Former North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for a Ukrainian victory against Russia being the surest way to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
Fogh, who led NATO from 2009 to 2014 and is also the former Prime Minister of Denmark, was on a two-day visit to the disputed island as the Chairman of the Alliance of Democracies Foundation.
Recently, Ukraine also purchased twenty electricity generators using $1 million donated by Taiwan to overcome the massive electricity crisis and power outages affected by Russia’s strikes on its energy infrastructure.
The two developments have marked a direct overlap of Ukraine and Taiwan scenarios, with increasing Western convergence against Russia and China. Moscow and Beijing have closed ranks against what they perceive as unwarranted military groupings and encroachment on their core territorial issues, which they say pose a threat to their sovereignty.
This also challenges a prevalent view that China is secretly uncomfortable with the Russian military intervention in Ukraine since the same NATO confronting Russia is now challenging China over its red line (Taiwan). In its last security document, NATO also described China as a “challenge” and has been attempting to officially foray into far north-east Asia in partnership with Japan – another Chinese rival.
Defeat Russia In Ukraine To Deter China In Taiwan
Rasmussen said the “parallels with Russia and Ukraine are hard to ignore.” “We must not make the same mistakes with Xi Jinping that we did with Vladimir Putin. The free world has shown impressive unity in response to the war in Ukraine.
We can be sure Xi Jinping is watching closely. Any attempt by China to change the status quo in Taiwan by force should spark an equally unified response, and we must make this clear to China now,” Rasmussen.
He suggested “severe economic consequences” like cutting “dependence on cheap Chinese products” (like Russian energy) to deter Beijing’s move on Taiwan. He also praised United States (US) President Joe Biden’s repeated statements that Washington would help Taiwan against China if the latter attacks.
Europe has been slow to adopt a hardline on China given its deep economic ties, with the ambivalence going back to former German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron had long called for independence in their ties foreign policy regarding China, constantly reaffirming in multiple forums they were not “against” China.
This was reflected in the European Union (EU) hurriedly signing the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China before the transition from former President Donald Trump to the Biden administration.
The EU, however, later levied sanctions on Chinese officials over its alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang, with China retaliating with counter-sanctions on European officials. Current German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit to China in December too was observed to have been pushed more by Germany than Beijing, alarming the US that saw another attempt by Berlin to chart its own course on its China policy.
With NATO declaring China a “challenge” in its 2022 security document, we will see a Europe split between continuing lucrative commercial ties but with undercurrents of a hardline on a few issues not altogether to displease the US and Japan.
The EU has long been persuading China to relax its foreign investment and trade rules and secure greater market access for European products in Chinese markets. These often compete with cheap Chinese goods backed by heavy government subsidies and state support.
But Rasmussen clarified that NATO does not have a direct role to play in the Indo-Pacific and identified groupings like the Quad as better suited for the role, which means the military bloc is treading slowly in its confrontation. Sending a former NATO chief to Taiwan and nor the present one (Jens Stoltenberg) indicated that neither the US, Europe wants to dramatically escalate tensions in the western Pacific, after the massive backlash by China triggered by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August 2022.
Taiwan ‘Re-Powering’ Ukraine?
Meanwhile, Taiwan and Ukraine share solidarity over their vulnerability from their former rulers – larger and more powerful countries trying to re-assimilate them by force. There have been images of demonstrators supporting Ukraine marching in Taiwan while Taiwanese volunteers are fighting and being killed in Ukraine.
The generators are possibly the first official contact between the two countries after Russia began targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in October in retaliation to the Kerch bridge bombing. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told Ukrainian media this week that the first batch of two generators had already been transferred to municipal utility Kievteploenergo to use in boilers and heating stations.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou confirmed earlier in December that the donation was confirmed following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu, Klitschko, and Grygorii Malenko, executive director of Kyiv-based charitable fund Darnychany.
Taiwan also plans another $2 million donation for other Ukrainian cities to purchase high-capacity generators to help them survive the winter. Nearly 50% of Ukraine’s power distribution infrastructure has been destroyed, which officials admit will take a lot of time to rebuild. Russia has destroyed almost every major substation and electricity transmission network.