A Rising Prospect of Two Front War in Ukraine and Taiwan: Old Geopolitical Game play for Dominance -Imran Nazir

Cover Story

It has been months since the Ukraine crisis has started with the amalgamation of Russian troops beside Ukraine border. Much has been talked and analyzed regarding the prospects of European continental war especially after the encroachment of Ukraine’s borders by Russian troops in the name of peacekeeping to support the pro-Russian rebel groups inside Ukraine. However, popular commentaries have hardly focused on the parallel development of another crisis in distant area which may have enormous impact for world stability and order. A slow but steady tension is boiling over Taiwan with China. We cannot isolate Taiwan from Ukraine due to their complex inter-linkages.

Ukraine and Taiwan hold various similarities from different perspectives. First of all, historically both of the territories have been a bone of contention for their powerful masters, namely Russia and China. Russia has never considered Ukraine beyond a backyard area of influence but strategically worthy for its geographical position. Notably the buffer Ukraine gives Russia from NATO member states have been envisaged as precious. Russia has also regarded Ukraine a close neighborhood where Russ speaking people reside. These historical aspects provide Russia with a sense of ownership over relatively weak Ukraine. Similarly, Taiwan, an adjacent island of Chinese mainland, is also a historical creation as a result of communist revolution in Maoist China. Evidently, China has adhered the autonomy of Taiwan until recent its global rise a dominant power in politics and economic sphere. Chinese communist party has already started viewing democratic Taiwan as a threat for its global dominance and internal cohesion. So, Xi Jinping wants to integrate Taiwan as a normal territory where Chinese central rulings will be established.

Interestingly, both Ukraine and Taiwan have been reliant on external powers to offset their neighbor’s immense pressure. Ukraine has shown its much desire to join NATO and European Union to come out of Moscow’s authoritative halo. Similarly, Taiwan has a long history of good relationship with USA as opposed to Chinese aggression. Even USA has legal authority by treaty to militarily support Taiwan in case of any external threat- especially from China. These dynamics make both Russia and China always wary to keep these territories under control. Relations among them have been defined with utter mistrust and diffidence. Putin has recently envisioned his ideas regarding the geographical and historical commonalities of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Though, Russia may have left the idea of revoking United Soviet Republic but its efforts to create a sense of bonding among former members is evident in its recent vigorous initiatives and activities. On the other hand, Chinese communist party wants absolute reunification of Taiwan as its democratic ideology is surely a threat to the overall integrity of Chinese leadership. So, making Taiwan parochial under communist regime would serve a lot of strategic interest. Similarly, Russia would be immensely benefited if it can stop Ukraine harboring external enemies of Russia.
But now question may be raised why we should closely observe the Ukraine crisis by relating Taiwan question. Next section will give a sense of rising alliance and its geostrategic ambition with ideological sameness contributing to reshape the theater of power projection of turf battle for world dominance.

Good relation between Russia and China
It is not unusual to relate Russia’s move with possible shift in China’s strategic calculation. World politics is characterized as billiard board where one’s move affects others. However, recent years have been marked a stable continued relationship development between two former extreme rivals Russia and China. Mutual trust and coordination have been increased over the years in their bilateral relations and coherent decision making in international relations. We can simply envisage their internal coordination just by looking their moves and positions on the most burning international events. Despite having bitter past, Russia did not show much discomfort regarding the rise of China rather accepted it as an evolving reality. Both countries have shown resistance and patience to each other to the cause of other’s interests and strategies. Obviously cooperation characterized by mutual exchanges and interdependence are also key to keep interrelationship alive and sustained. Putin has been consistently increased Russian energy supply with China by exporting oil, gas and weapons while Xi Jinping has overwhelmed Russia with Chinese investment apart from their military strategic partnership. Evidently, China and Russia have been conducted joint patrols in the Pacific which provided symbolic massage against the presence against USA security arrangements. This has definitely created a great concern among US officials as both of its two rival countries are aligning against it. Quadrilateral Security Dialogue must be a soft target of Chinese-Russian alliance in the Pacific strategy. Besides, autocratic government model and past adherence to communism gives Russian-Chinese relationship a special uniting character against the West. So, the intensification of Ukraine crisis can have a severe impact on Taiwan due to various geostrategic considerations between Russia and China. The Russia started full scale attack on Ukraine and China speaks in support of Russian invasion unlike European countries and USA allies. It indicates the bilateral understanding between the countries. It would not be impossible to see the Chinese invasion on Taiwan in near future. If that happen, USA & its allies will fall in difficult situation and they would not be able to handle the situation.

Double Front War and Complex Geopolitical Calculus
So, there is a possibility of double front war by diversifying the theatre of warzones. At the same time there is a realistic possibility of high profile parallel conflict taking place in Ukraine and Taiwan as a consequence of superpower rivalry. We are already aware of a tight alliance built up between Russia and China. So, they may bid for toppling USA from the dominant position. Creating high tension in Ukraine or attack on it and Taiwan at the same or near future time will serve greater interests of Russia and China. Primarily, making two war fronts will put USA under severe pressure. Paying attention to them equally will be nearly impossible. Current economic situation and domestic pressure will make USA also reluctant to engage in either of the events. Russian has already started full scale war with Ukraine but USA has not declared to send troops in Ukraine and also similar regarding the commitment to Taiwan under invasion. So it would undermine US supremacy and credibility among allies. On the other hand, Russia and China will be benefited by gaining their strategic position. Paralyzing Ukraine or occupying some or the whole Ukraine will provide Russia with an abundance of strategic access and opportunities against NATO while China will also be able to establish its supremacy in autonomous Taiwan. And there is a serious ground to believe that Russia and China may work hand in hand to divert Ukraine crisis for implanting their own core agenda which go beyond Ukraine and Taiwan.

On the other hand, it is hard to predict the future of NATO. President Biden declared very first stage of his presidency to develop the relationship among the NATO allies. But Australia & USA submarine deal deteriorated the relationship among the NATO allies. So, it would be difficult to come to a good point to defend against the common enemies. Recently, Russia declared their nearby two territories controlled by militants/separatists backed by Russia as independent and then started full scale attack on Ukraine. Not surprisingly, EU, USA & some European countries imposed economic sanction on Russia though some European countries are in dilemma whether Russia would stop gas supply in Europe. Such economic sanction would fall Russia in difficult situation. At the same time, if Russia increases the price rate of gas and well then it will create the pressure on economy of the Europe. Then it will hit international business and increase the inflation. It seems that Russia was in hurry to control Ukraine by making such pressure but such decision may benefit USA allies as Russia would not be able to take such economic sanction. Especially if it could not handle the economic loss and capture the mentionable part of Ukrainian territory within reasonable time. The longer war sustain the more Russia will lose its interest. It would be better for Russia to take such decision after USA & its allies be engaged any proxy war with China. But time will say how much Russia can be succeeded to control Ukraine.

It is clear that the world is going to face the power shift in near future but it is not clear who will be the next super power and lead the world. But as long as USA has capacity to sanction on any country by using its Dollar there is mere possibility to shift the power from USA to any third country. So, we would be confirmed whether USA lost its power when they would not be able to sanction by using US dollar or could not use IMF, World Bank or UN or any other international institution effectively to achieve its goal.
Author is regularly contributing in international and
geo-political issues.