As Russia’s aggression in Ukraine’s Crimea republic grips the world’s attention, many in Taiwan are astounded by similarities this nation seems to share with Russia’s small, democratic neighbor, and are appalled at the extent of peril there may be for Taiwan amid the possibility of following in the Eastern European country’s footsteps.
Prior to Russia’s incursion into the Crimean Peninsula on Saturday, Moscow had long asserted influence over Ukraine — a country divided between pro-Russia and pro-Europe groups — in various ways. Economically, Russia controls energy supplies to keep a hold over Ukraine, which imports as much as 60 percent of its natural gas from its larger neighbor. Politically, Moscow uses Ukraine’s energy dependence to sway Ukrainian politicians and influence Ukrainian politics. Moscow also works to undermine Ukrainian independence by maneuvering those on Ukrainian territory who support Russia’s continued influence.
It is worth noting how Russia justified sending troops to the peninsula, home to a large ethnic Russian population.
“[Russian President] Vladimir Putin emphasized that, in case of the further spread of violence in the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea, Russia maintains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking people who live there,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
These incidents and claims bear a startling resemblance to what Taiwan faces. Echoing the tug-of-war of opposing allegiances in Ukraine, Taiwan is divided between those who advocate Taiwanese independence and others who support unification with China.
Also, China, which makes no secret of its ambition to annex Taiwan, has long worked to sabotage Taiwan’s sovereignty with its “united front” tactics. The cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement has pushed Taiwan’s economic dependence on China to historic highs, not to mention the sociopolitical costs that came along with the agreement, which helped China’s strategy of inserting itself “into the island, into households and into the brains” (入島，入戶，入腦) of Taiwanese.
As the world saw pro-Russia forces in Crimea taking control of Ukrainian military facilities while Russian troops moved into the Crimean Peninsula, one dreads imagining what would happen in Taiwan if it were put into a similar situation. In view of the increased numbers of former military officials flocking to China after retirement, Taiwanese troops to an extent have grown confused about whether the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is a friend or enemy.
Retired Air Force general Hsia Ying-chou (夏瀛洲) was certainly not helping with remarks claiming that: “Both the Republic of China army and the PLA are ‘China’s army.’”
The Kremlin’s statement justifying its military intervention surely rings an eerie tone echoing that of China’s “Anti-Secession” Law, which empowers Beijing to employ “non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” in the event that Taiwan descends into “chaos,” among other preconditions.
Despite its independence and international recognition, Ukraine still displays such helplessness against Russia’s blatant aggression and brazen disregard of its sovereignty. One can only imagine how the predicament facing Taiwan could be even more treacherous, as this nation lacks UN membership and still struggles for international recognition.