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The Ukraine War and Its Implications for Taiwan

February 1, 2023

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 set off alarm bells around the world. Of course, there was consternation over the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and concern about what Russian president Vladimir Putin’s endgame might be—and what that means for European security and the post-World War II international system.

But many observers also worried about what could come next, not just in Europe, but on the world stage if Putin got away with annexing all of Ukraine or a large chunk of it.

On February 1, 2023, Johns Hopkins SAIS hosted a lecture on the Ukraine War and its implications for Taiwan. The lecture was delivered by Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and chairman of Silverado Policy Accelerator, a non-profit focused on advancing American prosperity and global leadership in the 21st century and beyond. Alperovitch also co-founded the Alperovitch Institute for Cybersecurity Studies at SAIS, which is dedicated to developing innovative research to shape national and global scholarship in technology and cybersecurity.

“I believe that [China’s] President Xi [Jinping] is intent on bringing Taiwan into the Chinese orbit and that he wants to do that before he leaves office,” Alperovitch said. “And given that he’s going to be 70 this year, there’s probably a decade or so that’s left, from a practical life expectancy perspective, for him to do so. So, this is going to be a very dangerous decade indeed.”

Alperovitch expressed concern about Taiwan’s military preparedness in the event of a Chinese invasion: “Right now, when you look at the conscriptions in Taiwan, they last about four months. They fire a rifle about three times and spend the rest of the time cleaning their barracks. I question the efficacy of those activities to warfare.”

Taiwan’s military preparedness is particularly crucial, Alperovitch noted, because it is an island, lacking the advantage of the land supply corridor the United States and its allies have used to provide support to Ukraine’s military in its fight against Russia.

“If there was no Poland or Slovakia, through which we are supplying weapons to Ukraine, Ukraine would not have been able to sustain the combat for this long,” he stated. “And, of course, Taiwan is an island; there’s no Poland next to it. … Which is why they need to be doing more to build up their own supplies, build up their own domestic defense production industry.”

Another noteworthy lesson from the Russia-Ukraine war that is also relevant to the China-Taiwan situation, Alperovitch said, is that numbers matter: i.e., how many soldiers each side can quickly mobilize. Contrary to Western media reports that tended to disparage the potential impact Russia’s mobilization of some 300,000 additional troops after the initial weeks of the Ukraine war, this surge has enabled the Russians to gain ground and stabilize their frontlines.

With China’s People’s Liberation Army numbering 2.5 million, Alperovitch emphasized that Taiwan would need to ramp up its military training and conscription system to meaningfully counter the threat.

“I believe there’s only one country in the world that can ultimately deter an invasion of Taiwan, and that country is Taiwan, not the United States,” he said, noting that Taiwan has 25 million people, of which about 5 million are military-age males. “If they actually do what Finland does, what Israel does—which is real conscription, at least a year, maybe even two, with real training—put 5 million people under arms and the invasion becomes an impossibility.”

Alperovitch is a co-founder and former chief technology officer of CrowdStrike Inc., a leading cybersecurity company. A renowned cybersecurity visionary, business executive, and thought leader on cybersecurity strategy and great power competition, he has served as special advisor to the Department of Defense, and currently serves on the Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Cyber Safety Review Board.

His writings on cybersecurity and foreign policy issues have appeared in major news outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Foreign Affairs, and he is a regular contributor to national broadcast news programs including PBS Newshour and NBC News. Alperovitch is also an active investor and board member of multiple high-growth technology companies.

The Alperovitch Institute is delighted to welcome Mr. Dmitri Alperovitch, Executive Chairman of Silverado Policy Accelerator to SAIS Hopkins for a lecture on the war in Ukraine and its implications for Taiwan.