Ukraine War, August 2, 2022 (I): Pelosi’s reckless visit to Taiwan, and Biden’s failure of foreign policy leadership

em>Developing. We are publishing this article as it is being written. Please check back for updates.

To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

Dispatches

1) Thomas L. Friedman, “Why Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan Is Utterly Reckless,” New York Times, August 1, 2022;

2) Editorial, “A Cynical Low for the Democratic Party,” New York Times, August 3, 2022;

Update

3) Georg Fahrion (Peking), “Pelosis Besuch wird Taiwans Sicherheit wohl eher schaden; Die US-chinesischen Beziehungen sind auf einem historischen Tiefpunkt, sagt Sicherheitsexpertin Bonnie Glaser. Ihre Sorge: Der Pelosi-Besuch in Taiwan könnte Peking zu einer nie dagewesenen Provokation verleiten (Interview),” Der Spiegel, den 4. August 2022 (09.43 Uhr);

4) “Pelosis visit will probably harm Taiwan’s safety; US-Chinese relations are at a historic low, says security expert Bonnie Glaser. Her concern: The Pelosi visit to Taiwan could tempt Beijing into an unprecedented provocation.
An interview by Georg Fahrion, Beijing
08/04/2022, 9:43 am

Analysis

Thomas L. Friedman has published a powerful opinion column in the New York Times that lays bare the reckless folly of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan at this particular time.

Friedman points out that President Biden has acted forcefully to dissuade Chinese President Xi Jinping from providing military aid to Russia, which so far China has not done. Friedman writes,

Given all of that, why in the world would the speaker of the House choose to visit Taiwan and deliberately provoke China now, becoming the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan since Newt Gingrich in 1997, when China was far weaker economically and militarily?

The timing could not be worse. Dear reader: The Ukraine war is not over. And privately, U.S. officials are a lot more concerned about Ukraine’s leadership than they are letting on. There is deep mistrust between the White House and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine — considerably more than has been reported.

Meanwhile, senior U.S. officials still believe that Putin is quite prepared to consider using a small nuclear weapon against Ukraine if he sees his army facing certain defeat.

In short, this Ukraine war is SO not over, SO not stable, SO not without dangerous surprises that can pop out on any given day. Yet in the middle of all of this we are going to risk a conflict with China over Taiwan, provoked by an arbitrary and frivolous visit by the speaker of the House?

U.S. officials could be unhappy with Volodymyr Zelensky for any number of reasons, ranging from different views on acceptable terms for a ceasefire to different views on targeting Russian military targets in Ukraine–and perhaps even in Russia.

That is essentially a side issue at the moment. Friedman’s main point is that this is no time to be stirring up friction with China over Taiwan, particularly with the People’s Congress coming up in October or November at which Xi’s term in office will be extended–or not.

Xi’s record in recent years has not been good, with virtually zero economic growth and widespread public discontent over his handling of the COVID pandemic, particularly with his massive lockdowns in cities such as Shanghai.

Pelosi’s visit only distracts from attention by the Party Congress to Xi’s lackluster performance domestically.

We have commented at length on President Biden’s poor judgment, particularly in the area of foreign policy, and the incompetence of his foreign policy team.

Here, according to Friedman, his foreign policy team has been strongly opposed to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Biden, for his part, has not been able to pick up the telephone to ask her to not visit Taiwan.

Biden’s foreign policy team has been unable to persuade Biden to act to back up their recommendations.

Pelosi seems to be acting in response to domestic political considerations.

Biden is either doing the same, or simply too addled to take decisive action when vital foreign policy interests of the United States are at stake.

Footnote

Tom Friedman doesn’t write many columns about current crises anymore, but when he does as he did here he shows what great insights an old-school New York Times foreign correspondent is capable of. There are only a handful of such reporters who are left–Roger Cohen, lost now to the International New York Times in Paris, Tom Friedman, and Steven Erlanger in Brussels. They are not being replaced. They need to be.

The Trenchant Observer

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