Layer: Through the looking glass — Reflections on Ukraine and Taiwan

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

Dick Morris recently compared Tucker Carlson to Neville Chamberlain selling out Czechoslovakia at Munich over Carlson’s opposition to Ukraine joining NATO.

Nonsense. This is not the 1930s, Carlson is a television commentator with zero political power, Chamberlain was Britain’s Prime Minister, head of government in a nation still exhausted by World War I wanting desperately to avoid another world war by appeasing Hitler. As Carlson is not Chamberlain, Putin is not Hitler bellowing about “Lebensraum” and the Versailles Treaty. Morris knows better than to manufacturer false parallels. 

Carlson questions how bringing Ukraine into NATO could be seen by Russia as anything but provocative and a threat to Russian security. Rather than prevent war it might start one.

One of the first steps in foreign and military policy is to understand what makes the other side tick. There is no need to rile up the bear by poking him with a stick which is what expanding NATO would do. Let Ukraine be a buffer zone, a neutral, it benefits everyone. For centuries Ukraine was part of Russia and trade between the two is such that Russia is Ukraine’s third-largest export market.  The two countries have cultural and religious ties as well. Putin has not threatened to send his armies into Europe, which is busy destroying itself by importing Moslems and squelching the rights of citizens under bogus “hate crime” laws.

The specter of Russia seizing Crimea from Ukraine is seen as an example of Russian aggression but Crimea was Russia from czarist times, changing only when Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine. It remains ethnically Russian and if one believes in self-determination, its inhabitants want to be Russian, not Ukrainian.

If a war in Ukraine were to come what could the U.S. do? Sanctions yes, but militarily a dead end. Without European cooperation, and there wouldn’t be any, how could you bring in the necessary troops and supplies? Geography is against you. A division on the road would stretch from D.C. to Ohio, where is the sealift coming from to transport it? The U.S. does not have the merchant fleet to carry it all, we had to hire ships for the Desert Wars and in Desert Storm, the Koreans refused to lease ships to the U.S. If it got to slugging it out do you think Russian subs wouldn’t be active or their long-range bombers? Existing U.S. forces in Europe would be inadequate, the Russians are right there, we are not. 

Taiwan presents a different case. One, the native Taiwanese are not Han Chinese; two, it’s an island giving it something of a buffer; three, there are agreements with Taiwan, which do not exist with Ukraine; four, the 7th fleet is already in the area.

If Peking attacked it would be swift with the first strike taking out communications as we did in Iraq; second, paratroops would seize the airfields and major centers; three, a seaborne invasion would secure the ground and wipe out remaining resistance, all before the U.S. could do anything. With enough warning though, Taiwan could forestall or make difficult any invasion while the 7th fleet took out a Chinese amphibious force. With China building a blue-water navy, however, the whole Pacific could ignite. On the cautionary side, there is much Taiwanese investment in the mainland and Xi is ever watchful about losing “The Mantle of Heaven.” China thinks in terms of centuries, she can be patient.

If Russia invaded Ukraine and the Baltic States while Peking went for Taiwan it could easily go nuke, which nobody, save the Chinese, can afford. Given the weakness of the Biden administration, they could strike but wiser heads should prevail. A Chinese victory over Taiwan would cause Japan and South Korea to go nuclear, wherein they would ally themselves with Australia which will soon have nuke boats. It could then be expected that Singapore, Vietnam, and the rest of southeast Asia would seek safety under that umbrella, India might get into the act as well. That potential should be made known to Beijing.

What ought to give the Russians pause is Chinese ambition and still simmering resentment over territory lost to imperial Russia. China needs space, Russian Siberia has it, and the Russians don’t have the population to hold it. That idea should be on Putin’s mind, and if it isn’t, ought to be put there.

These are perilous times that require the skill of an above-average poker player. Sun-Tzu’s maxim that the greatest general is he who defeats his opponent without fighting remains true. Putin and Xi know this, so should the U.S.

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