indications, US officials tell me, China has responded by not providing military assistance to Putin – at a time when the US and NATO are providing Ukraine with intelligence aid and a significant number of advanced weapons that have caused serious damage to the military. Russia, a direct ally of China.
Given all this, why in the world the Speaker of the House chose to visit Taiwan and deliberately provoke China, becoming the most senior US official to visit Taiwan since Newt Gingrich in 1997, when China was economically and militarily Was it too weak?
The timing couldn’t be worse. Dear Reader: The Ukraine war is not over. And privately, US officials are much more concerned about Ukraine’s leadership than they seem to be giving. There is deep mistrust between the White House and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky – more so than has been reported.
And strange business is going on in Kyiv. On July 17, Zelensky fired his country’s prosecutor general and the leader of its domestic intelligence agency – the most significant blow to his government since the Russian invasion in February. This would be equivalent to the firing of Merrick Garland and Bill Burns by Biden on the same day. But I haven’t seen any report yet that explains what it was all about. It seems that when we have invested so much there, we do not want to look too closely under the hood in Kyiv for fear of corruption or antics. (More on the dangers of That Another Day.)
Meanwhile, senior US officials still believe Putin is ready to consider using a smaller nuclear weapon against Ukraine if he sees his military facing a certain defeat.
In short, this Ukraine war is not over, so not stable, so is not without dangerous surprises that could roll out any day. Yet in the midst of all this are we going to risk a conflict with China over Taiwan, provoked by an arbitrary and frivolous visit by the Speaker of the House?
It’s Geopolitics 101 that you don’t fight on two fronts with the other two superpowers at the same time.
Now, let’s turn to the possibilities of an indirect conflict with China, and how Pelosi’s visit could trigger it.
according to chinese news Report, Xi told Biden on his phone call last week, citing US involvement in Taiwan affairs, such as a possible Pelosi visit, “whoever plays with fire will burn.”
Biden’s national security team has made it clear to Pelosi, a longtime human rights advocate in China, why he should not go to Taiwan now. But the president did not call him directly and told him not to leave, apparently worried he would look soft on China, leaving an opportunity for Republicans to attack him before midterm.
It is a measure of our political laxity that a Democratic president cannot deter the speaker of the Democratic House from engaging in diplomatic maneuvers that his entire national security team—from the CIA director to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs—considers unwise.
To be sure, there is an argument that Biden should fall prey to Xi’s bluff, back Pelosi and tell Xi that if he threatens Taiwan in any way, it is China that “will burn.” “
It can work. It can look good even for a day. It could even start the Third World War.
I think Taiwan should have just asked Pelosi not to come at this time. I greatly admire Taiwan and the economy and democracy it has built since the end of World War II. I have visited Taiwan several times over the past 30 years and have personally seen how much Taiwan has changed in that time – that’s all.
But there is one thing that hasn’t changed for Taiwan: Its geography!
Taiwan is still a small island nation, now with 23 million people, about 100 miles off the coast of a vast mainland China, with 1.4 billion people who claim Taiwan as part of the Chinese homeland. Countries that forget their geography are in trouble.
Don’t mistake this for pacifism on my part. I believe it is an important US national interest to protect Taiwan’s democracy in the event of an unprovoked Chinese invasion.
But if we are going to contend with Beijing, at least let it be on our time and on our issues. From cyber incursions to intellectual property theft to military maneuvers in the South China Sea, China’s increasingly aggressive behavior on many fronts are our issues.
That said, this is not the time to attack China, especially given how sensitive this is in Chinese politics. Xi is on the eve of locking in a indefinite extension Regarding his role as leader of China at the 20th Communist Party Congress, expected this fall. The Chinese Communist Party has always made it clear that the integration of Taiwan and mainland China is its “historical work”, and, since coming to power in 2012, Xi has consistently and recklessly underscored his commitment to that task with aggressive military maneuvers around Taiwan.
By visiting, Pelosi will actually give Xi an opportunity to divert attention from his failures – a ludicrous tactic to try to stem the spread of Covid-19 by using the lockdowns of China’s major cities, a huge real estate bubble now is deflating and threatening a banking crisis and a huge mountain government debt As a result of Xi’s unrestrained support for state-owned industries.
I seriously doubt that Taiwan’s current leadership, at its heart, wants Pelosi’s visit right now. Anyone who follows the cautious behavior of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, since his election in 2016, has been struck by his relentless efforts to defend Taiwan’s independence. China is an easy excuse for military action against Taiwan.
Alas, I fear the growing consensus in Xi’s China is that the Taiwan question can only be resolved militarily, but China wants to do it on its own time. Our goal should be to deter China from such a timely military effort – that is, forever.
But the best way to do this is to do what military analysts call a “porcupine”—a country with so many missiles that China would never want to lay its hands on it—while doing as little as possible to provoke China. saying and doing. Thinking it should lay its hands on this now. Pursuing anything other than that balanced approach would be a terrible mistake, with widespread and unforeseen consequences.