Restoring American Credibility to Defend Taiwan, by Way of Ukraine and Poland

Worried about Taiwan? Try reinforcing Poland.
By Morgan Deane
Morgan Deane
Morgan Deane
Morgan Deane is a former U.S. Marine, a military historian, and a freelance author. He studied military history at Kings College London and Norwich University. Morgan works as a professor of military history at the American Public University. He is a prolific author whose writings include "Decisive Battles in Chinese History," "Dragon’s Claws with Feet of Clay: A Primer on Modern Chinese Strategy," and the forthcoming, "Beyond Sunzi: Classical Chinese Debates on War and Government." His military analysis has been published in Real Clear Defense and Strategy Bridge, among other publications.
January 27, 2022Updated: January 27, 2022


The most recent crisis in Ukraine and simmering tensions in Taiwan are the result of America’s fallout from Afghanistan. But building a base in Poland is a simple but effective way to mitigate both situations.

The fall of Kabul and the disgraceful and disorganized withdrawal of U.S. soldiers and many civilians from Afghanistan has drawn comparisons to the fall of Saigon. The abandonment of so many Afghani green card and SIV holders and allies has also led to legitimate questions about American credibility.

It has been a few months, but the consequences are present to this day. There are allies around the world that rely on America. They often have a smaller military than the threats they face, and rely on American promises as a deterrent, and count on quick American support in the case of an attack. In the most recent case, Russian aggression against Ukraine seems like one of many instances in which U.S. allies will question the utility of American help.

It may be too late to deter war in Ukraine, but there are still steps the president can take to strengthen American credibility. It is important to know how trust in America and its credibility can be restored when allies from Poland to Taiwan are questioning Washington’s promises. This comes as the Chinese regime flew over 39 warplanes in Taiwan’s air identification zone on Jan. 24 and its carrier task force just returned from the open sea.

The most dangerous weakness of the United States is the strategic perception of an isolationist America unwilling to use force, such as quick support for Taiwan in the case of Chinese aggression or serious decisions to stop Russian aggression against Ukraine. As a result of that perception, America needs something much bigger or bolder to help change it. Bold is usually a Washington term that suggests massive spending. But here I am talking about better strategic military decisions to compensate for the cause of the loss of confidence.

Trump Andrzej Duda
President Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda shake hands after holding a joint press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on June 12, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

The answer to the danger in the Taiwan Strait and Ukraine, ironically enough, is found in a commitment to another ally. America should build a base in Poland. This is more than sending aid or placing a few units that can be also withdrawn more easily. Building a base is more permanent and will anger Russia. This is a concern that should be noted and assessed.

But while it’s true we shouldn’t needlessly antagonize Russia, we also shouldn’t give them a veto against self-defense of us and our allies. Considering Russian seizure of the Crimea, intimidation of countries like Montenegro and Macedonia, the active undermining and possible war in Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin’s aggressive nationalist rhetoric, the United States has a much more solid case for needed defense in the region.

Poland wanted this base so badly they requested it during the Trump administration and offered to name it Fort Trump! Honoring their request, especially when it seems like America is in retreat, would make this an important sign of friendship. Beyond the symbolism, this decision addresses important operational concerns.

War gaming analysts have noted that the Baltics could fall to a speedy Russian invasion! And Ukraine is facing attack from a much larger force that can be launched from three different directions. Ukraine’s only friendly border is Poland! American forces have practiced moving forward to provide support to the Baltics, but they lack heavy ground elements. And the existing U.S. forces stationed there, without a base, would wither in the face of heavy Russian fire on a narrow front like the Suwalki gap or Polish Ukrainian border.

In short, the base would provide a sign of commitment, and the units stationed there are elements that would provide a better response to either region. Both of which would signal American commitment and possibly a deterrent.

This commitment is the most important point. It directly addresses the strategic perception that might cause Taiwan to question American commitment. In both World War I and II, Poland relied on Western allies like France and Great Britain to protect it from Eastern threats such as Germany and Russia. But the allied commitment to Poland was so sparse that after Germany invaded Poland, which invoked declarations of war from Britain and France, the Western European conflict with Germany was called the “Phony War.”

TAIWAN Air Force
A People’s Liberation Army (PLA) H-6 bomber flies on a mission near the median line in the Taiwan Strait, which serves as an unofficial buffer between China and Taiwan, on Sept. 18, 2020. (Taiwan Ministry of National Defense via Reuters)

Besides current concern over Russia, China’s aggression is the leading concern. A bold, concrete commitment to an American ally can address both concerns. A long-term base repudiates the disasters of America abandoning long-term allies in Afghanistan, and dithering while Ukraine is invaded. And sends a signal to other free countries around the world. It has the added benefit of not being directly related to China in any way and, thus, Beijing’s propagandists can’t complain that it’s a sign of American aggression. For example, Beijing often complains that America’s freedom of navigation patrols, which are allowed under international law, are irritating and unlawful. However, an indirect message, after building a base in Poland, can’t be said to destabilize the East China Sea, but still sends a message that America will help its allies, like Taiwan, with long-term planning.

America can’t change its past, and the withdrawal from Afghanistan will remain a black eye for years to come. And the Biden administration will likely be unwilling to commit to a base in Poland for all the reasons it decided to leave Afghanistan. It seems to be doing little to help Ukraine. But American policymakers and generals should consider the idea, so when a president that is serious about restoring American credibility is elected, he or she can make that quick decision.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.