Near the Ukrainian border and in Crimea – a peninsula forcibly annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 – the buildup of Russian military forces is a point of growing concern for US and European officials. Faced with a potential Russian invasion as soon as early 2022, the Biden Administration has developed a package of harsh economic sanctions and is prepared to apply diplomatic pressure in reaction to Russia’s aggressive actions in the region. Russia’s military buildup near the Ukrainian border has reminded US and European officials that Russia can also pose sophisticated challenges, even though China is the most significant strategic threat to the US moving forward. Beyond the immediate threat Russia poses to the sovereignty of Ukraine, there are much broader global consequences, making it critical that the US has a strong long-term strategy. The perceived firmness of the US’s response to Russia’s increasing military presence – one that the US Department of Justice states is larger than the 2014 invasion – will inform other authoritarian governments of the US’s hard limits as the world enters a new era of great power competition. The U.S’s current course of action in Ukraine has the opportunity to affect the actions of its most important strategic priority – China, and specifically the Chinese’s campaign for dominance in Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Taiwan has reported that China has flown great numbers of military planes into its air space recently. These actions, paired with increasingly aggressive rhetoric from China’s authoritarian government, concern US and European officials that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could materialize shortly, which would likely result in an all-out war between the US and China. During both the Trump and Biden administrations, the US has intensified its support of Taiwan and pledged to supply Taiwan with defensive weapons. Because of the US’s outspoken backing of Taiwan and China’s attempts to intimidate Taiwan, the peace and stability of the entire region have been compromised. With this potential threat looming, the US must take decisive action in Ukraine with the goal of deterring a Chinese invasion of Taiwan in mind to avoid the unfavorable situation of fighting a two-front war – in Ukraine and Taiwan.