August 12, 2023 (Brian Berletic - New Eastern Outlook) - The United States has announced a new weapons package for Taiwan worth up to 345 million USD. Reuters, in an article covering the package, would suggest it was aimed at providing Taiwan with “security assistance.”
In reality, the transfer of weapons from the US to Taiwan is a violation of Chinese sovereignty under international law, which recognizes Taiwan as an island province of China.
The US State Department on its own official website admits, “the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan,” and that, “we do not support Taiwan independence.” Yet, the continued support of political parties on Taiwan pursuing independence and the shipment of US weapons to Taiwan to underwrite such aspirations constitutes a blatant violation of Washington’s own agreements with Beijing under the “One China” policy.
Washington’s actions in contravention of both international law and its own agreements with Beijing constitute a clear provocation against China and serve as the central driving factor behind Chinese military expansion, especially in and around the Taiwan Strait.
By violating China’s sovereignty by shipping arms to separatist elements on Taiwan, the United States is neither providing for Taiwan’s security nor underwriting regional stability as Washington often claims its presence in the region, thousands of miles from its own shores, is meant to achieve.
A factor, further undermining Washington’s claims of providing for Taiwan’s “security” through such arms transfers, is the very nature of these packages.
Reuters reports that:
In recent weeks, four sources told Reuters the package was expected to include four unarmed MQ-9A reconnaissance drones, but noted their inclusion could fall through as officials work through details on removing some of the advanced equipment from the drones that only the U.S. Air Force is allowed access to.
Even if the MQ-9A reconnaissance drones, also known as Reapers, included the most advanced technology used by the US Air Force, their utility in providing for Taiwan’s “security,” would be questionable at best. That the US is stripping them of features maximizing their capabilities further demonstrates the lack of sincerity behind US intentions to “secure” Taiwan through such arms shipments.
Western drone technology including US Reaper drones as well as Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones have proven to be ineffective in combat roles against peer or near-peer competitors, namely Russia, as seen during the fighting in Ukraine and Syria.
As part of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Russian Su-27 warplanes managed to down a US Reaper over the Black Sea simply by dumping fuel in its path, sufficiently compromising its propellers leading to its eventual destruction, CNN reported in March.
Russian warplanes have likewise challenged US Reaper drones flying illegally in Syrian airspace. Air & Space Forces Magazine in a July 27, 2023 article titled, “Russian Fighter Damages a Second MQ-9 Over Syria. So What Should the US Do Now?,” would report:
On July 26, two Russian fighters approached an MQ-9 and one dropped flares, striking and damaging the aircraft’s left wing in several places, according to U.S. officials.
A similar incident several days earlier also damaged a US MQ-9 Reaper.
While US military commanders have insisted they would continue operating the drones in Syrian airspace and “demonstrate some will and some strength,” there is virtually nothing the US can do to stop Russian warplanes from disrupting and even downing US drones short of escorting them with manned warplanes and firing on Russian aircraft.
The drones themselves are incredibly vulnerable to capable peer and near-peer nations like Russia and China and even Iran, who has on multiple occasions disrupted and even hijacked some of the US’ most advanced drones.
The Turkish-built Bayraktar TB2 combat drone shares many similarities with US-made drones. Its use by Ukraine was hailed as a game-changing capability that would decimate Russian ground forces. Just months later, virtually all of Ukraine’s TB2 drones were destroyed.
Russian air defense capabilities as well as its large, modern aerospace forces were more than a match for the type of drone warfare the US had pioneered during its “War on Terror.” What had been lopsidedly effective against irregular forces in the developing world was left wholly inadequate and vulnerable when fielded against the armed forces of a developed industrial power.
China’s air defenses and warplanes are among the most advanced in the world. Some of their most capable systems are, in fact, purchased from Russia, including the proven S-400 air defense system and Sukhoi Su-35S warplanes.
China is more than capable of disrupting or even destroying any MQ-9 Reaper drones Taiwan may acquire as part of this most recent US weapons package, begging the question as to what the US believes it will achieve by sending the drones in the first place.
Other weapon systems the US has pledged to send Taiwan in recent years include the Patriot air defense system, which has likewise been exposed as vulnerable to modern cruise missiles, hypersonic missiles, and drones both in Saudi Arabia’s conflict with Yemen and more recently in Ukraine. In addition to their battlefield deficiencies, the US is simply incapable of manufacturing both the Patriot air defense systems (launchers, radar, and commander units) and the interceptors they use in sufficient numbers to sustain operations in even a moderately-scaled conflict.
The qualitative and quantitative reality behind years of hyped Western military hardware has been fully exposed on and over the battlefields of Yemen, Syria, and Ukraine. Not only is Washington eager to provoke a similar conflict with China, but seeks to do so through a proxy likewise armed with insufficient varieties and quantities of US weapons.
The US sought to use Ukraine to “extend” Russia as a 2019 RAND Corporation paper literally titled, “Extending Russia Competing from Advantageous Ground,” explained. The idea was to continue to antagonize Russia, forcing it to expend resources, thus undermining its sociopolitical and economic stability much in the way the US claims it caused the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Quite clearly, US policymakers miscalculated. Russia’s determination to prevent the “NATO-fication” of Ukraine and its economic and military ability to do so, proved far more formidable than the West imagined.
China, with its much larger military, economy, and industrial capacity, is surely positioned to counter similar tactics used by the US and its allies in regard to undermining its sovereignty over Taiwan and using the island province as part of a wider US policy of encirclement. That Washington continues to pursue its current policy of encirclement toward China despite the military means by which it seeks to do so with have already proven insufficient against Russia in Ukraine indicates a lack of options and, in a sense, growing desperation in Washington.
US foreign policy centers on the singular pursuit of global primacy, despite growing evidence the US no longer possesses the military or economic means to do so. Will Washington continue spending military, political, and economic resources on dwindling returns against a reemerging Russia and a rising China? Or will the US finally abandon its increasingly unrealistic pursuit of global primacy and adopt a more rational policy of working among other nations rather than attempting to impose itself upon all other nations? It is a decision that if Washington doesn’t make for itself now, others will make for it in the near future.
Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.