“I think our sense is that it probably affects less the question of whether the Chinese leadership might choose some years down the road to use force to control Taiwan, but how and when they would do it,” Burns said at the Aspen Security Forum. “If there’s one lesson I think they may be drawing from Putin’s experience in Ukraine, it’s you don’t achieve quick, decisive victories with overwhelming force.”
Burns provided a wide-ranging interview at the forum, touching on topics ranging from Iran’s nuclear capabilities to the Russian imprisonment of American basketball player Brittney Griner. But he spent most of his time discussing the United States’ two greatest rival nations.
He paid particular attention to 俄罗斯入侵乌克兰, including Putin’s mentality and the possible factors that contributed to Russia’s many failures to quickly and decisively win the conflict, and what lessons China might glean from the experience as it looks toward a possible Taiwan invasion.
“I wouldn’t underestimate President Xi’s determination to assert China’s control over Taiwan,” Burns said. “He’s determined to ensure his military has the capability to undertake such an action should he decide to move in that direction.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine proved a “strategic failure” for Putin, with Burns revealing that he believed the latest U.S. intelligence estimates would indicate around 15,000 Russian troops killed 和 “maybe three times” as many troops wounded. It was the first update in months from any intelligence source on possible Russian losses.
“The Ukrainians have suffered as well, probably a little less than that, but significant casualties is the big picture,” Burns said, adding that he believed “Russia is planning to dig in and keep hammering Ukraine and believe that when winter comes and the fuel costs are so high on Europe, that NATO solidarity will weaken.”