Published in The Washington Post
As Russian troops mass on Ukraine’s eastern border, prominent politicians and policymakers are urging the White House to defend Ukraine more assertively. Some claim the stakes justify escalation with a nuclear peer. But others argue that America’s broader “credibility” is on the line: If the United States fails to check Russian aggression against Ukraine, the argument goes, it may embolden China to invade Taiwan.
Retired Adm. James Stavridis, the former military leader of NATO, asserts that “China will be watching U.S. support to Ukraine, and it will inform their calculus regarding Taiwan.” Making concessions to Russia would deal a “blow” to “U.S. credibility from Kyiv to Taipei,” warns Rep. Michael McCaul (Tex.), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) likewise worries that if the United States acts too passively toward Russia, “China would conclude, ‘Boy, the West sure isn’t going to come to the aid of Taiwan if we were to do something on Taiwan.’”
Such arguments are doubly mistaken, at once misdiagnosing the Ukraine crisis and getting the Taiwan connection backward.