As the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches, a leading conservative Republican voice in Congress said it was time to let European allies take the lead in the fight to allow the U.S. military to focus its attention on China.
Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, made the case for a China-focused foreign policy Thursday in a talk at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington. He said the debate isn’t particularly partisan but pits the D.C. foreign policy establishment against skeptics in both parties.
A nationalist U.S. foreign policy would concentrate on the Pacific to counter Beijing’s economic prowess and increasingly aggressive foreign policy. Mr. Hawley said China is on the march, posing a major challenge to U.S. allies and interests in the region.
While the U.S. has more aircraft carriers than all other countries combined, China is rapidly developing defenses designed to neutralize them early in a fight or keep them so far away from the battle that their combat usefulness could be in doubt, Mr. Hawley said.
“We do have an undersea advantage, that’s true. But we only have so many submarines, we only have so many weapons to fire from them, and we’ve only got so many places to reload or refit them,” he said.
“We are at an inflection point. If China invades Taiwan, they would prevail,” Mr. Hawley warned.
The lawmaker warned that the economic impact on the U.S. and the world would be catastrophic if Beijing manages to conquer Taiwan. It would be a position to restrict trade in the region and threaten U.S. interests, including the vital American military base in Guam, he said.
“Guam is not well defended against China’s missiles to say nothing of China’s special operations forces,” Mr. Hawley said.
A year into Russia’s war with Ukraine, most Americans still believe the U.S. should play some role in the war effort. But a poll released this week by the AP-National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago said support has dipped for supplying weapons and funds to Kyiv, along with accepting Ukrainian refugees and imposing economic sanctions on Russia.
“Democrats and Republicans alike are increasingly likely to prioritize limiting damage to the U.S. economy over effective sanctions,” the pollsters noted.
They said 26% of those polled say the U.S. should play a “major” role in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, while 49% said the U.S. has a “minor” role in the war. Almost a quarter of the public believes the U.S. shouldn’t have a role at all, according to the study.
Mr. Hawley said the Biden administration should stop writing what he called “blank checks” to Ukraine in the face of the need to build up forces in Asia. The U.S. military also should scale back in Europe and open up the weapons pipeline to Taiwan, similar to what it has done in Ukraine.
“Ukraine or China. We can’t do both at the same time,” he said. The European Union “must take the responsibility for Europe.”
If China conquers Taiwan, President Xi Jinping and the other Chinese leaders in Beijing would view it as a world-historical victory. They will see it as the dawn of a new Chinese century while the U.S. confronts a new and “frankly terrifying” reality that every American will feel, Sen. Hawley said.
“The price-hikes, the supply chain disruptions that we’ve experienced in the last two years, those will pale by comparison. Product shortages will become commonplace. We’re talking about everything from basic medicine to consumer electronics,” Mr. Hawley said.
A war over Taiwan could send the U.S. into a deep recession with no clear way out since huge swathes of our economy run on Taiwanese semiconductors.
“We will lose more jobs. Our industry will suffer and the economic consequences are just the start,” Sen. Hawley said.
Sen. Hawley blamed what he said was the Biden administration’s feckless foreign policy for allowing a Chinese surveillance balloon to drift over the continental U.S. for about a week before finally ordering it shot down over the Atlantic. Beijing will be emboldened if its aggression isn’t put in check, Mr. Hawley said.
“Imagine a world where Chinese warships could patrol, let’s say, Hawaii’s waters and Chinese submarines could stalk the California coastline,” he said. “Imagine a world where the People’s Liberation Army has military bases in Central and South America. Imagine a world where Chinese forces operate freely in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.”
That’s the future America faces if it is unable or unwilling to stop China, he warned.
“It is a dark future. But, it is not yet an inevitable future,” he said. “There is still time to chart a different course. But we have to act right now.”
A protester apparently with the Code Pink anti-war organization ran up on the stage during Mr. Hawley’s talk and shouted, “China isn’t our enemy. Climate change is.” She was quickly hustled out of the think tank’s auditorium.