The Commandant of the Marine Corps this week said Russia’s slow progress of its invasion of Ukraine should cause China to reevaluate any plans to militarily take over Taiwan.
“Without making somebody 10 feet tall, I say absolutely we should assume they’re studying it. We are too. We’re a learning organization.” Gen. David Berger, said during a Washington Post online interview on March 16.
“We should assume that the [China People’s Liberation Army] and leaders are studying what’s happening in Ukraine. I think it definitely should give them pause about any degree of confidence that an assault, an invasion of another country, of another piece of land, especially if it’s across a body of water, is not going to be easy and it’s not going to be quick. So I would think they’re learning.”
“So time, logistics, just the sheer difficulty of doing an amphibious operation, and I would think they’re definitely trying to draw lessons learned,” he added.
Berger underscored Russia’s troubles are occurring while it has roads to travel from Russia and Belarus to Ukraine, a much easier effort compared to what China would have to do to invade Taiwan.
“You cannot do that getting to Taiwan. So everything from logistics to the sustainment…then there’s the aspect of all of the allies and partners that the United States has that should not be underestimated, their ability to rally quickly.”
He said while some may have thought NATO would take time to respond to the Ukraine invasion, none should underestimate the alliance and U.S. commitment to it.
Likewise, Berger said “same I would say in our alliance with countries in the Indo-Pacific.”
Berger also said the Russian invasion of Ukraine validates the direction the Marine Corps is going under current plans.
“It confirms the need to have a force in close, to paint a clearer picture and be lethal and be mobile in the face of a threat. I think there is no anti-ship strategy for the Marine Corps. The approach is to distribute naval and Marine Corps forces widely, to be able to operate from ship or from shore for the purposes of controlling key parts, just like you would on land, where there might be a road intersection that you want to control. Well, at sea, in the maritime environment, there are the equivalent of road intersections that the U.S. needs to hold open, needs to make sure are open and free,” he said.
The commandant says holding those positions takes a force comfortable in the marine amphibious environment, like the Marine Corps.
“If you want to control an intersection, you know, on land or you want to control the equivalent of that–a strait, perhaps, at sea–then you need forces that are capable of doing that. And the Navy and Marine Corps team is uniquely suited to.”
Berger also said recent military conflicts in general show the character of war is changing in favor of his modernization plans like divesting the Marine Corps of tanks.
“A service chief’s job is to make sure that you’re also prepared two and five and 10 years into the future. So, some things we will continue to do, but we will do it in a different way. I think amphibious landings, amphibious assault, forcible entry, those things which Marines are known for for 70 years, we’ll continue to do, but we’ll do them in a very different way.”
He argued this is “because the character of war is changing. We need to change with it. Instead of tank-on-tank formations, I would say, if you looked at Armenia and Azerbaijan, or Lebanon, or even right now in Ukraine, pretty clear that top-down sort of missile attacks on the top side of heavy armor, makes it pretty vulnerable.”
Therefore, while tanks have worked well for the Marine Corps for many years, “going forward, they are heavy or too difficult to logistically support, and in some cases, vulnerable to attack from top from a proliferation of very inexpensive missiles. So, in some cases, we’ve let go of things that were very successful in the past in order to move toward things that we are going to need in the future.”
Berger also said the aviation ground logistics team is the heart of the modernizing Marine Corps.
“That’s the strength of the Marine Corps, having it all organic. We are enabler, kind of, for the joint force. We’re the first ones on the scene to figure it out, to sort it out. We need the mobility to do that, which means we need amphibious ships, which is critical for the nation to have.”
Berger said even in a situation like Ukraine a country would need the ability to have a crisis response force from the sea.