Standing With the Free People of Taiwan: Multi-Domain Strategies to Bolster Taipei and Counter Chinese Aggression
Standing With the Free People of Taiwan: Multi-Domain Strategies to Bolster Taipei and Counter Chinese Aggression
April 26, 2022
RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, FDD Senior Fellow and Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation
Speakers (clockwise from top-left):
Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI), member of the House Armed Services Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research
Matthew Pottinger, Chairman of FDD’s China Program and former deputy national security advisor
RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, FDD Senior Fellow and Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation
The People’s Republic of China, ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, has stripped Hong Kong of its freedoms, brutally persecutes Uighurs and other minorities, and threatens the island nation of Taiwan, which over the last 40 years has transformed itself into a vibrant democracy and key U.S. economic and security partner.
If the United States is to defend its core interests in Asia and avoid war with Beijing, leaders in Washington must be clear-eyed about developments related to Taiwan – and act accordingly.
FDD recently released two memos, Taiwan 194 and Battle Force 2025, which outline how Washington can use all instruments of power to defend and advance the free people of Taiwan across military, information, diplomatic, and economic domains.
To discuss these critical issues and outline the policies Washington should be implementing today, FDD hosted a virtual event with the memos’ lead authors: Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI), who is a member of FDD’s National Security Alumni Network, and FDD’s Senior Vice President for Research Jonathan Schanzer. They are joined by FDD China Program Chairman and former deputy national security advisor Matthew Pottinger. The conversation is moderated by FDD Senior Fellow and Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery.
Representative Mike Gallagher
Mike Gallagher has represented Wisconsin’s 8th District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2017. Mike served for seven years on active duty in the United States Marine Corps, including two deployments to Iraq. He also served as the lead Republican staffer for the Middle East and Counterterrorism on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and worked in the private sector at an energy and supply chain management company in Green Bay. He currently serves on the House Armed Services Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. From 2019-2021 he served as Co-Chairman of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission.
RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery
RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery is a senior fellow at FDD and senior director of the Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation, where he leads FDD’s efforts to advance U.S. prosperity and security through technology innovation while countering cyber threats that seek to diminish them. Mark also directs CSC 2.0, an initiative that works to implement the recommendations of the congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission, where he served as executive director. Previously, Mark served as policy director for the Senate Armed Services Committee under the leadership of Senator John S. McCain, coordinating policy efforts on national security strategy, capabilities and requirements, and cyber policy. Mark served for 32 years in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear-trained surface warfare officer, retiring as a rear admiral in 2017.
Matthew Pottinger is chairman of FDD’s China Program. He served the White House for four years in senior roles on the National Security Council staff, including as deputy national security advisor from 2019 to 2021. In that role, he coordinated the full spectrum of national security policy. He previously served as senior director for Asia, where he led the administration’s work on the Indo-Pacific region, in particular its shift on China policy. Matthew is credited with raising awareness of Chinese Communist Party efforts to spread influence and interfere in various U.S. institutions, including academia, the tech sector and Wall Street. Before his White House service, he spent the late 1990s and early 2000s in China as a reporter for Reuters and the Wall Street Journal. He then fought in Iraq and Afghanistan as a US Marine during three combat deployments between 2007 and 2010. Following active duty, he founded and led an Asia-focused risk consultancy and ran Asia research at an investment fund in New York.
Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president for research at FDD, where he oversees the work of the organization’s experts and scholars. Jonathan previously worked as a terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he played an integral role in the designation of numerous terrorist financiers. He has held previous think tank research positions at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Middle East Forum. Jonathan has written hundreds of articles on the Middle East, along with more than a dozen monographs and chapters for edited volumes. His new book, Gaza Conflict 2021: Hamas, Israel and Eleven Days of War (FDD Press, 2021) challenges and corrects the some of the wildly inaccurate news reported during the conflict. It is the first book published on the war. Jonathan testifies often before Congress and publishes widely in the American and international media.
MONTGOMERY: Thank you for joining us for today’s event, hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. I’m Mark Montgomery, senior fellow at FDD and senior director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation. I’m really pleased to be joined by a stellar lineup today to discuss Taiwan, a beleaguered democracy in a tough neighborhood.
Earlier this year, FDD released two memos, which laid out analysis and recommendations for a clear-eyed approach that Washington should take to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to coerce Taiwan. In “Taiwan 194,” my colleagues, Jonathan Schanzer, Rich Goldberg, and I detailed a diplomatic approach where Taipei and its allies and partners, taking a page from the Palestinian playbook, can regain recognition at the United Nations and in other international organizations. In “Battle Force 2025,” Representative Mike Gallagher challenges the Pentagon’s strategy of integrated deterrence and soft power to deter Chinese aggression against Taiwan.
Instead, his paper provides a bold 10-step blueprint, a strategy of deterrence by denial that the United States can begin to implement. So today, we’re joined by the reports’ authors, Jonathan Schanzer and Representative Mike Gallagher, as well as FDD’s China Program Chairman Matt Pottinger, to dive deeper into identifying how Washington can use all instruments of power to defend and advance the free people of Taiwan across military, information, diplomatic, and economic domains. But before jumping into the conversation, allow me to share a more detailed description of each of our speakers.
Representative Mike Gallagher is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran with a combat tour in Iraq who now represents Wisconsin’s eighth district. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee and was recently appointed to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. We’re proud to have Mike as a member of FDD’s National Security Alumni Network. I’m proud to have served with him when he was co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission alongside Senator Angus King.
We’re also fortunate to have Matt Pottinger, FDD’s China Program chair, who served for four years on the National Security Council, including as deputy national security advisor, as well as senior director for Asia, where he was widely regarded as the architect of the administration’s work on the Indo-Pacific region and China.
And finally, we have Jonathan Schanzer, FDD’s senior vice president for research overseeing the organization’s numerous research portfolios. He previously worked as a terrorism finance analyst at the Treasury Department.
Before I begin, I’ll note that FDD is a nonpartisan research institute, exclusively focused on national security and foreign policy. It is a source for timely research, analysis, and policy options. It takes no foreign government money or foreign corporate funding. For more information on our work, you can visit us at fdd.org or find us on Twitter @FDD. So, I’m going to jump right into the questions for Representative Gallagher. Sir, I know congressmen don’t have a lot of free time and really think tanks are supposed to be writing long papers. What prompted you to write this extensive policy paper?
GALLAGHER: Well, I’m a failed academic of course, Mark. So, I had to write something to pretend like I was doing something with degrees that I’ve gotten in the past, but I think the reality is based on everything I’ve observed in my six years in Congress, based on the many conversations I’ve had with my good friend, Matt Pottinger, to whom the nation owes a great debt of gratitude. I feel like time is running out to solve the most important national security problem of this decade. Last year, Admiral Davidson put Washington on notice when he warned that a Chinese invasion Taiwan could come within the next six years. This assessment was then echoed by the commandant and the Chief of Naval Operations. It was reinforced by scholars, such as the Naval War College’s Andrew Erickson, who’s described the 2020s as the decade of maximum danger. Even President Biden during his inaugural address at the UN General Assembly described the 2020s as the decisive decade.
And I thought about this concept of a decisive decade, and then thought about how the Pentagon has all these different plans for how are we going to reverse negative trends and get our act together and what we would call the out years, the far-out years. Battle Force 2045 was a concept at the end of the last administration, where we’re betting on magical weapons that are going to come online in the 2030s. That is too far out. And it strikes me as insane that we’re putting all our eggs in this future basket when anyone who is paying attention can tell you the threat is here and now.
And I think if there’s going to be any silver lining to the horrific conflict in Ukraine, I thought maybe it would wake up Washington, DC, to the near-term threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party to Taiwan. But if anything, even after the consequences of modern state on state warfare have been on full display in Ukraine, the department seems to be moving backwards in its ability to deter a Taiwan invasion. Take the Navy, which is hemorrhaging near-term force structure as part of its divest to invest budget-imposed strategy, buying fewer ships, early retirements. Our fleet is going to shrink to from just under 300 ships today to 280 in fiscal year 2027. Bottoming out at the worst moment, the peak of Admiral Davidson’s window.
So I didn’t know how bad the “divest to invest” strategy was going to get in the new budget when I wrote this paper. But I did know that the Pentagon was not acting with a sense of urgency. And I honestly believe that unless we move quickly, urgently, in the next couple years, we are going to see conflict in Taiwan and we may not win that conflict on the current trajectory. And I think all of us should be working together to figure out how we deter an invasion and if necessary, defeat the PLA in a conflict over Taiwan.
MONTGOMERY: Hey, thanks. You remind me that in your paper, you had a great point that 2027, the date Admiral Davidson said, it can be affected. It can be affected by actions by the United States in Taiwan. It’s not a firm line. And so your paper makes a great point of articulating how to change that. So I’d like to ask you to kind of pick between your children here. Of the 10 points you had in there, what are the two or three that you think are really must-do items from your memo?
GALLAGHER: Well, I sort of lump a few of them in under the umbrella of enhancing our forward posture and the number of fires we have in the region. So that means hardening and expanding air defenses at existing US and allied facilities in places like Guam and Japan. Constructing new expeditionary bases on U.S. possessions across the Pacific, like Midway, Wake, establishing a sustained presence in the compact states and massing precision fires across the region, implementing the Marine Corps’ expeditionary advanced base operations, for example. The goal of all of that is to create what I would call a defense in-depth across the Pacific that not only uses ground-based missiles to begin to reverse the cost curve and provide US forces with an affordable way to mass fires that can hold Chinese targets at risk, but also provides a 24/7 US presence in the region that deters our enemy and reassures our allies.
The second must-do in my mind involves building munitions capacity, building stockpiles, just look at the battlefield in Ukraine, and you’ll see that in major war, we’re going to burn through precision guided munitions at an extraordinary rate. For example, at current production rates, we’ve given Ukraine seven years’ worth of Javelin inventory and 25% of our entire Stinger stockpile since the war began. So the Pentagon needs to require the defense industry now to model maximum missile production rates, figure out where the supply chain failures are, use the Defense Production Act to help build surge capacity as well as change the way we buy these missiles so that we’re buying more of the long lead items at a time so that we can build up those stockpiles.
Finally, I would just say, we need to do a better job of explaining to the American public why Taiwan matters and why we should defend it. I think our current plans for defending Taiwan are built on some rosy assumptions about the authorities that a future or current president would have to do it, which in turn rests on the assumption that Congress and the American people would support going to war over Taiwan. And unless we do a better job of explaining why it matters, I’m not sure we can count on that assumption. You can make the case economically. You can make it in terms of ideology and shared values. Matt Pottinger has made the case far better than I have multiple times. I won’t bore you with it here, but we have to communicate it in a way that will resonate in Northeast Wisconsin as to why Taiwan matters. And by defending Taiwan, we’re defending the free world.
MONTOMGERY: Well, thanks. That was quite a broad answer. And I got to double down on what you said, long range anti-ship cruise missiles (LRASM), something you and I have both argued for in print multiple times, as has Brad Bowman from FDD. There’s 88 being built this year. And I was pounding the table, “What’s going on?” And finally, someone whispered in my ear, “Hey, that’s max capacity.” Well, when your max capacity is about 5% of what you need long term, something’s wrong in your defense industrial base. So that’s a great point. Well, look, you teed up Matt Pottinger pretty well. Congressman Gallagher’s laid out an ambitious plan that could commit people of Northern Wisconsin there to a fight in the Western Pacific. Matt, why should we be defending Taiwan?
POTTINGER: Mike’s paper and his summary that you just heard of it are absolutely spot on. These are the kinds of things that we really need to be focused on. It has to do with logistics, our industrial capacity, making sure that we’re stockpiling munitions. And when we talk about why it matters, you remember back in the 1960s and 70s as the Vietnam War came to an unhappy end for us. A lot of people predicted at the time that you remember Domino Theory, the idea that we were going to be left in a far worse position. Communism was going to run rampant across the region. Of course, that didn’t happen. We were able to recover from that, but this time is different. We’re not dealing this time with a relatively small state, North Vietnam.
We’re dealing with the world’s second largest economy, a country that is now backing for the first time… in a thousand years, China is backing a war in Europe. This is a country that has global ambitions, not just nationalist and regional ambitions. And so the first thing is that because Taiwan is the fulcrum of this first island chain, if Taiwan falls, just the fact that China has essentially broken out of the first island chain capsizes the defense concept for Japan, our largest ally in the Pacific. And China, if you read their propaganda, which I don’t recommend too often, but if you do read it, you’ll see that China is actually questioning Japan’s right to territory that Japan currently holds. Not just the Senkaku islands, but even the entire Ryukyu Island chain. Okinawa, places that we fought bitter battles for to defeat Japan, and then gave back that territory to Japan after World War II.
China claims that that’s not legitimate Japanese territory. So what you start to see is the things that we feared in the 60s and 70s that didn’t happen are much more likely to happen here. Now, some of the other consequences for semiconductor supply chains… Our economy, in case you didn’t notice, everything runs on semiconductors. That’s why you have trouble finding even used cars anymore in the United States because of the shortage of chips. Now, you think about the fact that Taiwan produces most of the most advanced chips in the world. It will badly upset America’s economy in ways that would be reminiscent of the COVID crisis. You also would have the horizontal spread of nuclear weapons because countries would no longer believe that the United States is… That our extended deterrent, our nuclear umbrella is something that can be relied on. So I would imagine that Japan, South Korea, Australia, perhaps Vietnam, would pursue nuclear weapons as well.
And again, we’ve had this amazing success at keeping the number of nuclear powers in the world since World War II to single digits. This would really be the end of that and all of the problems attendant to that. And I can go on, but I won’t.
MONTGOMERY: Thanks, Matt. Of course, your discussion on Chinese propaganda, it reminds me of the famous, the third flag raising at Iwo Jima where the Chinese flag was raised. I think we’ve lost that photo to history, but with two former Marines here, we have to have a little bit of fun. Hey, great discussion of the why, and now the how. Representative Gallagher calls for ending strategic ambiguity. What are your thoughts on changing this 40-year policy?
POTTINGER: Yeah. So look, I noticed that Mike listed that last out of the 10 things that he put in his paper, and I think that’s appropriate because it’s actually the least important step of the 10 steps that Mike laid out. My view is that there are other things that might even be more important in terms of signaling American will than having the president end strategic ambiguity. For example, the Congress could consider passing authorization for the use of military force. In other words, giving the president that check in advance without forcing or cornering the president into announcing what he’s going to do. Having worked in the White House, I’m a believer in maintaining optionality for a president, not cornering him and painting too many red lines around him, but the United States Congress can signal that the American people represented by Congress are giving the president the right to use military force without having to go through the political rigmarole once a very, very horrible crisis is already unfolding.
You don’t want to waste a minute after China has launched an invasion. So that’s one thing that could be considered, but the things that Mike lays out, steps one through nine, which are about putting facts on the ground to use a phrase the Chinese like to use a lot, putting munitions distributed across the first island chain and in Taiwan itself. Basically food for thought that will challenge China’s war plans, challenge their assumptions about whether they’re going to be able to fight a war and actually win, or to be able to win quickly. As the Russians have now learned, those kinds of assumptions can be dashed. It’s even harder when you’re crossing a strait of water than when you’re just driving your tanks across the border of your neighbor. So I would look to steps one through nine that Mike wrote out as really the things we need to be talking about and doing.
MONTGOMERY: Thanks. And that’s a great point you made at the end there that crossing a strait is… That kind of amphibious landing is something that I think there’s one military force in the world that can do right now. And in a heavily opposed environment. I’m not even sure if there’s one anymore, but that’s a great point. Switching gears a little bit here for Jonathan. You’re advocating in a completely different domain and you’re advocating a really innovative approach to supporting Taiwan. What made you think and conceptualize this approach?
SCHANZER: Sure, Mark. Well first, really great to be with Representative Gallagher and Matt Pottinger. Great to be with you guys and also great to just take a little bit of a break from Russia, which I know has just been dominating all the discussions here at FDD. This was a report that we actually had been chewing on for months at FDD. And it actually dates back to maybe about 10, 12 years ago, where we had watched the Palestinians wage a campaign internationally for recognition. It actually began in 2005. It didn’t really begin to gain traction until around 2011. And they went to the UN and they started lobbying all of the member states. And they were able to score some successes. At the end of the day, 138 countries voted to recognize the Palestinians. They were able to join a number of smaller international organizations. They were actually even able to join one large one, UNESCO. They paid a price for it, but at the end of the day, this was a successful campaign. They were able to do so over the objections of Israel. They were able to do it over the objections of the United States, which was really remarkable. And it just got me thinking that, look, there were a lot of things about that campaign that I objected to personally, and we can talk about those things, but they wrote the handbook for how Taiwan with the help of its allies can begin to get that recognition that it deserves. And the more recognition that it gets at the UN, I think the more facts that it puts on the ground, the harder it will be for China to wage that kind of information and diplomatic war that it has been waging so successfully against Taiwan over the years. So the hope here anyway is that the Biden administration can embrace part of this. We’ve seen actually statements from the Biden administration from last year that they endorse a strategy along these lines.
Right now, my concern is actually about implementation. It doesn’t look like they have assigned elements of the State Department to do this in a way that I think it deserves. So we’ll see where they go from here. But this, I think, is the playbook.
MONTGOMERY: Thanks. And you have to think, we’re combating China here. What kind of challenges do you think that Taiwan supporters face with China that the Palestinian supporters really didn’t need to face?
SCHANZER: Yeah. I mean, look, the Palestinians, they always talk about the UN as the home court advantage for the Palestinians. They’ve got the nonaligned movement, they’ve got the Arab league, they’ve got the Organization of the Islamic Conference. So just a factor, they’ve got something like 90 countries that are already lined up in their favor. With China, it’s very different. I mean, I think there’s 13 states, if I remember correctly, that recognize [Taiwan] directly. There are another 15 countries that have informal ties or some kind of diplomatic connection, but really the Chinese have been buying influence. They throw their weight around, they threaten countries, and they threaten organizations that might recognize Taiwan. So it’s a home court advantage for China, not for Taiwan. This is I think the challenge that they face. But one of the things that we looked at in the report is that there are smaller agencies, there are smaller organizations. China’s not going to fight every one of these, right?
I mean, we look back, again, just using the Palestinian playbook for a minute, in 2017, they joined the International Olive Council, okay? Right? No one is going to stop the Palestinians from doing that. You can imagine that there are all sorts of smaller agencies that Taiwan could be eyeing and they should be looking to join those, especially where maybe China doesn’t have a significant foothold. And that’s how they can begin to establish those facts on the ground. There are other things that I think the Taiwanese should be looking at. I mean, they have a comparative advantage. The ITU, the International Telecommunication Union. The WHO, for example, ICAO, the international airline organization. These are all organizations where Taiwan does have a lot to give to the world. It’s not to say that China will roll over on these things, but you can see that it might be a battle that’s worth fighting.
MONTGOMERY: That’s a great point. Of course, with the WHO, we all know in retrospect now that Taiwan had a lot to give and that didn’t stop China’s kind of rapacious opposition to everything. I hope you’re right. But I suspect sometimes that Chinese would oppose the International Olive Organization. Hey, before I turn to Matt, one other thought. The purpose of this paper isn’t equating Taiwan and Palestine as issues, is it?
SCHANZER: No, no. It absolutely isn’t. I mean, I think at the end of the day, if there’s an analog to Taiwan and the Middle East, it’s probably Israel, as a democratic society, advanced technological society that’s surrounded by enemies and has fought tooth and nail for its survival. I think that it’s just worth noting here that the Palestinians did this against the will of a superpower, against the will of the United States. And that’s, I think, the lesson to be learned is that there are gains to be made in this space, but by no means would I say that the Palestinians deserved to notch these wins. I’m just noting that they did and that that should be a blueprint for Taiwan. I think it shows you what is possible and that was really the point of the paper.
MONTGOMERY: Thanks for that clarity. That’s great. And here at FDD, Brad Bowman and I have been doing a lot of writing about these beleaguered democracies, the nexus between Taiwan, Ukraine, Israel, maybe even Georgia is really becoming clear. Now, Matt, international olives off the table, which international organizations would you think Jonathan’s policy might have the best opportunity to succeed in?
POTTINGER: Yeah. I mean, Mark, you and Jonathan and Rich Goldberg laid out pretty well in the paper. I mean, first it’s looking for places where Taiwan has a natural advantage and they’ve got a lot. They’re one of the world’s leading technology players. They are a country that has had the best performance in the world, starting the earliest in the COVID pandemic. There’s a lot for all of us to learn from Taiwan on public health. And then it’s looking for those, whether it’s the Olive Commission or looking to join various treaties, that either a lot of them that we are signatories to and that don’t prohibit countries or governments from joining, even if they have a small number of countries that recognize them formally and diplomatically that shouldn’t preclude them from being able to participate. But a flip side of this, one of the things that we need to be doing, one of the things I learned the hard way from just witnessing Beijing’s ability to game the international organizations and the UN system, it’s never because they’re using large amounts of money.
China doesn’t spend that much money at the UN. I mean, it’s a joke. And yet they end up having the most influence, outsized influence. They give very little money to the World Health Organization. We give the World Health Organization half the pie and yet Beijing was able to call the shots. The way they’re able to do this is through corruption. And also through the skillful placement of their cadres, Communist Party cadres throughout the system. Not just in the lead role, the director and deputy director level, although they fight tooth and nail to get those jobs as well, but the unholy trinity of jobs that they place their people in are the IT department, head of IT. The Food and Agriculture Organization, as soon as China got hold of there, they shifted their whole network to Huawei and to the Chinese cloud so they could read what all of the diplomats and workers there were writing and doing. So it’s IT, it’s human resources.
So the World Bank, which we always have an American as the head of the World Bank, yet China derives far more benefit from the World Bank. They’re the number one recipient of largess from the World Bank and they are by far the number one contracting. Chinese state-owned enterprises receive the lion’s share of contracts from World Bank loans. Part of that is because China has been able to jam its people in at many different levels through work in the human resources department. And the final one is in the general counsel’s office. So the one country that has no rule of law is pretty effective at putting its lawyers into UN organizations. And so that’s why at, for example, the International Civil Aviation Organization, which Taiwan should be a party to, the general counsel there was able to shut down investigations into corruption and failures and other things that should have been made transparent and investigated.
So that’s the unholy trinity together with taking the leadership roles. We need to fight much, much harder, especially for of the amount of money that we’re putting into these organizations. We need to fight to diminish China’s influence in them and to empower ourselves and some of our like-minded partners to call the shots there.
MONTGOMERY: Well, thanks. And you’re being modest there. I think people should know the role that you played and Mike Pompeo played in the World Intellectual Property Organization, where two years ago we defeated the Chinese candidate, the deputy director from becoming director. And in that case, I think it was highly likely that Xi would’ve moved the servers from Geneva to Beijing. And basically, all our intellectual property would’ve been sitting in China. I think they can steal it in Geneva. I know they can steal it in Beijing. And if I were someone who’d written a patent recently, the last place I’d want to put it is WIPO. But you and Mike Pompeo laid a strong-
POTTINGER: Well, and I should add also, Secretary Mike Pompeo and also Deputy Secretary Steve Biegun played an absolutely pivotal role there. They basically took their own department by the lapels and said, look, guys, these are horse races. You got to actually get in there. I mean, there was a policy in place at the State Department that our diplomats were not allowed to horse trade. It was considered somehow uncouth. And so what we basically said was, no, we’re going to talk to our allies and friends. We’re going to coordinate. Imagine that. We’re going to actually coordinate. So Steve Biegun and Mike Pompeo and others as well, Anny Vu and a lot of people at the NSC and at State played an amazing role in kind of getting that over the finish line.
MONTGOMERY: That’s the old Cordell Hull rules of State Department; gentlemen don’t read other gentlemen’s mail. That didn’t work out for us in the 1930s and it won’t work out for us now. And it reminds me, the International Telecommunications Union, the presidency’s coming up. The lead candidate right now is a Russian, a bastion of transparency and rule of law, and the secondary candidate is a U.S. candidate. Now, look, she’s not going to be our person in the ITU, but I’d much rather have a dispassionate, unaligned, neutral person running the ITU than a Russian technocrat. It’s a great point. Shifting back, Representative Gallagher, you called for hardening targets and building resilience in the US, building on the significant work you did during the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. Could you explain to the audience what you mean by that?
GALLAGHER: Well, think about the key PLA missiles, aircraft, air defenses, and amphibious forces that would be involved in any Taiwan scenario would be based along the Chinese coast. So if we’re going to have a chance of effectively defending Taiwan, if we are actually engaged in defense of Taiwan, that leads you to the requirement of hitting Chinese territory, which it’s worth thinking through the authorities that would be necessary for that. I think, Matt, though we disagree about strategic ambiguity. One, I think his point about strategic capability mattering more than strategic ambiguity is the right point. And I totally agree and indeed, in the paper, talk about the need for authorities prior to an invasion happening because they will, of course, try and pursue a fait accompli, in which case we won’t have time, particularly if Congress is not in session to convene, provide an AUMF. And I really doubt whether a president would be willing to engage with a nuclear-armed adversary solely relying upon the inherent authority under Article Two, the executive branch.
So once we’ve hit their territory, we’d have to prepare for Chinese retaliation against the Homeland below the nuclear threshold. Heck, they might do it in the cyber domain prior to us taking any action against them. And just imagine if they were able to destroy ammunitions plants, some of which are single points of failure for our entire production lines, other key industrial sites, the US could find itself incapable of sustaining a protracted conventional war and we’d be forced into an unwinnable choice between nuclear escalation or surrender. And then I think the most vulnerable domestic targets, as you know, Mark, better than anyone would be our critical infrastructure. I think the possibility of physical sabotage is a threat, but the most likely form of attack is in the cyber domain. The CCP can employ cyber effects to paralyze critical sectors, such as power and water in an attempt to weaken America’s will to fight.
And so one of our recommendations coming out of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission was to enhance domestic cyber resilience, including by codifying this concept of systemically important critical infrastructure, so that we wouldn’t be as vulnerable in such a scenario, as well as other recommendations. One of the big things that came out of the commission that you and I worked on together was to implement a “Continuity of the Economy plan” to restore critical functions across all of American society in the event of a catastrophic disruption. And again, without getting into anything classified, I just think we have not done enough in terms of how this conflict would look like. And my strong belief is that Las Vegas rules would not apply. What happens in the Strait will not stay in the Strait, and this could quickly escalate. And if Americans, even though sitting in the heart of the Midwest think that they’re immune from some of the consequences of this conflict, I just think that’s a naive assumption.
MONTGOMERY: I think that’s a great point. And I think we may get to see some of that if we are able to ratchet up the sanctions and our European allies really join in on the Russians. I think the fragility of our critical infrastructure might be exposed in Russian malicious cyber activity. I do think I need to give a shout here to Dr. Samantha Ravich at FDD. Her work on Continuity of the Economy has been dispositive. It drove the commission’s work. And then really appreciate you and Senator King, in a very bipartisan effort came together with a letter last December to the administration asking where the economy planning was because one year into a two-year review process, it’s fairly obvious to both you and Senator King that nothing had happened. And I’m very worried that the administration’s not taking this as serious as some of the other cyber resilience efforts where we have to acknowledge that both the Trump and Biden administrations worked hard on over the last two to three years.
Jonathan, if I could bounce back to you on the thoughts of international organizations in Russia and Ukraine. We just saw Russia suspended from the UN Human Rights Commission. Does that give you cause for optimism about your recommendation?
SCHANZER: Yes and no. I mean, on the one hand, it’s great to see Russia bounced out of there. On the other hand, it had no business being on the Human Rights Council in the first place. And then moreover the Human Rights Council has no business being on the human rights… I mean, these are countries that have no business being guardians of human rights. So that whole thing was a sham. I’m concerned that what we’ve seen actually in recent days is indications from the administration that, for example, if a human or rather a Security Council motion fails, then they take the whole thing to the General Assembly. I mean, then it’s mob rule. And I think you could see China really wielding its influence at the General Assembly in the way that it typically has in the past. So look, at the end of the day, we have an international organizations ecosystem that is hopelessly broken.
For those who haven’t heard, Rich Goldberg, our colleague, Rich Goldberg, talk about international organizations. We’ve got a project that we stood up at FDD. We’ve looked at the many glaring problems within that system. I’m not sure that I’m heartened by anything that I’ve seen recently. I do hope that in the event that we can mount the campaign that we’ve discussed, that Mark, you and I wrote about along with Rich in our memo, that it would be something of a war of attrition where we just slowly add countries to the list of those that would recognize Taiwan or acknowledge it in some way, or allow it to take part in some of these smaller agencies and hopefully help build it up over time.
MONTGOMERY: Yeah, you’re right. I think that you’ve raised a very interesting issue there about, we have to be careful the precedents we set at the United Nations today on this. When we have our angst and our passion up, but what gets turned back on us. I remember very early in the conflict, Ambassador Greenfield, our U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said any civilian death is a war crime and you kind of have to dial that one back. As two former Marines on here and myself, what we mean to say is one indiscriminate or intentional civilian death should be investigated as a crime. And indeed, I think over time, we’ve learned Russia has probably committed war crimes, but there’s an actual professional legal route for something like that to be looked at. Matt, we’ve been bouncing around here and we haven’t discussed the new national security strategy or national offense strategy.
One of the things we’re hearing come out, and I’ll come to Representative Gallagher after you because he’s already had a lot of fun with this term in open hearings, but come to you, Matt, what do you think about integrated deterrence? What is it, do you think, and does it solve this problem?
POTTINGER: Well, look, I mean, if integrated deterrence was what we had in place ahead of the 24th of February, then it did not work. It did not deter Russia from invading its neighbor and trying to wipe out a sovereign country and to commit regime change by force. Congressman Gallagher’s written about this very pointedly and trenchantly. So look, to the extent that integrated deterrence means that we need to go inclusive of, but beyond military means, no one’s arguing with that, right? We want to see the Treasury Department at the table when we’re doing war-planning so that people in Beijing understand that, yeah, we will unplug you from Swift. We will unplug your banks and collapse your financial system. Try us. But the strategy of trying to deny China, demonstrating that we can deny them the ability, deny their aspirations, assumptions and war plans from ever coming to fruition is really the way that we want to go here.
It’s not falling back on the idea that, well, geez, too bad Ukraine’s gone, but hey, haven’t we done a great job? And in some cases, we have done okay. The Biden administration’s done several things well. I think they’ve handled the publication of intelligence information in advance of Russia doing certain things. I think they’ve handled that very well. I agree with their aggressive use of that. I’m glad that the west was able to pull together to actually sanction Russia, but wouldn’t it have been great if they had actually demonstrated in advance that they were going to do that A, and B, demonstrated in advance that we had the will to provide even more in the way of military support and training and equipping of the Ukrainian forces to give the Russians food for thought before they pulled the trigger. But Mike’s the expert on this really.
MONTGOMERY: So I know there’s no four star around Representative Gallagher for you to ask these trenchant questions and get the obfuscating answers, but what do you think about integrated deterrence and how we should be approaching deterrence with China and Russia?
GALLAGHER: Well, I’ve asked multiple four stars and none have been able to tell me what it is, which should be a problem if that is the intellectual foundation of our National Defense Strategy.
My problems with integrated deterrence are, from least problematic to most problematic, one, it’s a new bit of jargon that we don’t need. Any time you introduce a new bit of jargon, you have to subtract at least three bits of jargon. That covers up this debate we’ve been having for the last five years about deterrence by denial versus deterrence by punishment, which is traditionally how the distinction is made in the deterrence literature.
And I would argue that in the previous administration, we had a workable strategy based on deterrence by denial, but a lot of fair criticisms as to whether, particularly when it came to the military, we actually implemented that strategy in the Pacific. I would argue we didn’t.
And I think if you dig into this new concept of integrated deterrence, ostensibly, the idea is that you can combine diplomacy, alliances, and new technology with conventional hard power to deter bad guys from doing bad things.
The problem is not only that those new technologies don’t come online in time for you to do a darn thing about a PLA invasion that could be imminent in the next five years, but also, it’s becoming increasingly clear that integrated deterrence really is serving as a fig leaf for cutting conventional hard power, for under-investing in conventional hard power, and saying you’re going to fix it all later when these magical new technologies come online. I think that will undermine our deterrent posture.
And, oh, by the way, if the idea is that we are going to integrate Commerce, Treasury, State Department, more closely into military planning and operations, then why is there not a single reference to integrated deterrence in any of those organizations’ documents? Why do we still not include those organizations in our war gaming, in the Pentagon’s war gaming over Taiwan?
So I just think this is a dangerous strategy. It sort of gives the veneer of seriousness to an approach that really is all about cutting conventional hard power in the near term. And I wonder if you dig a layer deeper, and I’m sorry to go on and on with this, if it also involves a little bit of mirror imaging, right?
You saw this leading up to the Russian invasion, this idea that we could somehow shame Putin into not invading or hashtag diplomacy was going to affect his calculus, or as one anonymous Biden administration official put it, “Putin really needs to worry about building back better.” And we saw the same thing on display in Afghanistan, right?
There’s a whole level of mirror imaging underlying a lot of this that really worries me. Because, obviously, whether it’s Putin or the Taliban or the Chinese Communist Party, they don’t play by the same rules that we do, and we are naive to graft our value structure onto them. So don’t wind me up again on integrated deterrence, Mark.
MONTGOMERY: No, I appreciate that. And you’re exactly right. If integrated deterrence meant that you were shipping weapons to Ukraine in December and January after you got those initial intelligence reports in November that you later released, then I’d say, look, you can put an adjective in front anything if you do it right.
And you also make me think, both yours and Matt’s comments make me think that what we just watched in the Solomon Islands where our diplomats flew in just in time, two days late, to observe China and the Solomon Islands sign a pact, integrated deterrence is going to be challenging if it doesn’t have a strong military edge to it.
POTTINGER: The strategy that was put in place, the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, and the Indo-Pacific Strategic Framework from the first year of the Trump administration laid out very clearly, it was succinct, it said that the United States must build and maintain a capability to deny China control of the seas and skies inside the first island chain to defeat China on the first island chain, including in Taiwan if necessary, and to dominate every domain outside of the first island chain.
It’s very straightforward. It’s simple. It’s what the Pentagon is supposed to have been working toward for the last 4+ years. Why you would dump that for this vague term, I’m with Mike on that.
MONTGOMERY: Hey, thanks. That’s a great point. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point out that here at FDD, Cleo Paskal has written some really good stuff on the Pacific Islands. And I want to acknowledge, Matt, that when you were at the NSC, you had one officer, Alex Gray, for a while working this specific issue of the Pacific Islands. And now, it’s grouped back in with Southeast Asia. So whoever’s doing it is also trying to figure out Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and every other hard spot down there.
And then, oh, by the way, all the Pacific Islands, and it slipped away from us, and we really need to get our focus back. Those small kind of issues, if you want to dominate outside the first island chain, you better have the right access, and China ought to have the wrong access in those areas. And that’s not the way it’s bending right now.
Hey, we did get some questions from the press. I want to put those out now while we have a few minutes left. Bryant Harris from Defense News asked, and I’ll pose this to you, Representative Gallagher: “Taiwan has voiced concerns that $14 billion worth of defense articles it has purchased from the US since July 2019 has been backlogged due to acquisition challenges stemming from COVID and related supply chain issues. What, if anything, can the US do to address this supply chain issue that have caused this backlog?”
GALLAGHER: Well, it’s hard to say exactly what parts of the package were delayed by the pandemic and which parts may be delayed and simply working their way through the bureaucracy. But even with all the Ukraine arms packages moving now, over 80% of the security systems that we’ve provided to Ukraine since the start of the Biden administration came after the Russian invasion.
So, we need to get a lot better at getting our friends the weapons they need not halfway through the war, not after deterrence fails, but before it, both so they can train on the new equipment and hopefully deter conflict in the first place. Even Secretary Austin and Chairman Milley, when I asked them a couple weeks ago, admitted that the only thing that might have deterred Putin is more American hard power in Ukraine.
And so, I think that is one of the biggest lessons learned from Ukraine that we can apply to Taiwan. I’m actually working on some language for the upcoming defense bill that I hope will start to address this problem. I think Congress needs to be kept better up-to-date on approved FMS sales that are over a certain threshold, say $100 million, particularly when they involve beleaguered democracies like Taiwan and Ukraine that haven’t been fully delivered yet. We need to know what’s causing the delay.
And if there are any countries that may not be under as much threat that are ahead of them in the FMS line for these capabilities that we could potentially shift around… $14 billion is a very large number, and we simply cannot afford to keep the Taiwanese waiting. They need help now, not after the war starts.
MONTGOMERY: That’s a great point. And it’s a reminder, in the Trump administration, we approved almost $18.1 billion in arm sales to Taiwan. And one of the most important ones and one that you and I have written about is the Harpoon Coastal Defense role.
Now, we find out, only by asking ourselves not because it was reported to Congress or discussed publicly by the Department of Defense, the delivery might not be until 2026, 2027, kind of in the middle of that Phil Davidson period of concern.
And that’s the kind of thing that needs to be fed back rapidly. It’s not just the decision, the announcement that matters, it’s the implementation. And I think the bureaucracy inside the Pentagon and the State Department may not be as responsive to this as is going to be necessary in the long term.
GALLAGHER: Can I have one follow-up on that, Mark, too? And Matt knows better than I do on this. I think we’re going to have to lean on our friends in Taiwan when it comes to investing in asymmetric capabilities. I proposed enhancing our assistance to Taiwan. But I think with that enhanced assistance should come more transparency on, hey, you need to prioritize missiles, like the ones you just mentioned; mining capabilities.
And, oh, by the way, we both need to be able to assume some risk in terms of how we plan together. What is the structure where we’re saying, “Okay, if the proverbial stuff hits the fan, we got this covered. You got this covered?” I just don’t see that happening right now. And it needs to happen.
And we can’t allow parochialism in Congress to screw up our ability to enhance our assistance package to Taiwan, and to get them to modernize and invest in the asymmetric capabilities that we think are most important.
MONTGOMERY: Yeah, you’re right. That’s that logic you and I discussed of US plus Taiwan, 2 + 2 should equal 5. I think right now, US and Taiwan, 2 + 2 equals 3. Because you have to spend part of your time worrying what the Taiwanese are up to, and they have to spend part of their time wondering what we’re up to because we’re not doing those complex air and naval exercises that you see the United States do with its NATO partners, with Japan, with Korea, and people you think you might have to fight next to in a high-end conflict.
The second question was from Ben Blanchard at Reuters. Matt, this is for you. “Taiwan’s President Tsai has championed the concept of asymmetric warfare for her military modernization plan. How is this strategy working? Is it the right one for Taiwan as it girds to deal with any direct military threat from China? And what more support should the United States be offering Taiwan in this area?”
POTTINGER: Yeah, Ben, that’s a great question. I think the real low point came just before President Tsai came into office where Taiwan was really dismantling its military capability, shortening conscription times, shrinking the services. The budget had barely grown in the first decade-and-a-half of the new century on defense.
So the direction that Taiwan’s going right now is the right one. It’s just that they’ve got a lot of ground to cover, a lot of ground to make up. And when we talk about asymmetric, there’s still entrenched bureaucratic interests within the military services in Taiwan that believe that asymmetric simply means an item that can inflict significant pain on a Chinese invasion force.
But that’s only half of it. It actually, my definition of asymmetric is it’s something that can inflict significant pain, but at a cheap cost to Taiwan. So an F-35 squadron is not an asymmetric weapon. That’s a very expensive capability that is an amazing capability, but probably isn’t going to really survive, wouldn’t survive all that long in the first phase of conflict in any case.
So the things that Taiwan is starting to do and what it needs to redouble down with a lot more help from the United States and from others of our partners, even if it’s in a low-key way, it needs to be intense and constant. It’s everything from building up munition stockpiles for things like anti-armor and anti-ship missiles, anti-air missiles, Stingers.
It’s building up a civilian, better training the reserve forces, but maybe even going farther than just having the reserves and having some kind of a territorial defense capability where people are trained in IED making and in sniper tactics. I mean, what the Ukrainians have shown us is what a light infantry group, light infantry are able to do in defeating and denying access into their cities by a much more powerful conventional force.
So more UAVs, the cheap UAVs, dispersing and distributing that kind of stuff. And there’s a lot more that the United States should be doing on the ground in Taiwan. I don’t care if they’re wearing U.S. Uniforms or not. They can show up in shower shoes and flip flops and Hawaiian shirts for all I care. They need to be on the ground intensively helping train Taiwan and doing what needs to be done to make 2 + 2 equal 5, like Mark said.
MONTGOMERY: Thanks. You remind me, when I was an admiral at PACOM, I was counseled for my failure to wear a Hawaiian shirt to meet with the Taiwan-
POTTINGER: For failure to wear one, okay.
MONTGOMERY:… instead of my uniform. There we go. Hey, there’s a second part to this from Ben. Mike, I think this is for you. “What lessons should Taiwanese and U.S. military strategists be learning from the war in Ukraine when it comes to dealing with any war between Taiwan and China?”
GALLAGHER: Well, I mean, Matt just sort of identified a lot of them. And I would say my thoughts can be summarized in an unsophisticated fashion, which is that for deterrence to work, for conventional deterrence to work, you need hard power in place. You need hard power in place to deny an invasion from being successful.
It’s not to discount the role of soft power, but our soft power draws strength from our hard power. And to rely solely on a soft power strategy, I think is a losing strategy. So hard power deterrence can summarize my view, and I think that can be applied in any number of ways to Taiwan.
I wonder if the other thing is not just the way in which the information war has been waged and how everyday Ukrainians have been able to use social media successfully to broadcast the war in real-time, which has helped Ukraine dominate the information domain.
It’s actually galvanized a lot of support from everyday Americans. Literally yesterday, I went to a candlemaker in Door County in my district that has now raised over $500,000 selling Ukraine candles because they’ve seen all these images coming out of the war. And, obviously, that’s not going to win the war on its own, but that’s an effective way in which information warfare can be waged and soft power can help the hard power fight.
And applying that to a Taiwan scenario, I worry that the CCP is taking notes. I think one of their first steps in any Taiwan scenario would be to eliminate internet access and not only cut Taiwan off from the rest of the world, but to inject targeted disinformation into Taiwan domestically.
In fact, I expect that a Taiwan invasion would be accompanied by some of the largest disinformation campaigns in human history and would be intended to confuse and delay the response both within Taiwan and across the international community. So I would submit, we need to account for that now, and we need to think creatively about how we prepare for that and respond to it if deterrence should fail.
MONTGOMERY: That’s a great point. And I think a lot of us are surprised Russia didn’t take that strategy. And it’s a good reminder, what Elon Musk has done with Starlink matters. It matters in Ukraine.
And then, Brad Bowman interviewed Dan Hokanson, head of the National Guard, earlier this week. And he commented that the California National Guard had done 1,000 training events with the Ukrainians over the last six years. And that really the vast majority of it was squad and platoon combat arms training, or not even that, small unit tactics training.
That has clearly played a significant role. We don’t want to take away from the resilience and the skill of the Ukrainian military and population, but that California National Guard under the auspices of the State Partnership Program that we run with 92 different countries really did make a difference.
Hey, we’re approaching the end of our time here. I want to give each person a couple minutes. I want to start, Jonathan, we’ve been stuck a little bit on the military end here, but I want to start with you, if you could, a couple minutes, and then to Mike and Matt.
SCHANZER: Yeah. I mean, look, I think we covered a lot of what I wanted to cover in terms of the memo. I do hope that the administration takes some of its own advice pursuant to what Tony Blinken discussed last year in terms of trying to get countries to support Taiwanese participation in the international system.
But I think I’d probably be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the other great work that you see coming out of FDD right now. You mentioned Cleo Paskal, who’s done a lot of work looking at those island nations. They are the countries, the states, the territory that lie between Taiwan and Hawaii. Incredibly important that we think about them as strategic assets for the United States.
My colleague Craig Singleton has done a lot of terrific work on Taiwan also recently, looking at ways to increase the resilience of the Taiwanese people, trying to help them learn from what they’re watching right now in Ukraine. Incredibly important to have the people of Taiwan prepare. And I think they’ve got a ways to go, but I think Craig’s put out some interesting ideas there.
Finally, I’ll just note that Nate Picarsic and Emily de La Bruyère have done some terrific work just in terms of trying to combat China’s efforts to gain that foothold in the standard making bodies in the international system. That’s no less important than some of the other issues that, Mark, you and I wrote about in that report.
But they’ve also looked at reestablishing the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command, looking at ways to perhaps even return to this idea of a Southeast Asian treaty organization. These are all things that I think we need to think about.
I know we have our minds on Russia right now. But I think as this conversation is made clear, the China challenge awaits us for whenever the Russia conflict ends or maybe even while it’s still going on. So many challenges await us.
MONTGOMERY: Thanks. Mike, over to you.
GALLAGHER: Well, just one save around aligned with this idea that we need to do a better job of kind of gaming this out with Taiwan. The same is true regionally with our allies. I mean, I argue for reestablishing Joint Task Force 519 to basically get the war fighting structure in place now, not after the fact and really start…I give the administration credit for the AUKUS agreement. I think AUKUS has the same problem right now, though, as integrated deterrence, which is that sort of like the biggest parts of AUKUS don’t come online, nuclear sub collaboration, until late 2030s, we need to be thinking what’s possible in the next five years. So that’s just one save around.
And the final thing I’d say, in addition to just being thankful for all the great work that FDD does, whether it’s Jonathan’s work or Pottinger’s or what you’ve done, Mark, on the cyber front, I think what’s happening in Ukraine, as tragic as it is, and as critical as I’ve been about the administration’s approach and the failure of deterrence, the bravery of the Ukrainians and some of the enormous impact they’ve had on the battlefield should give us confidence that, with a sense of urgency, it is very possible to defend Taiwan from a PLA invasion.
That is not an easy military operation for the PLA to accomplish. And if we get our act together, I firmly believe, in concert with our allies, that we can get this job done. But we need leadership and we need a sense of urgency, and I don’t see that right now.
MONTGOMERY: Thanks. And, Matt, why don’t you bring us home?
POTTINGER: Yeah, I mean, all just such great comments all around and also echoing Jonathan’s point about the work that Emily and Nate and Craig are doing on China. Generally, there’s a lot of great resources to look at there. Look, Mike’s last point is in many ways the most important because it’s what Liddell Hart wrote about as the chief incalculable and war is will, will to fight.
And again, the Ukrainians have confounded the expectations probably of themselves and certainly ours and most of all Vladimir Putin’s expectations about what they would and would not be able to do to defend themselves. They have performed in extraordinarily heroic ways on the battlefield, and they have defeated Russia, and now on several battlefields, and are fighting to win on other ones in the south and east of their country right now. Taiwan can win, it can win against. It is blessed with a better geographic situation for repelling and defeating an invasion. But, it is also the flip side of that is that it’s harder to resupply Taiwan than it is to resupply a landlocked country, semi-landlocked, but like Ukraine. So, that means that we have to supply them now, they have to supply themselves now. All of this work needs to be done right now, or those timelines are going to end up working to Taiwan’s disfavor. But this is something that very much can be done.
We should not assume that just because things went so badly for Vladimir Putin, that Beijing will determine that it should delay its own possible plan to attack Taiwan. Maybe that’s true. If I were a war planner in Beijing I’d be sweating bullets right now about the various assumptions I’ve made about how easy a war over Taiwan would be. But, it could also have other effects that they’re studying what happened. They may decide that they want to use far more force at the outset, so that using everything they’ve got in their arsenal short of nukes to really put Taiwan on its back ahead of an invasion force landing. So, we shouldn’t take anything for granted and should be redoubling these efforts. I would like to see the Pentagon actually put forward a budget that reflects that sense of urgency. I haven’t seen it yet.
MONTGOMERY: Thanks to all three of you. That was a jam-packed hour and a lot of great ideas on the way forward with Taiwan. As I’ll wrap, I’ll note that FDD is a nonpartisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy. You can reach us at fdd.org, where both these policy memos are loaded, or you can find us on Twitter @FDD. Thank you all very much.