Send More Aid to Taiwan, Before It’s Too Late
The emergency supplemental bill should be just the prelude to a larger annual military aid package.
There are decades when nothing happens. And there are weeks when decades happen. Vladimir Lenin may not have said that. But Vladimir Putin made it a reality.
In this compressed chapter in history, the United States must respond urgently to one crisis while acting prudently to prevent another. A spending bill to be passed by Congress by March 11 should not only include support for Ukraine’s brave defense against Putin’s invasion. It should also authorize and fund a new long-term initiative to bolster Taiwan’s defenses and deter future aggression.
On March 3, the White House proposed $10 billion in emergency supplemental funding in response to Putin’s war in Ukraine. The proposal would provide $6.2 billion in security and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine with the remainder primarily covering costs associated with recent U.S. troop deployments. Congress is eager to act on the proposal by the end of next week. Congress should pass this necessary legislation. But it should do so without self-congratulation.
The simple fact is that the United States could and should have done more over the last eight years to aid Ukraine in its cause and in its need. We should have provided more security assistance. More of that assistance should have been lethal weaponry. And that lethal weaponry should have been provided sooner and in greater quantities to prevent an invasion, not respond to one. Ukrainians have fought well and fought bravely. But regrettably, they have done so—at least initially—with less help than they deserved.
The United States must not make the same mistake when it comes to Taiwan.
The most effective way to deter war and preserve peace in the Indo-Pacific is to ensure Taiwan can defend itself. That’s why for the last four decades the United States has been committed to enabling Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability. But in recent years, China’s rapid military modernization has radically altered the military balance across the Taiwan Strait and the Indo-Pacific.
It’s time to launch a new U.S. foreign military financing, or FMF, initiative for Taiwan as lawmakers have recently proposed. In November, Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the “Taiwan Deterrence Act.” A similar bill, the “Arm Taiwan Act,” has been introduced in the House and Senate. The annual military funding of $2 billion to $3 billion that these bills propose would bring Taiwan closer in line with U.S. support for Israel, which likewise confronts a grave security situation.
As part of emergency Ukraine funding legislation, Congress should authorize a long-term Taiwan FMF program and make a downpayment of at least $1 billion.
A dedicated Taiwan FMF program is both necessary and affordable. Taiwan would use FMF funds in the form of grants and loans to purchase defense equipment “made in the USA.” More importantly, the urgency of restoring credible deterrence in the Indo-Pacific and the consequence of failure means the only thing more costly than boosting assistance for Taiwan would be not to.
Supporting Taiwan would help correct a historical imbalance in FMF funding. Just 2 percent of the State Department’s most recent FMF budget request was for East Asia and the Pacific. FMF funding for Taiwan should reflect its status as a critical partner in our primary theater and threatened by our pacing adversary.
New funding would not alleviate Taiwan of its responsibility to spend more and spend better on its own defense. Instead, this funding would be a mechanism to incentivize Taiwan’s growing investments in robust asymmetric capabilities that exploit Taiwan’s advantageous geography and undermine Beijing’s military advantages.
Some might argue boosting FMF funding for Taiwan now would provoke Beijing. Perhaps, but no more so than the $750 million arms sale to Taiwan proposed by the Biden administration last August. Instead, bolstering U.S. support for Ukraine and Taiwan simultaneously would send a message to Beijing that its unwillingness or inability to restrain Moscow has sharpened the resolve of the international community to oppose unilateral attempts to alter the status quo by force. Moreover, a fresh initiative like this would reassure Indo-Pacific allies and partners that the United States isn’t taking its eye off the region.
The legendary economist and strategist Thomas Schelling once warned of the danger that springs from “the inability of individual human beings to rise to the occasion until they are sure it is the occasion—which is usually too late.” Putin should not have had to invade Ukraine a second time for the United States to summon the spirit of urgency, solidarity, imagination, and ambition that appears to have taken hold at last. Let us act in that spirit now to support Taiwan before decades collapse once more into weeks of even greater peril.
Dustin Walker and Eric Sayers are Nonresident Fellows at the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Walker was the lead adviser to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Europe and the Indo-Pacific (2017-2020). Mr. Sayers was the lead adviser to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Indo-Pacific (2014-16) and an adviser to the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (2016-2018).
NEXT STORY: Will Russia Go Nuclear?