WASHINGTON (AP) — As the war rages on in Ukraine, the United States is doing more than supporting an ally. It's learning lessons — with an eye toward a possible future clash with China.
No one knows what the next U.S. major military conflict will be or whether the U.S. will send troops — as it did in Afghanistan and Iraq — or provide vast amounts of aid and expertise, as it has done with Ukraine.
But China remains America's biggest concern. U.S. military officials say Beijing wants to be ready to invade the self-governing island of Taiwan by 2027, and the U.S. is the island democracy's chief ally and supplier of defense weapons.
While there are key differences in geography and in the U.S. commitment to come to Taiwan’s defense, “there are clear parallels between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a possible Chinese attack on Taiwan,” a Center for Strategic and International Studies report found last month.
A look at some of the lessons from the Ukraine war and how they could apply to a Taiwan conflict:
ARM IN ADVANCE
Soon after Russian troops crossed into Ukraine last February, the U.S. and allies began sending massive amounts of weapons across the border from partner nations.
But Taiwan would need to be fully armed in advance, CSIS found in dozens of war scenarios it ran for its report.
"The ‘Ukraine model’ cannot be replicated in Taiwan because China can isolate the island for weeks or even months," the bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization and think tank found. "Taiwan must start the war with everything it needs."
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said Ukraine “was more of a cold-start approach than the planned approach we have been working on for Taiwan, and we will apply those lessons.”
For China, Hicks told The Associated Press that an amphibious landing is the hardest military operation to undertake. But that same challenge would also make resupply difficult, particularly if China chokes off ocean access.
The Pentagon cannot pre-position equipment it doesn’t have. Ukraine is putting intense pressure on the U.S. and European defense stockpiles and exposing that neither was ready for a major conventional conflict.
For some items “we have weaknesses in both our inventory and our production capacity,” said CSIS International Security Program senior adviser Mark Cancian, an author of the Taiwan report. “In a couple of places, particularly artillery ammunition, it could become a crisis."
Ukraine is shooting as many as 7,000 rounds a day to defend itself and has depended on announcements about every two weeks of new ammunition shipments from the U.S.
Since Russia invaded, the U.S. has sent Ukraine millions of rounds of munitions, including small arms and artillery rounds, 8,500 Javelin anti-armor systems, 1,600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems and 100,000 rounds of 125 mm tank ammunition.
One of the biggest stockpile pressure points has been 155 mm howitzer ammunition. The U.S. has sent Ukraine 160 howitzers and more than 1 million howitzer rounds, which have been put to heavy use with as many as 3,000 rounds fired a day, according to the Pentagon.
Ukraine is waging a different type of war than the U.S. would likely face with China, said Doug Bush, assistant Army secretary for acquisition. A future U.S. campaign would likely involve much more air power and sea power, taking some of the pressure off land-based systems and ammunition.
But allies would still need to be supported with land-based systems and ammunition.
REBUILDING TAKES TIME
The Pentagon’s defense strategy says the U.S. must be able to conduct one war while deterring another, but the supply chain has not reflected that.