Taiwan Is Not Ukraine: Stop Linking Their Fates Together

January 27, 2022
Kharis Templeman

This is the beginning of an article originally published by War on the Rocks.

Russia’s military buildup around Ukraine has triggered the most serious crisis in relations between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War. Over 100,000 Russian troops are deployed near the border with Ukraine, poised to launch a major military assault at a moment’s notice. While these developments appear only to affect European security, American commentators have been quick to draw parallels to Taiwan. The similarities seem obvious. Like Ukraine, Taiwan faces an existential threat from one of Eurasia’s great autocratic powers, and it is also a Western-oriented democracy that the United States has an interest in keeping free from coercion. Both Ukraine and Taiwan are being framed as critical test cases of America’s willingness to uphold global norms against the use of military force to seize territory. Some observers have even gone so far as to argue that their fates will be linked: a failure to respond to military action against Ukraine would weaken American credibility and invite an attack on Taiwan by the People’s Republic of China.

Put simply, this is lazy analysis. In the current geopolitical moment, the differences between Ukraine and Taiwan are far more important than their similarities — and linking together the security threats that the two countries face can make both situations worse. The United States should not continue to divert limited resources away from the Indo-Pacific, where the military balance is shifting in China’s favor over the next decade, to a region that is both less crucial to American interests and where the balance of power is more advantageous to Washington. U.S. prioritization, not reputation, is what really matters for Taiwan’s security.

Read the full article at War on the Rocks.


Kharis Templeman

Kharis Templeman is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he manages the Project on Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific Region. A leading expert on Taiwan politics, he is a member of the U.S.-Taiwan Next Generation Working Group and was previously a National Asia Research Program fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research.

The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. Photo by 毛貓大少爺 shared under a Creative Commons license.