Did Pelosi speed up Sino-Russian military cooperation with her visit to Taiwan?

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After the chaotic departure of the United States from Afghanistan in August 2021 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Washington has sought to reaffirm its commitment to its allies and partners. Speaker of the United States House, Nancy Pelosi visit in Taiwan on August 2 eased nerves in Taipei and underscored the island’s status as a key part of US Pacific strategy.

The case also generated a rare example of American bipartisanship. Twenty-six Republican senators supported Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, while August 14, a team of lawmakers from the Democratic and Republican parties visited the island. Republican Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb also visited Taiwan August 22.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has warned of “serious consequencesahead of Pelosi’s visit, but even after continued visits by US politicians to Taiwan, Beijing is unlikely to continue the military escalation. This could lead to a repeat of the 1995-1996 exercise Third Taiwan Strait Crisiswhich caused the Chinese leaders to lose face.

The third crisis began when then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui was granted a visa by the United States in 1995 to attend a meeting at Cornell University. The Taiwanese leader’s welcome was seen as a serious provocation by China, triggering a series of missile tests and the reinforcement of Chinese troops over the next few months.

In response, the United States has gradually built up its military power in the Asia-Pacific region, including “[sending] two carrier battle groups in the region” in March 1996. The Chinese missile tests ended a few days later, Beijing being forced to I accept US military dominance in the region, and he could do nothing but protest when then-President Newt Gingrich visited Taiwan in 1997.

The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis generated great interest in Russia, which saw it as an opportunity to exploit China’s desire to push back against the United States. Written in 1996Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said defense contracts with China “could become not only a way for our ill-fated military-industrial complex to preserve jobs and earn money, but also the start of a long-term strategic partnership and a new balance of forces”. in Asia, it would favor Russia.

Having already accelerated since the Soviet collapse, Russia rapidly increased its arms exports to China after the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. This helped to rejuvenate the Russian arms industry and allowed Russia to maintain its status as a second largest arms exporter until today. As Washington’s attention shifted to West Asia in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, China increasingly has access to Russian-made missile systemsaircraft, ships and other military technology.

Initially, Russian imports were largely limited to Soviet-era weapons. But as China’s weapons production capabilities evolved, Russia offered deliveries of more advanced and sophisticated weapons over the past decade to ensure that China remains a customer, as well as to undermine US strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.

As a result, Taiwanese and American forces in this area have become much more vulnerable to Chinese missiles, planes and ships. After Pelosi’s departure, China conducted multiple missile tests near Taiwan, while the two Chinese aircraft carriers, commissioned in 2012 and 2019, were both sent to the area. August 21 onlyfive Chinese ships and 12 aircraft were detected around Taiwan.

China has also indicated that it intends to carry out “regular combat readiness patrolsaround the island.

The Biden administration was be careful not to tolerate Pelosi’s visit, rather advocating calm. Although in the weeks leading up to his visit, the US Navy had sent its warships through the Taiwan Strait on several occasions”in what he calls freedom of navigation operations“, since the return of Pelosi, Washington is wary of escalation”,keep an aircraft carrier group and two sailing amphibious assault ships in the area, but not near the islandfrom Taiwan, rather than retaliate against China’s recent exercises in the region.

On August 12, US Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell said the United States planned to cautiously resume its commercial and military presence in the Taiwan Strait only in accordance with its previouscommitment to freedom of navigation” in the coming weeks. Already concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the US military can’t risk against China as it could a quarter of a century ago.

Although Beijing has also avoided a major escalation so far, China’s growing defense capabilities have enabled it to help the Russian military campaign in Ukraine. Since the beginning of the invasion, China increased its sales microchips, aluminum oxide and essential raw materials for Russia’s defense industry. In June, several Chinese companies were also blacklisted by US officials for aiding the Russian military.

After the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan revealed the importance of drones in conflicts between states, Russia desperately seeks to compensate for its drone deficit in Ukraine. The Russian army has modified a large number of Chinese civilian drones and robotsas they are cheaper and more widely available than the Russian variants, to supplement the efforts of its armed forces.

The Chinese drone company Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), the largest drone manufacturer in the worldhalted sales to Russia and Ukraine in April to prevent misuse of its products. But surveillance technology developed by DJI, called AeroScope, can be used to track other DJI aircraft as well as the position of the drone operator, and Ukrainian experts said Russia continues to use AeroScope. target Ukrainian forces.

While representatives of DJI and other Chinese drone and robotics companies said they do not support the use of their products in disputes, they are ultimately beholden to Beijing. Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s criticism of Pelosi’s visit as “carefully planned provocation” and including Taiwan on its listing hostile countries and territories in March means that Beijing may continue to turn a blind eye to the issue of the use of Chinese-made civilian drones in the Russian-Ukrainian war.

And in addition to growing technology collaboration, the Chinese and Russian armies have also deepened their operational integration over the past two decades. Their first joint military exercise was held in 2003, and dozens more have taken place around the world since then. China is also considering take part in Vostok military exercises (alongside India, Mongolia, Belarus and Tajikistan) in the Russian Far East of August 30 to September 5.

There are, however, many limits to greater military cooperation between these two powers. China is wary of comparisons between the Ukraine-Russia conflict and its own dispute with Taiwan. Beijing has largely focused on strengthening its economic influence over Taiwan since the turn of the centurywhile isolate diplomatically.

China also does not want to jeopardize its relatively constructive relationship with Ukraine, nor risk Western economic sanctions by supporting Russia more openly. Some Russian companies also criticized China’s theft of weapons technologywhile Chinese arms exports have began to threaten Russia’s market share among its traditional customers. These factors reflect the lingering mistrust between Moscow and Beijing that has existed for decades.

However, China’s and Russia’s mutual opposition to the United States is enough to offset these problems for now. The United States had previously warned China is against aiding Russia’s war effort, but this is clearly a line China is willing to walk around. Considering that the United States sells billion dollars worth of weapons to Taiwan every year and has had special forces on the island for at least before 2019it is not a surprise.

Military cooperation between China and Russia has been further enhanced by growth energy sales between the two countries, as well as a desire to create international institutions, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and financial payment systems, to circumvent the traditional structures dominated by the United States. The Sino-Russian relationship was reinvigorated just weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the declaration of a “No limits” Partnership.

China and Russia increasingly recognize that dividing US attention between Ukraine and Taiwan will allow Beijing and Moscow to consolidate their regional positions. The quiet US response to Chinese military action around Taiwan since Pelosi’s visit is another indication that Washington cannot confront Russia and China simultaneously, especially as they become a more united front. .

If tensions over Taiwan continue, China may be persuaded to increase its military support for Russia. If that happens, it will upset the military balance in Eastern Europe, just as Russian military assistance to China has done in East Asia over the past two decades.

John P. Ruehl is an Australian-American journalist living in Washington, DC He is editor of Strategic Policy and contributor to several other foreign affairs publications. He is currently finishing a book on Russia to be published in 2022.

This article was produced by Globetrotter


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