Ukraine Tensions Stoke Fears That US Is Shifting Focus Away From Countering China

The brewing crisis between Ukraine and Russia and the United States’ engagement in it has drawn fresh concerns within the Indo-Pacific, a region that Washington has declared as its long-term strategic focus, particularly in countering the Chinese regime. Some experts and U.S. lawmakers fear the crisis in Europe will distract the United States from its commitments to the Indo-Pacific, particularly in relation to Taiwan, the self-ruled that China eyes for itself, thus sharing a similar predicament to Ukraine vis-à-vis Russia. Amidst these concerns, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken headed down south to Australia on Feb. 8 to reinforce Washington’s policies and goals in the Indo-Pacific. He landed in Melbourne on Wednesday to hold meetings with his counterparts from the “QUAD” grouping—Australia, India, and Japan. The link between the crisis in Ukraine and the geopolitics in Indo-Pacific came into a sharp focus earlier when just before the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. In a joint statement, both leaders backed each other stakes in Ukraine and Taiwan. “The Russian side reaffirms its support for the One-China principle, confirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and opposes any forms of independence of Taiwan,” said a joint statement issued by the Kremlin on Feb. 4. The two countries jointly countered Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy and called it a threat. They also opposed external interference in their “common adjacent regions,” indirectly pointing to Ukraine and Taiwan. “The sides stand against the formation of closed bloc structures and opposing camps in the Asia-Pacific region and remain highly vigilant about the negative impact of the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy on peace and stability in the region,” said the joint statement. Meanwhile, amid rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen ordered her National Security Council on Jan. 28 to create a task force to study how the confrontation could affect its long-running dispute with the Chinese regime. Blinken, after his meeting with his QUAD counterparts on Friday, highlighted that if Russia is allowed to invade Ukraine, it would have wider consequences since it would “embolden” countries like China to keep pursuing their military aggression. In a dig at Russia’s policies towards Ukraine and China’s towards Taiwan, Blinken said, “One country can’t simply change the borders of another by force” or “dictate to another its choices, its policies, with whom it will associate.” “If we allow those principles to be challenged with impunity, even if it’s half the world away in Europe, that will have an impact here as well–others are watching,” Blinken told reporters. “Others are looking to all of us to see how we respond. So that’s why it’s so important that we have this solidarity: that we do everything possible, through diplomacy, to try to avert a conflict and prevent aggression–but equally, to be resolute if Russia renews its aggression.” Ukrainian armored vehicles drive during military drills close to Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 10, 2022. (AP/Andrew Marienko) Is the US Distracted? Amidst these rising concerns, some experts blame the United States for creating “hysteria” over Ukraine, adding that this is in China’s interest. Others said that Washington is amply focussed and has interests in both Europe and the Indo-Pacific. Walter​ Lohman, director of the Asian Studies Center as The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, told The Epoch Times that the United States is not distracted from the Indo-Pacific. “The U.S. is a global power with interests in both regions. China remains the number one global threat to U.S. interests and values, and our long-term strategic focus will remain, Asia,” Lohman said in an email. However, Madhav Das Nalapat, an associate with the New Delhi-based think tank United Services Institution said that the United States turned into a “principal cheerleader” over the Ukraine-Russia crisis and should have conducted itself better. “The hysteria whipped up by the Biden administration over Ukraine, including its oft-repeated but unsourced comments that ‘a hundred thousand Russian troops are poised to invade at the Ukrainian border’. This when such deployments within Russian territory have been taking place for several years,” Nalapat told The Epoch Times in an email. “From Asia, it looks as though Biden is seeking to return Washington into a past world, that when the Atlantic was the center point of global tension and activity for nearly three decades; now the Indo-Pacific has taken over that role,” he added. U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Miss.) appears to share the same concern. In a Feb. 2 letter to Blinken seeking clarification about the U.S. administration’s support for Ukraine’s bid to join NATO, the senator warned that “an increasingly powerful China seeks hegemony in the

Ukraine Tensions Stoke Fears That US Is Shifting Focus Away From Countering China

The brewing crisis between Ukraine and Russia and the United States’ engagement in it has drawn fresh concerns within the Indo-Pacific, a region that Washington has declared as its long-term strategic focus, particularly in countering the Chinese regime.

Some experts and U.S. lawmakers fear the crisis in Europe will distract the United States from its commitments to the Indo-Pacific, particularly in relation to Taiwan, the self-ruled that China eyes for itself, thus sharing a similar predicament to Ukraine vis-à-vis Russia.

Amidst these concerns, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken headed down south to Australia on Feb. 8 to reinforce Washington’s policies and goals in the Indo-Pacific. He landed in Melbourne on Wednesday to hold meetings with his counterparts from the “QUAD” grouping—Australia, India, and Japan.

The link between the crisis in Ukraine and the geopolitics in Indo-Pacific came into a sharp focus earlier when just before the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. In a joint statement, both leaders backed each other stakes in Ukraine and Taiwan.

“The Russian side reaffirms its support for the One-China principle, confirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and opposes any forms of independence of Taiwan,” said a joint statement issued by the Kremlin on Feb. 4.

The two countries jointly countered Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy and called it a threat. They also opposed external interference in their “common adjacent regions,” indirectly pointing to Ukraine and Taiwan.

“The sides stand against the formation of closed bloc structures and opposing camps in the Asia-Pacific region and remain highly vigilant about the negative impact of the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy on peace and stability in the region,” said the joint statement.

Meanwhile, amid rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen ordered her National Security Council on Jan. 28 to create a task force to study how the confrontation could affect its long-running dispute with the Chinese regime.

Blinken, after his meeting with his QUAD counterparts on Friday, highlighted that if Russia is allowed to invade Ukraine, it would have wider consequences since it would “embolden” countries like China to keep pursuing their military aggression.

In a dig at Russia’s policies towards Ukraine and China’s towards Taiwan, Blinken said, “One country can’t simply change the borders of another by force” or “dictate to another its choices, its policies, with whom it will associate.”

“If we allow those principles to be challenged with impunity, even if it’s half the world away in Europe, that will have an impact here as well–others are watching,” Blinken told reporters.

“Others are looking to all of us to see how we respond. So that’s why it’s so important that we have this solidarity: that we do everything possible, through diplomacy, to try to avert a conflict and prevent aggression–but equally, to be resolute if Russia renews its aggression.”

Epoch Times Photo
Ukrainian armored vehicles drive during military drills close to Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 10, 2022. (AP/Andrew Marienko)

Is the US Distracted?

Amidst these rising concerns, some experts blame the United States for creating “hysteria” over Ukraine, adding that this is in China’s interest. Others said that Washington is amply focussed and has interests in both Europe and the Indo-Pacific.

Walter​ Lohman, director of the Asian Studies Center as The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, told The Epoch Times that the United States is not distracted from the Indo-Pacific.

“The U.S. is a global power with interests in both regions. China remains the number one global threat to U.S. interests and values, and our long-term strategic focus will remain, Asia,” Lohman said in an email.

However, Madhav Das Nalapat, an associate with the New Delhi-based think tank United Services Institution said that the United States turned into a “principal cheerleader” over the Ukraine-Russia crisis and should have conducted itself better.

“The hysteria whipped up by the Biden administration over Ukraine, including its oft-repeated but unsourced comments that ‘a hundred thousand Russian troops are poised to invade at the Ukrainian border’. This when such deployments within Russian territory have been taking place for several years,” Nalapat told The Epoch Times in an email.

“From Asia, it looks as though Biden is seeking to return Washington into a past world, that when the Atlantic was the center point of global tension and activity for nearly three decades; now the Indo-Pacific has taken over that role,” he added.

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Miss.) appears to share the same concern. In a Feb. 2 letter to Blinken seeking clarification about the U.S. administration’s support for Ukraine’s bid to join NATO, the senator warned that “an increasingly powerful China seeks hegemony in the Indo-Pacific.”

To thwart this, “the United States must shift resources to the Indo-Pacific to deny China’s bid for regional domination,” Hawley wrote.

“This means the United States can no longer carry the heavy burden it once did in other regions of the world—including Europe. To the contrary, we must do less in those secondary theaters in order to prioritize denying China’s hegemonic ambitions in the Indo-Pacific,” he continued.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has continued to raise the alarm about developments in Ukraine. President Joe Biden told NBC News on Feb. 10 that any remaining American citizens in Ukraine should leave the country immediately.

“It’s not like we’re dealing with a terrorist organization. We’re dealing with one of the largest armies in the world. It’s a very different situation, and things could go crazy quickly,” Biden said.

The State Department also issued an advisory on Thursday warning that the administration “will not be able to evacuate U.S. citizens in the event of Russian military action anywhere in Ukraine.”

After the QUAD meeting on Friday, Blinken warned that there were “very troubling signs of Russian escalation.”

“We’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time–and to be clear, that includes during the Olympics,” he said.

Nalapat said that the Asian nations are watching the situation closely. Any “rebound” of the American focus from Indo-pacific to Europe, meaning a refocus from China to Russia, would be unwelcome to those nations opposing Chinese Communist Party expansionism in the Indo-pacific, he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Taiwan soldiers stand next to the domestically produced corvette class vessel Tuo Chiang (R) during a drill at the northern city of Keelung, Taiwan, on Jan. 7, 2022. (SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)

Anti-US Alliance

Andrés Ortega Klein, a senior research fellow at Madrid-based think tank Elcano Royal Institute wrote in a Feb. 8 commentary that China has adopted a complex stance on the Ukraine crisis which is linked to its agendas in Indo-Pacific.

“It has two main goals: to gauge the US reaction to a possible crisis between Beijing and Taiwan; and to prevent NATO as such from meddling in the Indo-Pacific, one of the main issues that need to be settled between now and the NATO summit due to be held in Madrid this June,” said Klein.

Lohman, of the Heritage Foundation, said China’s support of Russia stems from their mutual antagonism towards the United States.

“China’s interest is in supporting Russia broadly as part of an anti-U.S. meeting of the minds. From Beijing’s perspective, trouble for the U.S. is good for China,” he said.

The unfolding events in Ukraine, however, do not mean that Beijing will jump into making a military move towards Taiwan, Lohman said, as any action would require “an assessment of their own military’s ability to prevail over Taiwan and the U.S.”

Nalapat believes that it is incorrect to contend that if Washington fails to respond in support of Ukraine, it’ll embolden China’s designs on Taiwan.

“The hysteria over Ukraine is draining necessary attention away from the activities of China, just as 9/11 took away attention from China back to the Middle East and Afghanistan,” he said, adding that China gains the most if the U.S. attention gets shifted away from East Asia and the South China Sea to Ukraine.

“The more Biden shifts focus away from China to Russia and to extremist groups in Af-Pak and in the Middle East, the better does Washington serve the strategic interests of Beijing.”


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Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.