US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s visit Australia this week, even as the US declares the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine to be imminent, is being seen by many as a signal of the long-term recalibration of American interests away from Europe.
The EU has also been seeking a degree of independence from the United States, even as internal divisions have meant that it has failed to form a cohesive response to the brewing crisis at its edges, and has been seen by many as backtracking on its foundational values of national self-determination and human rights in recent years.
Despite many referring to the parallels between Ukraine and Taiwan facing threats of invasion from their much larger neighbors, China and Russia, both of which are strategic rivals of the United States, the similarities end there. Ukraine, while generally maintaining positive relationships with Western-aligned countries over the last several years, has no existing security formalized relationship with the West. Neither the US nor Ukraine’s other European allies have made any indication that they would directly intervene in a conflict, nor would it necessarily be in their interests to risk large-scale conflict over the risk of Russian annexation of the war-torn provinces in the East.
The Eastern Ukrainian region in question is economically and politically weak and relatively valueless territory, whose neutral population has largely fled, and is now mostly occupied by Russian paramilitaries and collaborators.
Taiwan, on the other hand, represents the keystone of American credibility in the Pacific region. It is a strategic goldmine in terms of its location, human capital, and industries. Most importantly, the US maintains the Taiwan Relations Act which implies that the United States is responsible for maintaining Taiwan’s security and preventing annexation by China, and which Biden has made reference to recently and even gone so far as to pierce the dated doctrine of strategic ambiguity and state that the US would intervene in the event of a PRC-led invasion. Further, Taiwanese people are hostile to the idea of a PRC annexation, with both an independence-oriented wing aimed at political self-determination, and ROC nationalists aiming to democratize China and end CCP rule.
Still, with China clearly seeking to highlight their ties with Russia over the course of the current Winter Olympics, it is easy for some to note the parallels.
After the chaotic American withdrawal from Afghanistan, publicly referred to by many in the Chinese media as a foreshadowing of American abandonment of Taiwan, the US is sensitive to repeat this debacle and aims to shore up questions regarding its commitment to maintaining its security hegemony in the Pacific.
One notable piece of this effort is the AUKUS agreement, with Blinken visiting Australia, and meeting with leaders from Australia, India and Japan before visiting Fiji on Saturday.
Staff writer: Ari B