June 15, 2023 | Remarks

Remarks by Matt Pottinger to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen

June 15, 2023 Remarks

Remarks by Matt Pottinger to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen

Madam President,

Thank you for meeting with us today. I would like to extend our sincere gratitude to you, your government, and the people of Taiwan for the very warm welcome we received this week. My colleagues—some of whom are here for the first time—have been raving about the natural beauty of this brilliant island, about the delicious food, and especially about the openness and kindness of the people we’ve met.

We are a group of American and Israeli combat veterans and national security practitioners who have come to exchange views with Taiwan government officials, military officers, and private citizens.  We have come in a spirit of humility to learn from Taiwan and to be helpful where possible. We have had detailed discussions this week. We have exchanged views about lessons democracies are drawing from recent wars waged by aggressors in the Middle East and now Europe.   

Because the lessons of war are written in blood, citizens of free societies have a special duty to study those lessons carefully. Ukraine offers some important lessons for Taiwan. The most important is that deterrence is far preferable to war. So how can we maintain effective deterrence and sustain peace and prosperity for Taiwan? The formula could be described as “capability times credibility.” 

By capability, I mean deep stores of asymmetrical and affordable munitions, realistic training and smart tactics. It means a large number of small, mobile, dispersed, precision, lethal weapons.

By credibility, I mean that special blend of courage, confidence, and will to fight. The soldiers and citizens of Ukraine show us those qualities every day on the battlefield. When it comes to demonstrating credibility during peacetime, Israel can provide some inspiration. Israel has less than half Taiwan’s population and lacks the seas and mountains that protect Taiwan. Yet Israel has, by itself, won every war it has fought and deterred enemies from attempting an invasion for the last 50 years, despite facing numerically superior and technologically sophisticated foes like Iran.  

From what we have seen this week, we believe that Taiwan—backed by powerful fellow democracies—is assembling the ingredients to safeguard its peace and security, even in the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s militarism and threats. The secret ingredient that can catalyze all the others into long-term deterrence is culture.

Here, too, Israel provides some useful lessons. In Israel, young men and women participate in compulsory military service. They train frequently and realistically as reservists. And they maintain robust civil defense capabilities. Military service is held in the highest esteem across Israeli society. Men and women compete to serve in the most elite units the way Americans compete to enter Ivy League schools.  And soldiers acquire leadership and technical skills that enrich Israel’s economy and prosperous technology sector.

On behalf of our delegation and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, we congratulate Taiwan for its steps to reenergize its culture of national service through policies such as extending compulsory service to a full year. This is a step toward building a culture—and an ecosystem—that will strengthen deterrence and ensure Taiwan remains a guardian, rather than a victim, at the frontier of liberty and democracy.

Thank you.