Taiwan Learning From Russia's Military Failures in Ukraine: U.S. Officials

Two senior U.S. intelligence officials on Tuesday told members of Congress they believe China is still planning an eventual takeover of Taiwan. But they added that they feel Taiwan might be learning lessons from Ukraine's conflict with Russia that could aid in its defense.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, provided testimony on worldwide threats during a Senate Committee on Armed Services hearing. Haines characterized China's threat to Taiwan between now and 2030 as "acute," adding that China is "working hard to effectively put themselves into a position in which their military is capable of taking Taiwan over our intervention."

China maintains that Taiwan—an independent island democracy—is a breakaway Chinese province. Chinese President Xi Jinping has spoken of "reunification" with Taiwan and has not ruled out using military force. The island has been a frequent target of China's aggression, and in the past week, Beijing held a military drill near Taiwan and flew warplanes in its air defense zone.

Berrier told the committee that the intelligence community believes the war in Ukraine could have resulted in some unintended positive effects for Taiwan.

Avril Haines and Scott Berrier
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told members of Congress on Tuesday they feel Taiwan might be able to defend itself from China more effectively because of lessons learned from the Ukraine conflict. Above, Haines (left) and Berrier testify during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on May 10, 2022. Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

"There are some things that we can do with Taiwan," he said. "I think they're learning some very interesting lessons from the Ukrainian conflict, like how important leadership is, how important small-unit tactics are, how important a NCO [non-commissioned officer] corps is, and really effective training with the right weapon systems and what those systems with the right people would be able to do to thwart that."

Berrier noted that the U.S. intelligence community believes the People's Republic of China would prefer not to use military means in its goal to claim Taiwan.

"I believe [China] would rather not do it by force," Berrier said. "I think they would rather do this peacefully over time."

The two officials spent a substantial amount of the hearing discussing the Russian invasion of Ukraine with the committee. Haines said they believe the war will only become "more unpredictable and escalatory" in the coming months.

"[Russian President Vladimir] Putin faces a mismatch between his ambitions and Russia's current conventional military capabilities," Haines said. "At the very least, we believe the dichotomy will usher in a period of more ad hoc decision-making in Russia, both with respect to the domestic adjustments required to sustain this push, as well as the military conflict with Ukraine and the West."