WASHINGTON (AP) — To Rep. Mike Collins, China is a bigger threat to the United States than Russia. So the Georgia Republican has voted against providing military aid to Ukraine as he advocates for doing more to arm Taiwan, the self-governed island that’s at risk of military aggression from Beijing.
For Collins and other Republican lawmakers, Taiwan and Ukraine are effectively rivals for a limited pool of U.S. military assistance. But that’s not necessarily how Taiwan and many of its supporters see it. They view Taiwan’s fate as closely linked to that of Ukraine as it struggles to push back a Russian invasion.
They say China is watching closely to see if the United States has the political stamina to support an ally in a prolonged, costly war. The U.S. aid to Ukraine also has led to weapons manufacturers stepping up production — something that could benefit Taiwan in a clash with China.
“Ukraine’s survival is Taiwan’s survival. Ukraine’s success is Taiwan’s success,” Taiwan’s diplomat in the U.S., Hsiao Bi-Khim, said in May at the Sedona Forum hosted by the McCain Institute.
Still, Taiwan has been careful not to weigh in on the U.S. debate about continued funding for Ukraine, which has become a divisive political issue after initially having strong bipartisan support.
Asked about Congress removing Ukraine funding from a temporary spending measure that prevented a U.S. government shutdown on Oct. 1, Taiwan’s diplomatic office responded with discretion.
“Taiwan is grateful to have strong bipartisan support from the U.S. We will continue to work with the U.S. to maintain the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait,” the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.
But Congress’ refusal to include the aid raises “alarm bells” in Taiwan. said Bonnie Glaser, managing director of the Indo-Pacific program at the German Marshall Fund. She noted that the Taiwanese government “has argued that Ukraine’s victory is existential for Taiwan.,”
“These worries exist even though most Republicans who seek to end U.S. support for Ukraine are still very pro-Taiwan and willing to do more to help defend Taiwan,” she said.
Taiwan is the thorniest issue in the frayed U.S.-China relationship. Beijing claims sovereignty over the island, which lies roughly 100 miles (160 kilometers) off the mainland’s southeastern coast, and vows to seize it, by force if necessary, to achieve national reunification. The United States wants a peaceful resolution and has a security pact with the island, supplying it with military hardware and technologies to prevent any forced takeover by Beijing.
China’s military actions near the island have fueled concerns over armed attacks. President Joe Biden has said he would send troops to defend Taiwan in case of war, while Chinese President Xi Jinping has demanded the U.S. respect his country’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Collins traveled to Taiwan on his first overseas trip as a congressman. When he returned, he called for timely weapon deliveries to the island, especially since as much as $19 billion worth of weapons sold to Taiwan have been delayed.
“These delays are primarily a result of a U.S. manufacturing backlog and a distracted Biden administration with weapons deliveries to Ukraine taking preference over Taiwan,” Collin said. “We must get serious about offering support to our ally Taiwan because ultimately when it comes to countering China, our interests align.“
Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center of Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, disagrees with that logic.
“It’s not a zero-sum game,” he said. “Taiwan supports the U.S. aid to Ukraine. They understand that the deterrence message works.”
And on a practical level, Bowman said, the aid for Ukraine is helping the U.S. expand its weapons production, which will both benefit Taiwan and enhance U.S. military readiness.
Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who in April led a congressional delegation to Taiwan as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said support for the island has not diminished on the Hill.
“Throughout the conversations about aid to Ukraine, I have not heard a single person take a swipe at Taiwan,” McCaul said at a recent National Day celebration hosted by Taiwan’s representative office in Washington.
Glaser said the Chinese leadership is unlikely to discount the U.S. support for Taiwan, even when U.S. support for Ukraine is waning, but it is likely to exploit any failure to fund Ukraine in a disinformation campaign to sow doubts among the Taiwanese people about the U.S. commitment to their defense.
In a social media post, Hu Xijin, a retired chief editor of the Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper and now a political commentator, said this month that most U.S. overseas military interventions have “rotted” if the U.S. fails to cinch a rapid victory.