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Hal Brands

Defeating Russia Is the Best Way for the West to Defend Taiwan

Republican presidential contenders are wrong: Protecting Ukraine isn’t a distraction from the rivalry with China. 

A toast to defeat?

A toast to defeat?

Photographer: Pavel Byrkin/AFP/Getty Images

Can the US help Ukraine while preparing to defend Taiwan? The answer, according to some likely Republican presidential aspirants, is no. If America fights an “endless proxy war in Ukraine,” says Senator Josh Hawley, it may fail “to deter China from invading Taiwan.” Giving Kyiv a “blank check,” argues Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, is no way to beat Beijing.

This argument sounds rigorously strategic, at first: Statecraft is about making hard choices. Yet statecraft also involves grasping complex truths. In this case, America is unlikely to succeed against China if it cuts Ukraine adrift — and supporting Kyiv in the current war may help the US get ready for the next one.