Taiwan Faces No Trade-Offs With Ukraine
But Taipei is also getting tired of supply chain issues.
By Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer
By Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer
Welcome back to Foreign Policy’s SitRep! Jack and Robbie here. It’s quiet in Washington, but over in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv, citizens are applauding their air defenses as they continue to bring down Iranian-made Shahed drones.
Alright, here’s what’s on tap for the day: Taiwan doesn’t see any trade-offs with Ukraine, Biden restocks top Pentagon jobs, and the debt ceiling deal has foreign-policy repercussions for U.S. policymakers.
About Those So-Called Trade-Offs
Giving weapons to Ukraine is not an either-or proposition for Taiwan.
And don’t take our word for it. That’s coming from Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s representative to the United States—what you call an ambassador when the United States doesn’t officially recognize your country—who talked to a gaggle of reporters in Washington this week.
“The United States is not taking the weapons being produced on the production line intended for Taiwan, not taking them and giving them to Ukraine or anyone else,” Hsiao said. “It’s not a subtract from Taiwan and giving them to someone else situation.”
Too slow. It’s a surprising remark coming from Taipei, especially when you consider that the United States has stretched the production of many of the weapons that Taiwan wants, such as shoulder-fired Javelin anti-tank missiles and man-portable Stinger air defenses, to send to Ukraine.
Hsiao, speaking at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, described most of the weapons being produced for Taiwan as being on an “independent” production track. The lesson of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, she said, was to fortify Taiwan’s defenses as quickly as possible and warn China of the resilience of the international system in the face of an attack.
But just because Taiwanese officials don’t see a trade-off, it doesn’t mean that they’re happy with the status quo, either. Taiwan is facing a $19 billion backlog in arms sales from the United States, and the island nation’s defense minister recently revealed that the purchase of 66 F-16 fighter jets will be further delayed due to supply chain issues.
“This started way before the Ukraine crisis,” Hsiao said. “The challenges that the United States is experiencing in the defense supply chain have certainly had an impact on Taiwan.”
Moving faster. While Taiwan waits for the United States to fix the backlog, it is making its own reforms. The government plans to extend mandatory conscription for all military-age males on the island to one year of service in January. Taiwan also built an F-16 maintenance depot in recent years to refurbish its existing fleet of around 150, which is frequently scrambled to handle Chinese incursions into Taipei’s air defense identification zone, the island’s extended airspace envelope to detect early warnings.
And with a billion-dollar drawdown already approved to send U.S. weapons to Taiwan—the same fast-acting authority that the Biden administration has used to build up Ukraine’s military—the island could be getting more American firepower soon. But Taiwanese officials are trying to assure everyone that the guns aren’t pointed at anyone in particular.
“When you are in a bad neighborhood and you have someone in your neighborhood coming yelling at us every day saying, ‘I’m going to eat you up, you are mine,’ it’s hard to say that we are provoking anyone by adding our own defense, whether it’s in your alarm systems or putting on added defense equipment to our household,” Hsiao said. “I think that is the logic of the way we see our defenses.”
Let’s Get Personnel
U.S. President Joe Biden has a smattering of top new military jobs getting handed out. Marine Corps Gen. Eric Smith is being tapped as the administration’s nominee to serve as Marine commandant, the service’s top job and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Smith was the point man for the Marines’ ambitious 2030 game plan that would see the devil dogs cut down on tanks and howitzers in favor of bigger and badder long-range weapons to counter China. Smith’s boss, Gen. David Berger, was a finalist to take over the U.S. military’s top job.
In other top Pentagon jobs, the Air Force is stacking up a lot of new moves:
Biden has tapped U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh to serve as the head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, a role that will remain dual-hatted for the foreseeable future.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Gregory Guillot is the U.S. administration’s nominee to head up U.S. Northern Command, responsible for the United States and the air and missile defense constellation guarding North America.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kruse is the administration’s pick to head up the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Maj. Gen. Heath Collins is Biden’s choice to lead the Missile Defense Agency.
On the Button
What should be high on your radar, if it isn’t already.
A trillion here, a trillion there… The U.S. House passed a debt ceiling agreement on Wednesday night aimed at avoiding a U.S. default on its massive pile of debt after weeks of grueling negotiations between the Republican-controlled House and the White House. That deal will cap nondefense spending, meaning keystone diplomatic initiatives focused on countering China aren’t getting the funding boost that the administration had planned for, as we report. Read here for more on which diplomacy and foreign aid programs likely aren’t getting the spending boosts that Team Biden had hoped for as a result of the deal.
The Pentagon is spared from the spending cap and will have spending locked in at Biden’s proposed $886 billion. Interestingly, the deal has pitted budget hawks against China hawks: some Republican lawmakers who want to cut spending everywhere else want more money for defense.
Uncle Sam wants more of you. The U.S. military is working to get itself out of a major slump in recruiting, with the Army falling 15,000 short of its goal of recruiting 60,000 new soldiers last year. But while the Army says it’s doing much better on recruiting targets this year, it’s not actually giving any public figures on those numbers, as the Military Times reports.
Too close for comfort. A Chinese fighter jet buzzed a U.S. surveillance plane operating in the South China Sea, another incident that highlights the heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing. Many U.S. officials and military experts that have spoken to SitRep in the past few months have voiced concerns about these types of close calls turning into deadly accidents, something that could push the world’s two superpowers (which happen to be armed with large arsenals of nuclear weapons) into a mushroom-cloud crisis.
Too close for comfort, part II. Chinese citizens posing as tourists but suspected of being intelligence operatives have tried numerous times to gain access to U.S. military facilities in Alaska, as USA Today reports this week, citing information given by unnamed U.S. officials. Alaska hosts three U.S. military bases, as well as advanced radar and missile systems.
“We’re already in a situation where it feels like the other side is offering ice cream and beer and we’re offering spinach.”
—Tom Perriello, the outgoing executive director for U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations, talks to SitRep about the difficulties the United States faces in trying to curry favor with the global south against China and Russia.
Put On Your Radar
Today: South Africa kicks off a two-day meeting of the BRICS foreign ministers.
Friday, June 2: Ajay Banga takes up his new job as president of the World Bank.
Saturday, June 3: A day of swearing-ins: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to be sworn in for another term after winning a runoff election this weekend. The latest cease-fire in Sudan is set to expire. It’s the seventh truce between the Sudanese military and the rival Rapid Support Forces since fighting broke out in Khartoum in late April.
Sunday, June 4: The 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.
Quote of the Week
“That’s still in play.”
—U.S. President Joe Biden responds to a reporter’s question about whether the United States will send the long-range U.S. Army Tactical Missile System to Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have been demanding the missiles, which have a range of nearly 200 miles, for more than a year.
This Week’s Most Read
- Russia’s Frighteningly Fascist Youth by Ian Garner
- Gen Z Has Finally Found Its Karl Marx by Samuel McIlhagga
- A BRICS Currency Could Shake the Dollar’s Dominance by Joseph W. Sullivan
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Is flying economy really that bad? Via the Guardian: “Man who opened plane door over South Korea says he wanted out ‘quickly.’”
The biggest event in sports. Yes, baseball and football are fun, but what about chasing giant wheels of cheese down a mountain? Well, there’s a new champ in that sport, too. Nineteen-year-old Delaney Irving won the women’s race in the United Kingdom’s annual cheese-rolling event, despite the fact that she was knocked unconscious while chasing a 7-pound double Gloucester cheese wheel. We here at SitRep salute you, Ms. Irving.
Jack Detsch is a Pentagon and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @JackDetsch
Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer
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