Winds of war are blowing through the halls of NATO

China’s military threats to Taiwan and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine have changed global perceptions

Shadows of the past, present, and future hangover NATO this week. A military alliance forged in the aftermath of the horrors of World War II and the dawn of a chilling Cold War with the Soviet Union.

In Europe, the Ukraine conflict has entered a third year after Russia’s illegal invasion in 2021. Propped up by China’s economic and industrial power, Moscow is now a junior partner to Beijing in the axis of autocracies.

Across the oceans in the South China Sea, President Xi Jinping’s regime has bullied its neighbors and threatened to take the democratic island of Taiwan by force if necessary, stepping up military operations.

“The People’s Liberation Army has increased the scale and sophistication of its military drills around Taiwan, honing its combat capabilities,” David Sacks, of the Council on Foreign Relations, said.

“As the prospect of gaining control of Taiwan peacefully becomes more remote, China could conclude that using force is the only way to achieve its objectives,” he wrote in a commentary for the New York-based think tank last month.  

Operation Overlord:

  • To do this, Commander-in-Chief Xi would have to launch the biggest amphibious assault since the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944.
  • Operation Overlord “consisted primarily of American, British, and Canadian troops” in a blow-by-blow account by the British Imperial War Museums.
  • “But [they] also included Australian, Belgian, Czech, Dutch, French, Greek, New Zealand, Norwegian and Polish naval, air or ground support.”
  • Nearly 7,000 naval vessels, including battleships, destroyers, minesweepers, escorts, and assault craft, took part in D-Day. 

Invading Taiwan … would dwarf D-Day in scale.

David Sacks, of the Council on Foreign Relations
  • They escorted more than 132,000 ground troops that hit the five beaches. 
  • They also bombarded German coastal defenses before and during the landings.
  • More than 18,000 Allied paratroopers were dropped to provide tactical support for infantry divisions on the beaches. 
  • Allied air forces conducted 14,000 sorties in support of the landings after sweeping the German Luftwaffe out of the skies. 

Delve deeper: “Invading Taiwan or mounting a successful blockade would be the most complex military operation in modern history [while] China’s military has not fought a major war in more than seven decades,” Sacks said.

Between the lines: “[It] would likely have to dwarf D-Day in scale … [And] even if China’s military successfully established a beachhead, it would struggle to navigate the mountainous terrain to secure the island,” Sacks pointed out.

Big picture: China has systematically studied the Normandy operation to plan for an assault on Taiwan. 

Talking points: “The width of the Taiwan Strait is comparable to the width of the English Channel in the vicinity of Normandy – just under 100 miles,” Lyle Goldstein, of the Asia Engagement Program at Defense Priorities, wrote in a commentary for The Diplomat earlier this month.

China Factor comment: NATO will “discuss threats posed by China and the security situation in the Indo-Pacific region” this week. The lessons of D-Day will not be lost at the Washington summit amid the winds of war.