Russia Will Invade Ukraine as China Invades Taiwan

You’ve probably seen the pundits on TV News networks selling a China-Russia Doomsday Scenario that goes something like this:  Russia and Communist China see the Biden administration as unpopular at home, rudderless in its foreign policy, and confused as to the role of the U.S. in the world.  Seeing opportunity there, Russia and the Chicoms will coordinate a joint attack where Russia will invade Ukraine annexing it entirely as the communists embark on a full-scale amphibious and airborne invasion of Taiwan.

The United States, facing a war on two fronts and lacking the political will and solid leadership in the White House will do nothing to interfere.  Russia will be able to restore a significant part of its previous holdings when it was the empire of the USSR and Communist China will at long last regain what it regards as a rebellious province that has remained separated for going on eighty years.

We are told that the White House and Pentagon are both deathly afraid of this happening saying that in this scenario, the U.S. will lose not one, but both wars at the same time.

While it probably gets eyeballs on screens to make these kinds of prognostications of doom and failure, we should also ask how likely is it that this Doomsday Scenario would actually play out.  In my estimation, it’s not very likely.

Here is why.

In Ukraine, the Russians have parked an army of about 110,000 troops on its border. The bone of contention for Putin here is Ukraine seeking membership in NATO hoping to protect itself from further Russian aggression of the kind that resulted in the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Ukraine was the second most populous region in the old Soviet Union and was the breadbasket of the country growing most of its wheat and corn.  It also contained vital defense industries and military bases including Sevastopol which was the home of the Black Sea Fleet. The USSR had parked a significant amount of its strategic and theater ranged nuclear weapons in the country too. There are a great many ethnic Russians mixed among the population as well.  When Ukraine sought independence from the USSR in 1991, this loss of such important ground may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back in the final collapse of the Soviet Union.

For these reasons, Putin might very well want Ukraine back inside the borders of Russia but that would come with a significant price in terms of having a vast new area he would have to defend that contains a largely resentful and potentially hostile population.  If he folded Ukraine back into the Russian Federation, Ukrainians would also get to vote in elections which could result in his being unseated by a rival.

If he chose instead to pursue a purely military occupation of Ukraine he would have an insurrection on his hands in a year that would remind him of the two bloody wars Russia fought in Chechnya. A conflict that lasted ten years.

Putin would see his relations with Western Europe and the U.S. all but wrecked.  Europe may need oil, gas and coal from Russia, but Russia needs the wealth that comes from that trade as well.

Putin has stated that he does not want a NATO member country on the border with Russia and wants a legal guarantee that Ukraine will never be admitted.  If NATO were to refuse to give such a guarantee and Putin invaded and folded Ukraine into the Russian Federation, he would not be solving his problem.

He would be making it worse. Ukraine shares a border with not one, but four NATO countries, Poland, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia.  If Putin fears having Ukraine on his border as a member of NATO, why would he annex the whole country only to find he now has four NATO members on his new borders?

How Much Of A Threat Does This Russian Army Actually Pose?

As for the Russian army on Ukraine’s border, it is important to understand that there is a difference between the number of troops in an army and the number of combat troops in that army.  Truth be told, only about ten percent of the troops in an army do the actual fighting toe-to-toe with an enemy.  The rest are support troops performing supply, transportation, maintenance, medical and administrative tasks. If you are talking about armored divisions the number of non-combatants assigned to its Logistics Tail is even longer.

So, in that Russian army of 110,000 troops, maybe 11-12,000 thousand are the grunts that will do the shooting part of the war.  Would that be enough to defeat the Ukrainian forces and occupy a country bigger than Germany?  I don’t think so. When the U.S. occupied Germany after WWII, we sent in nearly one million soldiers to do it.

“Military exercises of Guards Engineer Brigade and Engineer Camouflage Regiment of Russian army”. Work of field engineer unit at the military exercises of Guards Engineer Brigade and Engineer Camouflage Regiment of Russian army. Photo “Military exercises of Guards Engineer Brigade and Engineer Camouflage Regiment of Russian army”. Grigory Sysoev

Then there is the weather

It’s Winter in Ukraine and if if you had to pick the worst time to start a war it would be winter in a country known for brutally cold winters.  In January, Ukraine will average a high of just twenty-eight degrees Fahrenheit with lows that can be minus twenty degrees. In the annals of military history, two of the mightiest armies ever known were both defeated in large part because of the weather in this region, Napolean’s Grand Armie and Hitler’s Wehrmacht. History informs military doctrine and the doctrine is that launching an offensive in winter gives a major advantage to your enemy that acts as a force multiplier.  Your enemy is sheltered in defensive positions, while your forces are out doors and slogging through the snow.  Yes, Russians are accustomed to cold weather, but that isn’t the same thing as wanting to fight in cold weather.

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The reality of a winter war is that your forces will be stuck using just the roads for movement and be much slower. You will have a hard time sheltering and feeding your troops. Their morale and fighting ability will decrease significantly from the weather.  Everything, including changing a tire on a jeep will take twice as long. You will have as many frostbite casualties as you do combat casualties.

There is such a thing as doctrine in warfare and an invasion in the winter with barely half the forces you would need to invade and occupy Ukraine all but assures that Russia would lose a war in Ukraine.  The U.S. wouldn’t have to do much of anything, except maybe arm Ukrainian fighters from the four NATO countries she shares her borders with.

And there is no reason to think that this fight is ours alone.  The other NATO countries have armies(sorta) and I suspect Germany and Poland would actually enjoy taking a crack at a Russian army on something like equal terms.  This is what NATO was formed for, to fight armed aggression by Russia.  If member countries aren’t willing to fight Russia over Ukraine, then NATO is a useless relic of the Cold War and we should pull out of it.

Amphibious armored vehicles attached to a brigade of the army under the PLA Eastern Theater Command release smoke bombs for concealment during a recent amphibious training exercise. The Army brigade has organized amphibious landing drills on subjects of landing craft ferrying, assault wave formation, beach-landing, obstacle breaking and so on. (eng.chinamil.com.cn/Photo by Zeng Bingyang)

The Cross-Straits Invasion of Taiwan by China.

I have written previously why I don’t think China has the military ability to invade Taiwan successfully.

You can read that here.

That piece is full of doctrine arguments as well.

The most compelling evidence I can offer as to why China will not invade Taiwan is that the country is an economic jewel worth more than one trillion dollars a year in domestic output.  China doesn’t just want the territory of Taiwan, it wants the economic boost that comes with it.  The Taiwan economy is comprised of electronics, petroleum refining, pharmaceuticals, machinery, armaments, chemicals, textiles, iron and steel, cement, food processing and vehicles with a population of just twenty-three million.  If China could acquire Taiwan intact it would be the most productive province in China from day one.

So they don’t want it wrecked and in smoking ruins after they get it back. It would mean  another having another twenty-three million starving people to try and feed and they already have enough of that on the mainland.  And beyond the cost of retaking the island by force they now have to spend a vast fortune to rebuild it. This is a scenario China has faced before in Hong Kong and its actions there are instructive here.

Playing the Waiting Game In Hong Kong

Hong Kong is on the territorial mainland of China sitting at the end of a pennensula dotted with islands.  It was once a Crown Colony of Great Britain under a lease agreement signed in 1898 for a one hundred year term.  The Chinese communists came into power in 1949 and for nearly half a decade waited patiently for the lease to expire in 1997.  That’s nearly fifty years.  Hong Kong would have been a piece of cake to invade.  It shares a border with the city of Shenzen. The Chinese Army can walk there on foot.

So why didn’t they simply invade Hong Kong and wrest it from British control by force?

  1. China takes a prettly long view of things being a country with a history of more than 5,000 years.  They knew the British would have to surrender it in 1997.  Not that they had any reason to fear a war with Great Brittain but seizing the island would serve to delegitimize to the world what they viewed as their righful ownership of it.
  2. Hong Kong was also an economic jewel.  It’s gross domestic product was more than three-hundred and twenty billion dollars a year, with just seven million people. About the same size economy as Portugal and Hungary-combined. China needed Hong Kong back in one piece and they could afford to wait it out.

If China invaded Taiwan it would be flushing down the toilet more than half a trillion dollars a year in trade with the United States. China also holds more than one trillion dollars in U.S. debt instruments(Good luck getting that money back Beijing).  And their invasion of  Taiwan would end up wrecking the place beyond just the destruction of factories, infrastructure and the human death toll.  None of the foreign countries doing busiess in Taiwan right now would ever go back again.

So invading Taiwan has some very bad math going for it.  China is not a crazy place, its Communist rulers are thinking plotting and clever.  Wrecking something worth a trillion dollars just to have its ashes in your pocket just isn’t how they think of things over there.

Finally, there is this notion that if America loses a battle, we have lost a war as well and we will just give up and go home.  I honestly don’t know how anyone who grew up in our country and knows anything about our history could even think that.

When the Chicago Cubs lost the 1945 World Series to the Tigers, the Cubs didn’t give up playing baseball forever. They came back again and again until they won the pendant again in 2016.

A lost battle doesn’t send Americans packing with our tails between our legs vowing never to fight again.  We regroup, retrain, rearm and come back.

Americans don’t mind defeats as much as we despise quitters.  Growing up I used to hear repeatedly that after the Vietnam War, the American People just didn’t have the stomach to fight a long war ever again.

Then the 9/11 Attacks occurred in 2001 and we went to war for twenty years, dispelling a myth we created ourselves that our country would never fight a long war again.

And what began that Global War on Terrorism?

A massive defeat that killed more than 3,000 Americans. We didn’t beg for peace with Al Qeada, instead we vowed unrelenting vengence against them.

China knows this too. They know that they might win a battle against us, but would lose a protracted war and that is the war the United States would give them. A war that would see the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Pacific all united against Beijing.

This is the nightmare scenario that probably keeps the Communist Party of China up at night.