How Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan hurt US and Ukrainian interests
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan sent an anti-imperialist message to China. However, it harmed Washington’s and Kyiv’s interests in the war in Ukraine. This is because the challenge to China has the potential to diplomatically bring Beijing and Moscow even closer.
“For now, China is evaluating and has, yes, neutrality. I’ll be honest: this neutrality is better than China joining Russia.” The statement is from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. She drew attention on Wednesday (3) for clashing with the usual combative tone of the leader of Ukraine. It seems to reflect concern about the possible consequences of Pelosi’s support for Taiwan.
US Congresswoman Pelosi was on the island of Taiwan this week, between Tuesday (2) and Wednesday. She met with President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei.
The visit infuriated the Chinese government, which understood the action as US interference in the country’s internal affairs. Xi Jinping’s government has among its main political goals to regain control over the island – which has an autonomous democratic government but is not recognized as independent by most of the international community.
Mainly to respond to the domestic public, Beijing has carried out military exercises near Taiwan on an unprecedented scale. At least one missile would have crossed the island and fallen into the sea. The shooting also affected the maritime area of Japan’s exclusive economic zone. At least one hundred planes and ten warships took part in the military maneuvers.
In Russia, Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was classified as an American “provocation” against China, according to foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. She said Moscow supports the principle of “one China” and opposes any form of independence from Taiwan. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russians expressed “absolute solidarity” with China over Pelosi’s action.
On February 4, shortly before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had announced during the Beijing Winter Olympics a “unlimited partnership” – in which they declared their mutual support in regarding the issues of Ukraine and Taiwan. In a joint declaration, the countries discussed, among other topics, multipolarity and the redistribution of power in the world.
The declaration was interpreted by Western analysts as a kind of non-aggression pact, which would have the potential to lead to a realignment of the world order – which could generate a new type of Cold War.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, China said it was neutral and avoided participating in diplomatic movements engineered by the West to condemn Moscow’s attack on the United Nations.
But as the United States and its allies tried to isolate Russia’s economy through sanctions, the Chinese increased their purchases of Russian energy. One of the main goals of the West is to reduce Moscow’s income from oil exports in order to weaken the country and diminish its capacity for war.
In May, Chinese imports of Russian oil rose 55% from the same period a year earlier, according to the British network BBC. Because of this, Russia has displaced Saudi Arabia as the biggest supplier of oil to China. In the same month, exports of Chinese goods to Russia grew by 14% – the result of the Kremlin’s substitution of Western imports.
In addition, a new gas pipeline is being built to link the two countries and thus increase Russian exports to the Chinese by 10 billion cubic meters a year. It should be ready in two or three years.
One of the biggest fears of the Ukrainians was that China would start supplying military equipment to Russia. However, this has not occurred due to American pressure.
Likewise, the United States has been intimidating tech companies to avoid exports to Russia. According to the US Commerce Department, global semiconductor exports to Russia have dropped by 90% since the start of the war. They are essential to the Russian arms industry, which relies on chips to make weapons.
On the other hand, it does not seem possible that Washington and its allies have the capacity to try to punish Beijing with economic isolation. Some analysts say the Chinese economy could outpace the US in the next decade.
Thus, the partnership between Russia and China appears to be, for now, a “marriage of convenience”, driven mainly by the common antagonism towards the United States.
What the West and Zelensky seem to be trying to avoid is the deepening of this partnership. That is why the Ukrainian president has lowered his tone and is trying to arrange a meeting with Xi Jinping.
“Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was bad for American interests in Ukraine. The United States wants to isolate Russia, but they ended up giving the Chinese a reason to get closer to the Russians,” said retired colonel Paulo Roberto da Silva Gomes Filho, who holds a master’s degree in defense and strategy studies from the National Defense University of the People’s Republic of China.
It is not known for sure whether the action by Pelosi, a lawmaker known for her activism towards Taiwan, was the result of her individual initiative or if it was an action orchestrated with the Democratic government of Joe Biden. The visit ended up being criticized by members of the Democratic Party and praised by members of the Republican Party.
In addition to military maneuvers in the Taiwan region, the visit is already causing a deterioration in diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington. On Friday (5), China announced a halt in cooperation between the two countries in the military, combating climate change, immigration and efforts to control the global drug trade.
The possibility of China invading Taiwan or eventually going to war with the United States is considered remote by analysts. To invade the island, Beijing would have to carry out an amphibious landing operation, considered extremely complex and expensive. Furthermore, a direct attack on citizens who share China’s roots could be considered fratricide – and thus have a strong negative impact on Xi Jinping’s popularity.
But it remains to be seen to what extent the deterioration of diplomatic relations between the Americans and Chinese will have a greater impact on the Ukraine war – or whether it will unleash greater Chinese economic support for the Russians.
Latest battlefield news
In the last week, the War Games column analyzed the possible political consequences of a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south of the country. Over the past few days, Ukrainian fighters on the battlefield told this columnist that they had received information that Russia was sending between 20,000 and 30,000 troops to try to contain the counterattack in the occupied Kherson region. Russia confirmed the deployment of reinforcements but did not provide figures.
The exchange of artillery fire between Russians and Ukrainians in the territory between Mykolaiv and Kherson has been intense. This is today the main battleground of the war. But there has been no news of any significant advances from Ukraine towards Kherson.
In Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainians have accused Russia of using the Enerhodar nuclear plant as a shield. Moscow reportedly positioned several artillery pieces between the six nuclear reactors and fired on neighboring regions defended by the Ukrainian army. The Kyiv army cannot fight back lest it cause a nuclear catastrophe.
On the information front, Russia and Ukraine debate who is responsible for an explosion at the Yelenovka POW camp in Donetsk. On 29 July, a detonation killed 53 Ukrainian fighters who were being held at the scene and injured dozens. They were members of the Azov Battalion that had surrendered in the siege of the city of Mariupol.
Russia has accused Ukraine of causing the explosion by accidentally firing a Himars rocket into the prison.
Ukraine said it had evidence that fighters from Russia’s Allied Separatist Republic of Donetsk detonated a bomb inside the prison to kill the prisoners and thus hide evidence of torture against them. Indications of this were alleged wiretaps that would show officials linked to Russia commenting on the operation and the fact that the windows of neighboring buildings were left intact – which would point to the use of a bomb and not a rocket.
Ukraine says it is investigating the case, but there is currently no independent investigative process.