Ukraine offers Taiwan a wake-up call and lessons in resistance – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense

ROC Marine Corps infantry units from the 99th Regiment conduct an urban warfare exercise at Kaohsiung’s Tsoying Naval Base August 27, 2013 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. (Photo by Ashley Pon/Getty Images)

TAIPEI: While Europe’s sense of security has been shaken by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the war has also reverberated in Taiwan, which has faced the threat of a Chinese invasion for over seven decades.

The Ukrainian resistance has surprised and inspired many here, but a new sense of concern and urgency is also palpable. Under President Tsai Ing-wen, who took office in 2016, the Taiwanese military has ordered billions of dollars worth of weapons from the United States, but there has been little public discussion of how to prepare if China attempted to invade and occupy Taiwan.

Like Ukraine, Taiwan is a thriving democracy threatened by a vengeful neighboring giant. It also has no mutual defense treaty with the United States or other countries in its region. Ukraine’s efforts to resist Russia are changing the national conversation here, with more people considering how to resist a Chinese attack without direct help from the United States or Japan.

“The lesson that every Taiwanese takes from what we see in Ukraine is that we have to defend ourselves, no one else will fight for our democracy as we can,” said Kolas Yotaka, spokesperson for the Taiwan presidential office. . “We have never stopped preparing for an eventuality, and our only principle in this process has always been self-defense, never attack.”

Until recently, President Tsai seemed reluctant to discuss how Taiwanese citizens can help defend their country. In the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she described comparisons between Ukraine and Taiwan as “cognitive warfare” aimed at damaging Taiwanese morale. But the government’s tone has changed as the Ukrainian conflict drags on, and there are signs that Taiwanese society as a whole feels less restrained when talking about preparing for war.

Shortly after a Department of National Defense-funded think tank publicly noted the vital role played by Ukrainian reservists in resisting the Russian invasion, the department doubled the training period for reservists from a week to two weeks – a small but significant step. The ministry also discussed the inclusion of female veterans in the training of reservists for the first time. Despite a public unaccustomed to thinking about the inner workings of self-defense, there has been little public resistance to either move.

“The situation in Ukraine is an opportunity to motivate and mobilize a population and a legislature that have historically underestimated the risk and underinvested in Taiwan’s own security,” said Ivan Kanapathy, a CSBA senior fellow who has previously served as the NSC’s Deputy Principal Director for Asia and a US Military Attaché in Taipei.

“With the PLA [People’s Liberation Army]With its large and capable counter-intervention capabilities, the Taiwanese people must understand that a US-led coalition can only come to their aid if Taiwan can hold out for an extended period, regardless of its commitment to security,” Kanapathy added. The US and Japanese governments said last year that they view Taiwan’s security as a national security issue in their respective countries.

With November’s municipal and county elections set to serve as a gauge of Tsai’s popularity with Taiwanese voters, the cautious but not necessarily risk-averse president — think of her congratulatory call to then-President-elect Donald Trump — could have a window to raise public awareness of the threat posed by China. It’s also possible to evolve into a more agile and asymmetrical approach to defense, rather than focusing on fighters, tanks, and other expensive items.

Much of Taiwan’s current strategic focus is on trying to gain or maintain local air superiority, and as a result the country has focused heavily on high-end capabilities to keep its airspace under control. But rather than tanks and fighters being the backbone of Ukraine’s fierce resistance, it was anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, along with well-trained reservists and a mobilized general public that made the difference.

From a military perspective, the move to a more mobile and agile approach similar to Ukraine’s seems logical. And Taiwan’s lack of land borders to move materiel during conflict means now is the time to decide how to move and then stockpile in anticipation of a blockade.

“The simplest fruit would be to quickly divest military capabilities that have little or no value to Taiwan’s defense to free up the force structure and other resources for vital missions,” Kanapathy said. .

“For example, airborne, amphibious assault/landing, and close air support are not useful mission sets for the Taiwan Armed Forces in any real world scenario. China can bring far more rigs to the fight from Taiwan than Russia brought to the fight against Ukraine, which will require far more lethal ammunition on surviving rigs.

Kanapathy recommended CDCMs target ships, TOWs and Javelins target landing craft, and Stingers target aircraft in order to prevent Chinese forces from moving in. He also said Taiwan should work closely with U.S. and allied UUV technology companies to modernize its inventory of sea mines, he added. “Gaining the ability to program, fly, arm and disarm self-propelled sea mines would provide Taiwanese leaders with significant flexibility in their decision-making.”

Of course, China is also looking to Ukraine for lessons. Ultimately, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his planners may well conclude that quickly delivering a fait accompli through a shock-and-awe bombardment—alongside the NATO Strategic Support Force’s cyber, space, and information operations. APL – would be the most likely way to avoid getting bogged down like Russia did.

Given Taiwan’s density, that would likely mean massive civilian casualties and a major reconstruction effort for Beijing, but that could be a trade-off the PLA is willing to make for a quick conflict, especially since it would be probably a boon to the state. engineering and construction companies.

Any effort to resist such a bombardment should come from the mobilization of the population, which is another major lesson from Ukraine.

A poll released in December by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy found that more than 70% of respondents were ready to fight China if it attacked without provocation. Opportunities for Taiwanese outside the military looking to defend their country are negligible at the moment, but that is slowly changing.

At a Forward Alliance event, Taiwanese civilians practice first aid techniques. (Advanced Alliance)

A small but growing number of nonprofit organizations in Taiwan are pushing for greater civilian preparedness. One of them, Forward Alliance, focused on first aid training for civilians. Enoch Wu, who leads the organization and is also chairman in Taipei of Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party, said Ukraine’s resilience has been a lesson in the value of citizens willing and able to help each other.

“The best way to deter military conflict is to demonstrate a credible national will to resist, combining military readiness with civilian preparedness,” Wu said. “We strive to unify efforts across society, bringing first responders such as fire and police forces, civic organizations and the general public to work together on a regular basis. It is a bad idea to practice mobilization and collaboration for the first time during a crisis.

A former special forces soldier, Wu agreed with Kanapathy on the importance of staying away from easy targets such as jets and tanks and instead focusing on fighting the enemy near the country’s shores. and in its airspace, as well as to give priority to the storage of ammunition.

“We need to allocate more of our defense budget to life-sustaining weapons that can disrupt PLA operations and threaten their invading forces,” Wu said. easier to operate, the more likely our weapons are to be useful in conflict.”

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