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The Russian missile and nuclear system

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 The new Russian nuclear threat/deterrence policy is defined in the Executive Order No. 355, called “Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence”, which came into effect on June 2, 2020.

Firstly, Russian nuclear weapons are defined “only as means of deterrence”, while their use is always and anyway an “extreme and compulsory” measure.

 Moreover, retaliation is “inevitable” especially in the case there is a direct nuclear attack against the Russian Federation, while Russia also wants to keep for itself the possibility of inflicting “a guaranteed and unacceptable damage” on any kind of opponent, i.e. its quasi-destruction as a society and as a productive system.

The military dangers that the Russian Federation could incur in the future could be the creation of a wide conventional force by a Russian opponent- which, however, also has a nuclear arsenal, especially on the borders of the Russian Federation – or the deployment of missile defence systems, but also of non-nuclear, hypersonic, UAV and direct energy weapons, by States that consider Russia a potential enemy.

 Or also the development of a missile defence and attack system – even a non-nuclear one – in the space by a potential opponent.

 There is also the mere possession – by other States, seen as “opponents” or as parts of enemy alliances – of nuclear weapon systems and/or other types of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) which can, however, alsohypothetically be used against the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, in the mind of the Russian decision-makers, there is also the opponents’ uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons, of their launch or use instruments, as well as the evolution of their technology.

Finally, Russia’s military system carefully monitorsthe development of nuclear weapons and their presence in countries that have never previously had nuclear weapons on their territory. It deems it a severe threat.

 How is the Russian nuclear or conventional military reaction to an adverse use of nuclear weapons against its own territory and resources triggered, according to the official mechanisms foreseen?

Firstly, with the initial collection of reliable data on a ballistic missile launch targeted against the territory and resources of the Russian Federation.

Secondly, with the obvious use of WMD or other advanced weapons against Russia and its allies. In this strategic calculation, the allies do not include China, but only Belarus and, probably, Kazakhstan to the South.

 The triggering of a Russian nuclear reaction can also be caused by an attack launched by an opponent or an enemy alliance on the critical points of the Russian governmental, military, economic and, in this case, oil and gas organization.

In this case, if the Russian leadership or its primary economic resources were the target of a nuclear attack, the response would be a counter-attack by the Russian Federation against the opponent’s decision-making centres.

 Moreover, a possible nuclear response from Russia should be calculated if the opponents launched a conventional attack capable of endangering the size, strength and control networks of the Russian Federation.

 The supreme decision for the use of the nuclear weapon is in the hands of the Russian Federation’s President alone, who can inform the other States’ decision-makers or the international organisations – if he sees the need to do so – of the Russian willingness to launch a nuclear attack against an invader or attacker, at that moment and in that place.

Furthermore, also in this latest document, Russia sets the line of the “launch of the nuclear weapon together with the strategic warning”.

This makes also the threat selection difficult, considering the reduced time to assess it. Just think here of the hypersonic weapons, which have infinitesimal warning times, or of the U.S. networks which are currently equipped with ballistic missiles with conventional warheads for immediate attack, which makes it increasingly difficult to immediately differentiate between a nuclear and a conventional attack.

 This is where the old, Soviet-era, Russian theory of the nuclear threat also applies to a conventional NATO force having, however, size and weapons capable of “endangering” the very nature and stability of the Russian State.

If Vladimir Putin were to consider also the NATO threat to the strong Russian minorities in the Baltic, in Eastern Europe and in South-Eastern Europe, the strategic calculation would be extremely difficult.

 For the Russian Federation – as was the case for Tsar Peter I – a base in the Mediterranean is also of fundamental importance.

 To this end, the war in Syria has materialized, the last phase of a chain of “coloured wars” or “Arab Spring” which, in the case of Syria, were certainly not successful for the West.

Meanwhile, as has already happened in the Maghreb region, in Latin America and in other regions of the world, Russia wants to maintain some essential strategic assets: its grip on the old “pro-Soviet” areas, from the Middle East to Venezuela and Cuba; the clear reaffirmation of its own role as a great power, and finally Russia’s creation of its own role as a reliable mediator and broker, a stable and credible State, as well as an influential power.

 Moreover, all this happens in a phase in which the modernization of Russian weapons and doctrines of the nuclear war and of what we could call post-conventional warfare (hypersonic, high-energy weapons, etc.) is not yet over.

In 2019, Vladimir Putin said that the updated and modern toolswere over 82% of the Nuclear Triad of the Russian Federation (earth, sea and sky). He also said: “our armament must be the best of the best so as to be able to win in such a clash”.

Apart from the acceptance of new and possible agreements for reducing strategic weapons, Putin also said: “We are building promising new missile and nuclear weapons systems” for deterrence.

 Today, in mid-2020, the Russian Federation is supposed to have 4,310 nuclear warheads of various nature and size, which can be used by both long-range and short-range launchers, only by Strategic Missile Forces.

1,570 of these 4,310 warheads are already positioned: 810 are placed on ground-based strategic missiles; 560 are part of the submarine armament and 200 are placed on aircrafts and in their bases.

870 nuclear warheads are finally stored in a “warehouse”, together with 1,870 non-nuclear warheads.

 In addition to this data, it can be said that at least 2,060 warheads, now being dismantled, are just waiting to be “scrapped”.

Hence the actual total number amounts to 6,370 warheads, considering missile, conventional and nuclear warheads.

 On the date of February 5, 2019 -set by the START Treaty – the Russian Federation reduced the number of strategic warheads in action to 1,444 pursuant to the Treaty provisions.

Later Russia declared additional 1,420 warheads on 517 launchers and, in March 2019, it declared the existence of 524 launchers for 1,461 warheads, but today the data varies very quickly.

In October 2018 Vladimir Putin had stated: “Our strategic doctrine of nuclear weapons does not allow a preventive attack, but a mutual counter-attack”, i.e. “we are able to react quickly to a nuclear or anyway existential attack, only when we know with certainty that a potential aggressor is attacking Russia”.

 The policy line is that of the doctrine of December 2014, which stated: “Russia will reserve the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use that will be made – against Russia or its allies – of nuclear weapons or anyway of mass destruction, or even in the case of the use – against Russia – of conventional weapons if the very existence of the State is in danger”.

 Moreover, some Russian decision-makers have stated that Russian nuclear weapons can be used if there are credible threats against Russian ballistic missile sites, but also in regional scenarios that do not imply an existential threat to the Russian State or anyway do not use WMD.

There is also here the problem of weapons defined as “anomalous”, such as the Poseidon -Kanyon, according to the U.S.jargon orStatus-6(NATO codename) – which is a nuclear torpedo capable of creating a vast area of marine contamination capable of blocking any military or economic operation for a long time.

The Russian Federation is supposed to currently have 302 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) in place and operational, with a possible cargo of 1,136 nuclear or non-nuclear warheads.

 Russia, however, stated at various stages of the START negotiations that it had almost 400 ICBMs on the “line of fire” or that the ICBMs were already as many as 513 at the end of September 2019.

The Russian ICBMs are organized in the Strategic Missile Force, for three different sectors, with a total of 11 divisions each consisting of about 39 missile regiments.

However, the 40th Regiment of the 12th Division, stationed in Yurya, has no nuclear weapons.

 Today, however, Russia still has SS-18, SS-19 and SS-25missiles among its ICBMs.

 The SS-18 (RS-20V, or R36M2 Voivoda) is a missile placed in silos, but it can carry a maximum of 10 warheads. There are still 46 SS-18 missiles with 460 warheads, kept as quasi-operational, in the 13th Missile Division stationed in Dombarovsky and in the 62nd Missile Division in Uzhur.

 The SS-18 missiles should be withdrawn at the end of 2020, replaced by Sarmat, the RS-28.

The SS-19 (RS-18, or UR100NUTTH) will soon be replaced by the SS-27, another silo missile, but even today two regiments of the Strategic Missile Force are still very operational with the SS-19 missiles.

 Russia continues to withdraw its SS-25, the Topolself-propelled missiles,at a rate of one-two regiments per year, which will be replaced by the SS-27 Mod. 2.

 The missile that is at the core of the Russian modification of theatre weapons, the aforementioned SS-27, is a missile called in Russia RS-24, or Yars, which can accommodate as many as four Multi Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs). It is assumed, however, that currently Russia already has 140 Yars operational, mobile or in silos, with distribution of these new missiles to the Missile Guards Division in Teykovo, but also to the 39th Missile Guard in Novosibirsk, to the 42ndone in Niznhny Tagil, to the 29thone in Irkutsk, and finally to the 14th Missile Division in Yoshkar-Ola.

Russia is also developing a new version of the SS-29 missile, the Sarmat RS-28 which, as already noted,is supposed to have already largely replaced the SS-18.

With specific reference to the missiles launched by submarines, Russia currently has 10 nuclear submarines of three classes: six Delta IV, one Delta I, and three Borei.

 Each submarine can carry 16 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) and each SLBM can carry several MIRVs, for a total of over 720 warheads.

Until 2020, the axis of submarine and missile warfare will be the Delta IV, each equipped with 16 SLBMs.

 All the Delta IV submarines are part of the Northern Fleet, based in Gazhyevo on the Kola Peninsula.

 The Delta missiles will be entirely replaced by the Borei, each carrying 16 SS-N-32 missiles with six warheads each.

With specific reference to air nuclear warheads, Russia uses two types of bombers: the Tu-160 Blackjack and the Tu-95 M5 Bear.

The total number of these aircrafts is 70 and both of them can carry the A-15 Kent and the AS-23B missiles.

 Each TU-160 can carry 40,000 kilos of weaponry, including the 12 AS-15B missiles, with a total of 700 nuclear bombs transported that can be dropped from the aircraft.

Hence Russia foresees – and Russian decision-makers always attach great importance also to non-nuclear weapons -a nuclear force which can quickly transfer as much damage as possible to any attacker, with a combination of Land, Sea and Sky forces capable of inflicting “unbearable damage” even to the current superpowers.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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The East Expands into NATO: Japan’s and South Korea’s New Approaches to Security

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

The 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid can be seen as a momentous occasion not just for NATO but also for security in the Asia-Pacific. For the first time in NATO’s 73-year-long history, Japanese and South Korean leaders participated in the meeting as “Asia-Pacific partners”. For the first time, the Alliance named China a threat in their documents. However, having approached the hic sunt dracones (here be dragons) mark, NATO and its partners will soon have to think about the limits and purpose of expanding the organization’s areas of activity.

The Bargaining Yen

Fumio Kishida was Japan’s first premier to ever attend a NATO summit. Japan’s leader called for enhancing Tokyo’s ties with NATO based on the 2014 Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme. However, he also proposed permanently attaching representatives of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to NATO’s headquarters, mutually exchanging observers at military drills, as well as to regularly involve Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea in NATO’s activities.

We should note Japan’s rather loose interpretation of the concept of indivisible security. For instance, Russia and China insist that the security of any state cannot be bolstered at the expense of other states. However, Kishida believes that security in Europe and the Indo-Pacific are inseparable from each other; therefore, attempts to change the status quo by force in any region should be stopped through joint efforts.

As part of the steps taken to assist European partners amid the events in Ukraine, Tokyo imposed additional sanctions on 70 Russian individuals and companies since Japan “is not ready to provide any military support to the Alliance.” In exchange, Japan hopes that NATO will fully support Japan’s course for militarization. Particularly, Japan is expected to publish its revised National Security Strategy to replace the 2013 Strategy by the end of 2022. Over five years, “the land of the rising sun” will ramp up its defense capabilities by significantly increasing its spending (up to 2% of the GDP) and by stepping up its interactions with the U.S. It is also possible that the Strategy will, for the first time, name China as a clear and present danger to Japan—previously, Tokyo avoided openly labelling China as its adversary.

The West heard the Japanese leadership’s message of European stability being impossible without eliminating the threats in the Asia-Pacific. Ultimately, the NATO 2022 Strategic Concept that determines the activities of member states for the next ten years states that Beijing’s “ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values.” Principal threats include China’s non-transparent conventional and nuclear military build-up, malicious hybrid and cyber operations, confrontational rhetoric and disinformation, attempts to control key technological and industrial sectors, critical infrastructure, and strategic materials and supply chains, and creating strategic dependencies intended to subvert the rules-based international order, including in the space, cyber and maritime domains.

The list would certainly have been incomplete without sending an alarm regarding the deepening strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing. NATO’s Madrid Summit declaration also contains a statement on competition with China and on Beijing’s challenge to NATO members’ security and development.

At the summit’s sidelines, Kishida attended a trilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol, and then a quadrilateral meeting with South Korea’s President and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The leaders discussed the threats from China and North Korea, while the U.S. President reaffirmed guarantees to every party present military aid in case of an attack on their states. At the same time, it appears that the idea of putting China on NATO’s agenda and generally under the organization’s purview had been spearheaded by Washington that has less and less strength and willingness to challenge the “dragon” to an honest battle.

Korean Tanks in Polish Woods

Similar to Japan’s leader, South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol noted in his debut NATO summit address that security in any given region has global ramifications. Consequently, a crisis cannot be resolved through the efforts of a regional alliance or union. Therefore, South Korea’s President announced plans to consistently bolster security cooperation between Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo, primarily for counteracting the threat of North Korea’s nuclear missile program. Moreover, since, in Yoon Suk Yeol’s opinion, Pyongyang’s actions posit a major threat to peace and stability and to the non-proliferation regime, all NATO members will need to assist in resolving this problem. Generally, South Korea raised the issue of North Korea’s denuclearization at every event at the Madrid Summit, including the plenary session, the three-party meeting between the leaders of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, and a dozen of bilateral talks.

In turn, in order to bolster European security, Seoul is ready to expand its economic interactions with NATO states—in particular, to ensure uninterrupted deliveries of semi-conductors—assist in building NPPs and modernizing power facilities, and also ramp up military technical cooperation. Among the successes already achieved by the South Koreans is an agreement to deliver FA-50 jet trainers/light combat aircraft, K-2 main battle tanks, K-9 self-propelled howitzers and AS21 IFVs to Poland, and to participate in building NPPs in the UK, the Czech Republic, Poland, France, Romania and the Netherlands.

Curiously, unlike Japan, Yoon Suk Yeol avoided in every way directly mentioning Beijing in connection with threats to global and regional security. Moreover, Seoul believes that South Korea’s interactions, both with NATO and otherwise, should not be aimed against any specific country. Even though some surveys indicate that only 26% of South Koreans have a positive opinion of China, the country’s leadership is not prepared to oppose Beijing and fully commit to U.S.-led containment initiatives. Besides, in the near future, Yoon Suk Yeol’s administration will have to explain to China its own plans to deploy a second THAAD missile defense unit and Seoul actively arming its navy, air force, and ground forces with state-of-the-art strike missile weapons.

Despite of both Japanese and South Korean leaders attending the 2022 NATO Summit, questions still remain regarding normalizing relations between Seoul and Tokyo. The parties noted that there is potential for improvements and the problems of the past and the future would need to be discussed together. At the same time, internal forces in both states have very mixed feelings concerning the prospects of setting up practical interactions on security issues. Kishida’s government is concerned with South Korea’s growing military capabilities, unacceptable compensation demands to victims of the Japanese occupation, and its intractable stance on the Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo/Takeshima islands). Particularly, Japan vehemently protested Korea’s military drill around the islands on July 30, 2022, although this time the drill was far more modest than before and did not involve a beach landing. One of the few shared sentiments between Seoul and Tokyo is their negative attitude to North Korea’s nuclear missile program, although Japan’s current potential for resolving this matter via talks is small since Tokyo has virtually completely severed contacts with Pyongyang.

Beyond the Purview

According to Le Monde, NATO’s focus on the events in Ukraine does not mean that the Alliance is ignoring threats emanating from beyond the organization’s traditional purview, for instance, like those from the Asia-Pacific. Asia-Pacific’s “collective West” representatives gradually expanding their involvement in the region evidences both the Alliance’s transformation into a certain global security body, and Seoul’s and Tokyo’s transforming approaches to protecting their interests by expanding their partnership network.

Japan is already a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) whose principal and implicit goal is to form a counterbalance to China. In Kishida’s opinion voiced on June 10, 2022 at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Russia’s actions in Ukraine may spur a similar scenario in Asia Pacific, particularly toward Taiwan, especially given a recent surge in the regional activities of China’s People’s Liberation Army. That, however, did not prevent Japan from sending a parliamentary delegation, including two former defense ministers, to Taipei to “discuss extensively the regional security situation in Taiwan, especially in the context of the Russia-Ukraine military conflict.” In this situation, it would be odd to expect anything from Beijing except a protest boosted by military aircraft patrolling around the island.

Yoon Suk Yeol seems intent on significantly increasing South Korea’s role in regional affairs by using the image of a liberal democracy in a crusade against authoritarian regimes around it. However, Seoul intends to wage such a battle solely against the neighboring regime, and even that is not quite a real crusade with clearly defined results. Getting North Korea, to abandon its nuclear weapons though intimidation during an exacerbating East Asian crisis is utterly impossible, particularly in view of Kim Jong Un’s proclaimed readiness for any military action against the U.S.

NATO believes that comprehensive security cooperation with “partners in Asia Pacific” should be conducive to making the international situation more predictable. However, given the Alliance’s track record, should it interfere in the Korean Peninsula or in the Taiwan Strait, there will be little cause to expect a positive outcome.

From our partner RIAC

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A war where the machine decides who to kill! (LAWs wars)

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Which country wants to be attacked by an AI-controlled system with no one in command? Which country wants their soldiers to be killed by an autonomous machine, and potentially, some civilians by mistake? The answer is evidently no one! No country wants that. But which country intends to possess such weapons, then the answer is more ambiguous. The last report of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) reflects this. After a week (25-29 July) of discussion at the Palais des Nations, UN Geneva, the adopted report is hollowed without meaningful conclusion or commitments.

Lethal autonomous weapons

Lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) are military system that can autonomously search for and engage targets based on programmed constraints and descriptions. LAWs are also known as killer robots.

Autonomous weapons have existed for many years; for example, land mines trigger and kill or an injury without any human action. With emerging technology, including AI, we understand the interest of certain states to include these technologies in weapons to improve their autonomy. Since the 70s, the US has used the Phalanx CIWS, which can autonomously identify and attack incoming missiles. With AI, its capacities are considerably increased! Continuing with the example of mines, Russia’s anti-personnel mines of the POM-3 type are particularly deadly. They are disseminated in the land of operations but do not explode immediately. When activated, they rise in the air before exploding and causing multiple ravages, which can be fatal within a radius of 16 meters. Equipped with sensors and software, they choose their target, when they explode or not, depending on the identity of the people or equipment that approach. There are, unfortunately, so many other systems that will be too long to cite here. To conclude this part, in Libya in 2020, a Kargu 2 drone hunted down and attacked a human target. According to a report from the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Libya, published in March 2021. This may have been the first time an autonomous killer robot armed with lethal weaponry attacked human beings. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_robot]

We quickly understand all potential ethical and legal issues. Autonomous systems can make mistakes; who is responsible then? Like mine killed millions of civilians, new systems may have bias and kill unstintingly, with no one to stop them. The range of potential problems is extensive.

A slow-downed convention

For nine years, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons or CCW, also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention, has tried to regulate it with its GGE. For the most ambitious, it would be a question of agreeing on a treaty, or another international instrument, which would guarantee the prohibition that a weapon can operate autonomously, i.e., without the intervention of human supervision. Many Latin Americans, and European states are now advocating for this outright ban. The answer is less clear-cut for other states, including the USA. They consent to the prohibition of specific weapon systems as well as to a certain regulation but refuse a binding legal framework. Finally, Russia is slowing down all negotiations and reducing its content.

Russia and the game of consensus

A majority of States are now convinced of the need to act significantly, even asking for more days to debate in 2023. But the main problem is the rule of consensus, which prohibits any discussion breakthrough”.

Many little disagreements, for instance, delegations, wasted time discussing whether the CCW is an appropriate forum or the only appropriate forum for dealing with the issue of autonomous weapons.

These discussions have even been theatrical when Russia attacked many times the presence of civil societies to limit their intervention and participation in informal meetings. It was a tool to slow down the discussion, focusing the debate on organizational points. At the same time, we can also be afraid that this Russian posture is appearing in others GGEs. Meanwhile, some other states, like Israel and India, are discrete and do not oppose it. They probably use this condition to their advantage. Russia is doing all the work for them.

Therefore with the refusal of a few states, all the details about elements and possible measures for an agreement on autonomous weapons were removed. All conclusions about what kinds of control are necessary, and possible processes to achieve that control, were taken out. The present conclusions section just outlines the types of proposals discussed, recognizes ethical perspectives, and repeats the respect for international humanitarian law. It confirms then that states are responsible for wrongful acts in accordance with international law [link to report], so no new laws. 

Not only are the conclusions disappointing, but the way the discussion was carried out was disappointing, and the mandate for 2023 remains uncertain.

We can not wait on CCW, the urgency of the problem is too critical.

The slow process is to the advantage of countries using these technologies. The Russian POM-3 mines, for instance, have been used in Ukraine, accordingly to Human Right Watch. The development and deployment by Russia and other countries will continue as long as no agreement is reached. LAWs have to be outlaws! And the CCW seems not to be anymore the right platform.

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Escalating Big Power Contestation on Taiwan: Can It Lead to War?

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Xi Jinping is seeking to hide his humiliation over US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. His premature and unjustifiable warning to the US about the visit caused him embarrassment, and Pelosi’s purposeful visit after the warning not only hyped it, but humiliated him. China is using its Three Warfare Concept  which entails public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare along with aggressive military posturing, air violations, firepower power exhibition and some symbolic economic boycott of Taiwan, thus creating  heightened tension around Taiwan as a face saving exercise to amuse its domestic constituency. China is attempting to turn it as an opportunity to stoke national sentiments in favour of Xi Jinping on ‘Anti America’ theme highlighting Chinese mutilated version of his heroics to ensure that he doesn’t lose out on his third term in the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) later this year.

The US side has likewise been under similar pressures. Following the announcement of Pelosi’s visit and the contentious debate between President Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, the US found itself in a difficult situation. The USA was unable to cancel the trip in response to Xi’s warning because doing so would have indicated that Joe Biden was caving in to Chinese pressure. This would have been catastrophic for the Biden Administration, which is already struggling to recover from the disaster in Afghanistan and the difficulties brought on by the Russia-Ukraine War. Although the visit was a risky move, it is still unclear whether the US will follow it up by replacing strategic ambiguity with strategic clarity to support Taiwan in any prospective Chinese attack or not.

Can it Lead to War?

With unprecedented military posturing by China, live missile fire  East of Taiwan close to its coastline, and US aircraft carrier and maritime forces located not too far, the situation is tense and prone to accidental trigger causing escalation. It does not make any strategic sense for China to invade Taiwan, as it has all the negatives except false bravado, with bright chances of loss of face globally and domestically, in case the operations fail; hence, likely to contend with activities short of war.

Chinese strategist Qiao Liang, a retired PLA Air Force Major General, has warned that taking Taiwan by force is ‘Too Costly’. Chinese redline of “Taiwan going nuclear/declaring independence” has not been crossed as yet, giving no justification for China to cross US red line of ‘Changing status Quo by Force’. Xi Jinping may find it too costly to take such a risk before sealing his third term. The military drills near Taiwan have been conducted by Taiwan and US also in past and  the much publicised blockade of Taiwan through military drills, if prolonged may invite similar military drills by US and other democracies in Malacca Strait too, to block Chinese Sea Lines of Communication, beyond the realm of optics of the current Chinese aggressive posture, and it is well aware of this vulnerability.    

Taiwanese President Tsai has bravely given bold statements during visit of Speaker Pelosi and earlier to take on Chinese aggression. Taiwan with its national spirit, modern arsenal from US, determined armed forces and US backing is unlikely to give a walkover, although the first onslaught of potential offensive will have to be borne by it, till global response gets activated. Comparisons are being made with Hong Kong, but the major differences is that leadership, hierarchy in Hong Kong and police was manipulated by CCP, whereas  the leadership in Taiwan is strong and resolute refusing to give in to Chinese coercion. The need for amphibious assault due to terrain friction makes Chinese misadventure in Taiwan more difficult than Hong Kong.

Chinese amphibious capabilities to capture Taiwan are suspect, more so if US warships like the USS Ronald Reagan are around. China has enough missile arsenals to destroy Taiwan, but such a massive destruction of Han Chinese (95 percent of Taiwanese population is Han), who have relations, investments and inseparable linkages with their relatives in mainland and vice versa will not go well with domestic population of mainland. Over two million Taiwanese live in China, mostly in Coastal areas, and over 20 per cent have married there.

This will also destroy Chinese and Taiwanese economy, which does not suit Chinese leadership struggling to revive its economy marred by trade war, failing BRI and COVID effect. China is top destination for Taiwanese export accounting for approximately 40% of total exports, with Taiwan having  overall trade surplus of US$104.7 billion in 2021 with China.

A public opinion poll in Taiwan in 2020 indicated 73 percent people identified themselves as Taiwanese, who were against China, and 77 percent  supported democratic movement in Hongkong and this figure has increased in last two years. Getting Taiwanese under its wings will also bring a fresh democratic wave in China, which CCP may not be used to handle. Taiwanese people do not want to sacrifice their democratic freedom and prosperity, which is the main reason for success of President Tsai. The conflict if imposed by China will be deadly and Chinese, who want to win without fighting are not known for their appetite to accept body bags of Han Chinese, for a cause which doesn’t give them economic benefit but takes it away its dream of national rejuvenation, as indicated by General Qiao. 

Why Taiwan is a US-China Issue?

PRC may keep claiming Taiwan to be its domestic issue, but it has much greater external dimensions. Diplomatically US may claim to follow ‘One China Policy’ but it treats Taiwan no less than an ally. The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019, effective from March 26, 2020 is an indication. The Taiwan Relation Act,1973, Taiwan Travel Act signed 2019, and National Defence Authorisation Act signed earlier this year to facilitate sale of state of the art weaponry and joint exercises justify the statement. US will always like to trade and strategically partner with democratic Taiwan outside Beijing’s influence, and not Taiwan under CCP.

In any potential invasion of Taiwan, the spill over of the battle space to Japan is obvious due to geographic proximity, an ally which US is obligated to protect. Chinese initial offensive can be on Taiwan, but US could join forces with its allies in the region to use their sea and air advantages to cut off Beijing’s maritime lifeline in and outside South China Sea. Chinese supply lines outside Nine dash line are still vulnerable to choking, and it will draw out PLA to get into war outside its comfort Zone. Taking Taiwan by force, therefore involves mobilisation of all its combat resources, expecting an escalation from limited war to an all-out war, as the operation amounts to crossing US redline of “No Change in Status Quo of Taiwan”. Economically Chinese heavy reliance on the US dollar is far from over, and such a war over Taiwan would be a massive economic blow to China, that would see capital flooding out, and companies moving of the country, much sooner than it thought.

Way Ahead

If Chinese aggressive posturing, air incursions and military drills announced for four days end as scheduled without escalation, may be that situation may still remain under control, as US and Taiwan have also done military drills in that region earlier. If it escalates into an attempt to unite Taiwan by force, it will certainly up the ante with US, prove China as irresponsible bully, may lead to loss of life of Han Chinese both ways, lead to economic destruction of its one of the largest investors and jeopardise China’s goal of national rejuvenation. Internationally, China may have miscalculated US resolve and Taiwan’s resistance and all may not go their way. If Chinese ambitions grow beyond global tolerance, it has bright chances to bring rest of the world against China. While the visit of Nancy Pelosi may have given a strong message to China, but the US resolve is still under test, because Taiwan can’t be expected to handle Chinese aggression alone, more so if it has been hyped by super power contestation. US therefore must consider starting similar military exercise in Malacca Strait with other navies to remind China of its vulnerable SLOC before it starts blocking Taiwanese shipping.

The aggressive posturing in Taiwan Strait, South and East China Sea will continue, even if the current crisis slows down. PRC’s aim is to pressurise President Tsai Not to declare independence, keep pressure on, hope DPP loses next election and work out favourable arrangements with opposition likely to be favourable to China. Neither China nor US want war, but none wants to give walkover as well, hence this strategic gaming and posturing is on and will continue.

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