Bungled Russian Invasion Suggests Taiwan Invasion Foolhardy

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Many believe that after Ukraine, the Chinese regime will invade Taiwan. But the course of the war and the Russian forces’ poor performance suggests that a Taiwan invasion will go very badly for China.

The conventional wisdom is that Taiwan should be very concerned about Chinese aggression. After the disastrous American pullout from Afghanistan, Russia immediately started increasing its forces around Ukraine, leading to the current invasion. This leads analysts to suggest that an aggressive move by the Chinese regime will happen sometime soon. Even before the Russian invasion, Taiwan was anticipating “more severe” struggles with China in 2022. And some analysts predict that Chinese leader Xi Jinping will need an invasion to solidify his rule.

But there is some hope in the current situation. The severe struggles of the Russian army suggest the invasion might be a cautionary tale for aggressors like Russia and China, and not their victims like Ukraine and Taiwan.

The consensus thus far is that the Russian invasion has gone badly. The Ukrainian military and people have put up stiffer resistance than Russia expected. The Russian military has failed to achieve major goals (at the time of this writing), including the seizure of major cities like Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Mariupol. Despite only being a few days into the conflict, the Russian army already faces morale and supply issues. The poor performance of the Russians provides specific examples of how badly a Chinese invasion of Taiwan might play out.

This first example is the lack of good Russian junior leadership and poor soldiering in general. (This might sound familiar as it is one of the items I listed before the Russia-Ukraine war broke out.) The lack of good junior officers is a long-term organizational failure of the Russian forces. Unlike the American forces that have good training of its recruits and retention of junior leadership, the Russian conscripts are hazed to the point that they are just as likely to frag their fellow soldiers than reenlist.

This means that the Russian army is often led by senior conscripts—those who are leaving the service shortly but have been around long enough to have some basic competency. But that is hardly the skill level needed to excel in a combat environment. That is why Russian tanks, for example, are suffering surprising losses. It sounds counterintuitive, but armor is only effective when used in combination with a screening force of infantry. But the latter don’t want to exit their armored transports. This makes the tanks easy targets for the anti-tank missiles that the United States flooded Ukraine with. And the Russians have not yet entered dense urban areas, where tanks are even more vulnerable.

Epoch Times Photo
Smoke rises from a Russian tank destroyed by the Ukrainian forces on the side of a road in Lugansk region on Feb. 26, 2022. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images)

China’s modern People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has retention problems and junior officers are likely going to be more afraid of making mistakes than the enemy. Historically, China had trouble establishing an effective modern army. During China’s self-strengthening period, the late Qing Dynasty was wealthy, and it had proactive ministers and governors who bought the best modern equipment and they established training schools. But building a winning culture filled with effective soldiers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and logistical officers remained difficult.

With limited supply, poor leadership, and lack of coordination, the Chinese forces will have an even more difficult time invading Taiwan. China’s analysts admit they have severe problems with joint operations. Tanks working with infantry is one relatively minor problem in combined arms fighting. China, in contrast, will have to coordinate multiple branches to complete a sudden invasion of Taiwan.

That means each service must decide, and often competes instead of cooperating in each of the following tasks: which service and platform will conduct electronic warfare, surveillance, and fly sorties against which targets, and which is responsible for the transport. All of which culminate in what could be a combat landing akin to D-Day. Once they win the fight for the beachhead, they must move toward the capital. Only then will the Chinese face similar problems to the Russian army trying to advance in speedy, organized, and overwhelming fashion. Only the geography of Taiwan leaves less room for maneuver, and is much more densely populated and mountainous.

The second factor is that the Russians didn’t dazzle with hybrid warfare. This type of warfare includes using subversive, economic, and diplomatic means below the level of conventional war to inflict strategic defeats on the enemies. But Putin did not seize Ukraine with a blizzard of new and unconventional techniques followed by a lighting quick ground campaign. This may be because the Russians are afraid of hurting civilians and damaging the country that Putin wants to quickly absorb. More importantly, this likely didn’t happen because these techniques are not as battle ready as dictators would have us believe. Their tanks, plains, missiles, and rifles that are leading the assault are simply the newest version of technology that has been around for a long time.

China analysts warn of “gray zone” warfare, which is similar to Russia’s hybrid warfare in that it consists of actions that fall between conventional notions of war and peace. This includes Chinese space and cyberwarfare buttressed by their strategic signature of quick, preemptive attacks to seize disputed territory. But Russia shows us that this kind of quick seizure relying on new techniques or dazzling weapons is wishful thinking.

The final factor that undermined Putin is the unexpected power that comes from people and organizations. The people of Ukraine have shown unexpected heart and resistance. NATO and Europe have been swifter and sterner in their opposition. NATO activated its quick reaction force for the first time, Germany is rearming, and Europeans agreed to impose crippling financial penalties on Russian banking systems. Even domestic Russians have launched protests in the face of likely arrest and torture.

All of this undermines the notion that communist China will be able to take Taiwan in a coup de main. The world’s reaction to the Russian invasion buttresses the notion that the Taiwanese people, alliances in the region, people in America, and maybe even people in mainland China will stand up and say no.

The invasion is still scary, and the Russians have such numerical advantages in men and material that the invasion is still likely to succeed. But these developments should give Xi as much pause as motivation to invade Taiwan. I know it flies in the face of conventional wisdom that sees the aggression of ambitious dictators, but the dismal Russian performance in Ukraine at this time makes any invasion of Taiwan seem foolhardy.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Morgan Deane

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Morgan Deane is a former U.S. Marine, a military historian, and a freelance author. He studied military history at Kings College London and Norwich University. Morgan works as a professor of military history at the American Public University. He is a prolific author whose writings include “Decisive Battles in Chinese History,” “Dragon’s Claws with Feet of Clay: A Primer on Modern Chinese Strategy,” and the forthcoming, “Beyond Sunzi: Classical Chinese Debates on War and Government.” His military analysis has been published in Real Clear Defense and Strategy Bridge, among other publications.





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