Although Beijing and Moscow have not yet indicated that they plan to coordinate joint military activities in Taiwan and Ukraine, respectively, the Western media and U.S. officials have stated that they fear such an event could occur soon. The U.S. recently sent troops to Poland and Romania to reinforce NATO allies after a Russian military build-up on the Ukraine border, and to help shield Eastern Europe in case of spillover from the crisis. And President Biden has also warned Americans in the Ukraine to get out of the country, further indicating fears of a Russian attack.
Taiwan and Ukraine seem to increasingly dominate media headlines, though Ukraine currently remains the central focus and concern. However, Taiwan, its importance, and its centrality to the global tech industry proves that a Chinese reunification, peaceful or not, would undoubtedly disrupt markets and supply chains. Taiwan is certainly the more ‘significant’ issue long-term. Although the conflict in Ukraine might dismiss Ukraine’s fundamental right to exist, which is undoubtedly significant, it is ultimately less impactful to the global economy and geopolitical arena.
Coordinated activities between China and Russia in Taiwan and Ukraine would seriously challenge the United States and solidify Washington’s military retreat from far-off regions of the world. In the post-Afghanistan withdrawal era, employers in Taiwan and Ukraine would undoubtedly overwhelm the U.S. foreign policy apparatus.
Concerning Ukraine, the current crisis has reacted to Washington’s consistent dismissal of Russian national interest since the 1990s. Washington pledged not to leapfrog from reunified Germany if the Soviets withdrew their forces from Eastern Europe. Since then, every U.S. president has consistently violated this position and continued to expand NATO eastward despite Russia’s concerns. Military tensions between Russia and Ukraine have increased over the past months as President Putin sent hundreds of thousands of military personnel and equipment to the Ukrainian border. At the same time, Ukraine has enjoyed financial and arms support from the U.S., even though Biden stated that the U.S. would not militarily engage with Russia over Ukraine. President Putin has repeatedly called for some form of written agreement and withdrawal of NATO’s pressure, concluding that the United States has pushed Russia into a corner and that it will need to react. Putin expressed his vision in a recent essay where he explained that the Soviet constitution made errors in granting Ukraine and Belarus defined borders, autonomy, and eventual independence. Instead, he advocated that Ukrainian and Belarussian independence could only exist within a system of joint sovereignty with authority under Moscow. Western warnings over Ukraine, including threats to eject Russia from the global SWIFT payment network, will unlikely dissuade Russia from Eastern Ukraine and the Donbas.
The Taiwan crisis is increasingly more complex and complicated due to Taiwan’s importance to global markets, the semiconductor industry, and the broader tech industry. Washington continues to fund Taiwan’s defense capabilities while also sending diplomatic messages through both President Biden and former President Trump that upset and disrespect Beijing’s positions on Taiwan. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that China could face “terrible consequences” before precipitating a crisis across the Taiwan Strait. Washington maintains its defense support of Taiwan, although the U.S. never recognized Taiwan as an independent nation after Washington normalized relations with the People’s Republic of China. Reunification of Taiwan with the mainland would formally conclude the Chinese Civil War fought between 1927 and 1949.
Combined sanctions on both China and Russia in response to such foreign policy moves in Ukraine and Taiwan would tank global markets and effectively destroy globalization and supply chains. With the end of globalization, a new Cold War could begin. China and the United States are currently too closely linked in economics, supply chains, investment, and technology. Severing such links could initiate an authentic Cold War, and coordinated military activities in Ukraine and Taiwan could catalyze China and the U.S. to remain intertwined.
China and Russia continue to work together closely, as evidenced by last summer’s military exercises in Ningxia with 10,0000 troops. Joint Opposition to the United States between China and Russia serves as a ‘fore-multiplier’ in its opposition to America’s foreign policy goals. We should note that the Sino-Russian relationship improved significantly after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 when Russian relations with the West deteriorated. Good relations with China allowed Moscow to look to Beijing as an investor and buyer of military equipment when Russia lost connections in Western capitals due to sanctions. Today, China consumes Russian coal, oil, and agricultural products.
The strategic benefit for China and Russia to maintain good relations has never been more apparent than during the Biden presidency. Russia could not effectively oppose Western actions like NATO enlargement without China’s diplomatic and strategic support. After the Crimea annexation, this cooperation multiplied and generated more significance since Russia could develop closer economic, investment, and financial ties with China after severing its relationships with Western capitals. China and Russia continue to enjoy respective foreign policies absent of ideology as well. Both Beijing and Moscow make pragmatic decisions and recognize their national interests in foreign policy campaigns like Ukraine and Taiwan. Lastly, their joint resistance to Western liberalism binds them together in pursuing foreign policy decisions in opposition to Washington and its friends. Their pragmatic relationship and foreign policy relations supersede America’s views on Taiwan and Ukraine’s sovereignty. Thus, a coordinated foreign policy push in Ukraine and Taiwan could significantly shock the U.S. and allow Beijing and Moscow to get away with it relatively unchanged. After the messy U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, anything is possible. Therefore, related Ukraine and Taiwan events could be a possibility depending on their seriousness and commitment to foreign policy end goals.