Is the U.S. headed into a foreign policy conflict?


Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

Brilliant Maps
Map of the United States and their relations with other nations.

Today, in America, two big things are changing. The hegemony of the American military used to be an absolute, and now it is in question, not only by U.S. citizens but by other countries. Second, other countries know they are closing the gap between their militaries and the U.S.’s. Mindful of this situation, the U.S. could be headed for foreign policy crises in the near future in Ukraine and Taiwan. 

 David Ochmanek is a former senior Defense Department official who helps run war games for the Pentagon and the RAND Corporation think tank. Ochmanek uses simulations to look at potential outcomes of conflicts and makes educated predictions as to when potential conflicts could occur. In one of his recent simulations, he looked at China attempting to invade Taiwan and the U.S. almost always loses. There is a “blue team” representing the Americans and “red team” representing the Chinese. In the simulations, Taiwan’s entire air force is wiped out in minutes. These simulations are relevant because they could be predicting actual invasions. 

 Recently, there has been an increase in tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Russia has moved approximately 80,000 troops close to its border with Ukraine. It has been estimated that the combined NATO European forces, as currently constituted, could not defeat Russian forces close to the Russian border. In order to defeat Russia, they would need reinforcements from the U.S. mainland. 

            How likely is it that the U.S. will actually engage in these conflicts if they occur? Well, if Taiwan or Ukraine were attacked, there are no legal obligations for the U.S. to fight in those conflicts. However, we have seen in the past that global participation in a conflict can occur and escalate very quickly. The U.S. has been planning to send troops to Taiwan if it is ever attacked, but does not have plans to do so if Ukraine is attacked. This could mean potential U.S. intervention in Ukraine would be postponed, perhaps figuring into Russian calculations about whether attacking Ukraine stands a higher probability of success.

            We should look to President Joe Biden for upcoming news on these topics as he has proposed a summit with Russia to reduce tensions and continues to try to restart relations with China. 

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