Ukraine and Taiwan dominate the headlines today and their stories, rightly or wrongly, are being linked together but I agree with the basic premise of the War on the Rocks: Taiwan Is Not Ukraine: Stop Linking Their Fates Together.
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 article is very good and definitely worth your time, but to hammer home the difference between the two:
To see why this comparison obscures more than it clarifies, first consider the history of U.S. involvement with each country. American security support for Ukraine is recent, limited, and subsumed under broader concerns about Russia’s challenge to the post-Cold War European security order.
For more on Taiwan and Asia in general here are two other excellent articles if that is where you to go:
Being a Better Partner in the Pacific – War on the Rocks
Can America Rebuild Its Power in Asia? – Foreign Affairs
Today however, we are going back to Ukraine to focus on the conflict there where the debate has been drawn into two clear camps arguing for and against a sphere of influence for Russia. Because this is generally the minority position in the headlines, we will first go to: Two Cheers for Spheres of Influence – Real Clear Defense where they let the great geopolitical theorist Halford Mackinder do the heavy lifting:
The concept of “spheres of influence” is, in reality, as old as diplomacy itself. It is a concept based on geography, history, and the balance of power at any given time. It is very much an aspect of the “realist” world view, and perhaps its greatest practitioner was Prussia’s (later Germany’s) 19th century Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.
The article continues with a more contemporary case and Winston Churchill:
In an effort to promote stability and peace based on the balance of power, Churchill famously proposed to Stalin what became known as the “percentages deal.” On October 9, 1944, Churchill proposed the following to Stalin: “Let us settle about our affairs in the Balkans. Your armies are in Rumania and Bulgaria. We have interests, missions, and agents there. Don’t let us get at cross purposes in small ways. So far as Britain and Russia are concerned, how would it do for you to have ninety percent predominance in Rumania, for us to have ninety percent of the say in Greece, and go fifty-fifty about Yugoslavia?”
And then, George Kannan:
“Interventions on moral principle can be formally defensible,” Kennan wrote in “Morality and Foreign Policy” (Foreign Affairs, Winter 1985-86), “only if the practices against which they are directed are seriously injurious to our interests, rather than our sensibilities.” And he explained further that “[t]he mere fact that a country acquires the trappings of self-government does not automatically mean that the interests of the United States are thereby furthered.”
For the counter argument we will go to Foreign Affairs: Keep NATO’s Door Open to Ukraine: Washington Shouldn’t Grant Putin the Sphere of Influence He Wants which argues the exact opposite:
One of the few positive outcomes of recent exchanges among U.S., European, and Russian diplomats has been the firm rejection by the Biden administration and its allies of Kremlin demands that NATO “never, never, ever” admit Ukraine as a member. Acquiescing to such a demand would leave Ukraine and Georgia in a dangerous gray zone, neither with NATO nor with Russia…
And yet a sphere of influence is exactly what Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks.
The article continues but here is their main argument against a sphere of influence:
These arguments are flawed and should be rejected once and for all. To follow their recommendations would be to reward Putin for his aggression and assign blame for the current state of affairs not to the Russian leader, where it belongs, but to the enlargement of NATO, which has helped stabilize the European continent for more than seven decades. Putin invokes NATO enlargement as a convenient excuse when his real fear is the emergence of successful, democratic, Western-oriented countries along Russia’s borders—especially Ukraine.
And then a little history:
In 2008, Ukraine and Georgia requested a membership action plan (MAP) as a step toward eventual membership. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was firmly opposed and worked out a compromise with President George W. Bush in the Bucharest summit declaration, which stated that the two countries would become members without specifying when and how. Five months later, Russian troops invaded Georgia, even though that country had not been offered a MAP.
For a more middle ground on the argument, I suggest this podcast that we discussed a few days ago Inching Toward War in Europe – Horns of Dilemma. Will war actually break out? I don’t think anyone really knows but Popular Mechanics tackles reading those tea leaves with Russia Won’t Start a War With Ukraine Out of the Blue. Look For These 8 Warning Signs. The article is really good and considers: Cyber Warfare, GPS Jamming, Attack Submarines and others.
For the Ukrainian side, Al Monitor reports that Turkish drones boost Ukrainian spirits amid fears of Russian invasion and according to Radio Free Europe the civilians are ‘Like Mice In A Frying Pan’: Civilians In Eastern Ukraine Take Their Fears To Social Media .
There are plenty of other stories that cover the conflict there from many different angles including this piece from the Modern War Institute – As Ukraine Faces Russian Aggression, What Should Small Countries Take Away from the Crisis?
Moving on, the medic in me could not let this go without at least mentioning it, The Future and Past of War and Disease from RAND.
War and disease have a long and wretched history. The Athenians battled plague in addition to Sparta. In the late Middle Ages, disease contributed to the fall of the Venetian Empire. Napoleon benefited from Venice’s fall, but his own empire was brought low by disease. The Grande Armée that invaded Russia was hurt more by typhus than by the Russians (PDF).
Disease has also played a role in American military history. In 1777, George Washington inoculated the Continental Army against smallpox. More than 60% of casualties on both sides of the American Civil War were attributed to disease. In World War I, the 1918 influenza pandemic hampered efforts to mobilize the American Expeditionary Forces.
And for your looooong read of the day how about Joe Biden’s Saigon: The Betrayal – The Atlantic. I don’t know if I can do it. All of this and so much more in Today’s Daily Dump!!
Inspired by the Cognitive Raider Initiative, The Cognitive Warrior Project has put together a daily list of diverse articles that can easily be chosen from to play a part in developing a more mentally agile warfighter that embraces the adaptation required for tomorrow’s battlefield. Our intent is to create a space where you can choose one or two articles a day (about 10 minutes) instead of mindlessly scrolling social media.
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January 31, 2022
Two Cheers for Spheres of Influence – Real Clear Defense
Hackers for Hire: Proxy Warfare in the Cyber Realm – The Modern War Institute
Be All You Can Be: Why the Marine Corps Should Look to the Army for Lessons on Force Design – The Modern War Institute
Beyond War and Peace: The PLA’s “Non-War Military Activities” Concept – The Modern War Institute
As Ukraine Faces Russian Aggression, What Should Small Countries Take Away from the Crisis? – The Modern War Institute
Pressing Questions: Offensive Cyber Operations and NATO Strategy – The Modern War Institute
Podcast: ON CREDIBILITY AND REPUTATION: EDITOR’S CORNER – A Better Peace
#Reviewing The Blind Strategist: John Boyd and the American Way of War – The Strategy Bridge
Melting the SOT Snowman: #Reviewing On Operations – The Strategy Bridge
Podcast: Episode 1: The View from Iran – Mind the Gulf Podcast
Watch: Challenges to 21st Century Deterrence (Part I) – NSI
Shaping China’s Ambitions – RAND
Houthis Renew Attack on Abu Dhabi With Ballistic Missiles – Long War Journal
Are European Navies Ready for High-Intensity Warfare? – War on the Rocks
Why Intermediate-Range Missiles Are a Focal Point in the Ukraine Crisis – War on the Rocks
Being a Better Partner in the Pacific – War on the Rocks
The Pentagon Is in Desperate Need of an Intervention From the Top – War on the Rocks
Taiwan Is Not Ukraine: Stop Linking Their Fates Together – War on the Rocks
How Long Can Biden Muddle Through on China? – War on the Rocks
Countering Hybrid Warfare: Mapping Social Contracts to Reinforce Societal Resiliency in Estonia and Beyond – Texas National Security Review
Train to Outthink, Outmaneuver, and Outfight the Enemy – Small Wars Journal
Nonlinear Warfare: Is Russia Waging a Silent War in Latin America? – Small Wars Journal
A Brief Look at Chinese Cyberwarfare – Small Wars Journal
1/27/2022 National Security and Korean News and Commentary – Small Wars Journal
1/31/2022 National Security and Korean News and Commentary – Small Wars Journal
Oil Market Cannot Afford to Lose Russian Supplies – Center for Strategic and International Studies
Filling In the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework – Center for Strategic and International Studies
Will Russia Recognize the Self-Declared Separatist Republics in Eastern Ukraine? – Center for Strategic and International Studies
Can America Rebuild Its Power in Asia? – Foreign Affairs
Master of Deterrence: What Washington Could Learn From Robert Powell – Foreign Affairs
The Putin Doctrine: A Move on Ukraine Has Always Been Part of the Plan – Foreign Affairs
US-Taiwan contacts spark China war threat – Asia Times
Star Wars: the outer space race to kill hypersonics – Asia Times
Time is not on Russia’s side in Ukraine – Asia Times
Myanmar junta in toys-for-the-boys weaponry splurge – Asia Times
Why Russia will likely intervene in Ukraine – Asia Times
The case against a Russia invasion of Ukraine – Asia Times
Russian Military Drills Off Irish Coast to Go Ahead Despite Ukraine Tensions – The Moscow Times
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan Border Guards Exchange Fire – The Moscow Times
What Are Russian State Media Saying About Ukraine? – The Moscow Times
Live Updates: U.S. Faces Off With Russia at U.N. as Ukraine Standoff Continues – The New York Times
Video of Mentally Ill Woman Chained in Shack Stirs Anger in China – The New York Times
U.S. Allies Retake Control of Prison in Syria, Subduing ISIS Fighters – The New York Times
Uganda, Rwanda border reopens after three-year closure – Africa News
60 militants killed ahead of Burkina coup – France – Africa News
Europe Must Shed Its Illusions About Russia – Foreign Policy
Latin America’s Leftists Aren’t Who You Think – Foreign Policy
How America Learned to Love (Ineffective) Sanctions – Foreign Policy
Joe Biden’s Saigon: The Betrayal – The Atlantic
Book Review – Ralph Honner: Kokoda Hero, by Peter Brune – Grounded Curiosity
Sowing Darkness for Military Advantage: Deception – Wavell Room
Mutually assured surveillance at risk: Anti-satellite weapons and cold war arms control – Taylor and Francis Online
Putin’s Coercion on NATO Goes Beyond Its Open Door Policy – Just Security
The Army’s New Rifle Scope Can Predict the Path of a Bullet – Popular Mechanics
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