Almost immediately after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, observers began exploring how it would affect regional stability halfway around the world. The People’s Republic of China (PRC), it was said, was watching the war unfold. And Beijing was learning lessons from it. Would Taiwan be the next state targeted by an aggressive neighbor? Or, as some analysis concluded, would Russia’s struggles in Ukraine serve as a cautionary tale, discouraging military action to forcefully seize Taiwan?

More than two years into the war in Ukraine, there is little evidence that the grinding, attritional character it has taken on has diminished Beijing’s determination to bring Taipei under its control. In fact, as Admiral John C. Aquilino, the senior US military commander in the Indo-Pacific, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee, the PRC’s increased military buildup and modernization efforts indicate readiness for an invasion of Taiwan as early as 2027. Given that assessment, it is crucial that the United States is able to achieve integrated deterrence against the PRC. But what enables effective deterrence? As General Charles A. Flynn, commander of US Army Pacific, has described, deterrence has four components—capability, posture, signaling, and will. An examination of these four components, informed by an appreciation of the lessons on display in the war in Ukraine, reveals the keys to achieving integrated deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region—and how the US Army can best contribute to it.

Capabilities and Forward Posture: The Keys to All-Domain Advantage

The first two components of strong deterrence, capability and posture, are closely linked to one another and best explored in tandem. The US Army’s posture and positions of advantage in theater must be understood relative to the capabilities of the pacing threat. Strategic standoff, once a concept related purely to kinetic fires, has taken on a new definition with the PRC’s continued development and integration of enhanced intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and nonkinetic (primarily space and cyber) capabilities. As the PRC expands the range and reach of its operational capabilities, it continues to increase its positions of advantage and the likelihood that it can “win without fighting.”

President Xi Jinping and the PRC’s leadership were likely shocked that Russia’s military, with extensive recent operational experience, failed to secure a decisive victory in Ukraine—particularly that it has been unable to achieve air superiority and has ineffectively conducted combined armed maneuver. To keep a similar challenge from emerging in its own invasion of Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will continue to rehearse joint operations and logistics and likely intensify its focus on integrating its land, sea, and airpower and improve its joint warfighting capabilities. What is more, the PRC has found a partner in Russia, conducting combined drills focused on air defense, antimissile, antisubmarine, and antiship rehearsals. The PLA fields a significant amount of Russian military equipment and has sought to integrate elements of Russia’s military reforms. Therefore, Russia’s struggles will likely prompt the PLA to question its own readiness to conduct the operations necessary for a Taiwan invasion in the next few years.

The PRC has taken note of regional and Taiwanese preparations to deter forceful reunification, such as acquisition of capabilities that accelerate Taipei’s adoption of an asymmetric defense strategy. Similarly, Taipei’s close partners have adopted new strategies—Japan’s initiatives to shift from a territorial defense to a force capable of in-depth interdiction, for example, and the Philippines’ shift of focus to territorial defense and a strengthened alliance with Tokyo. The United States supports these efforts and the establishment of interior lines for the joint force through Operation Pathways, which enables the theater army to campaign in the first island chain while positioning combat-credible forces alongside partners and allies. An example is the set of organic capabilities the US Army’s new multi-domain tasks forces bring to the region. In parallel, Army senior leaders continue dialogue with partnered states to host formations and expand access to training sites. The PRC’s assessments of these activities will influence Beijing’s political calculus, which makes the next few years critical from a deterrence standpoint.

For the US Army, leadership remains an essential, unifying element of combat power and determinant of success in combined arms operations. In recent years, leaders from the tactical to the theater-strategic level have introduced new concepts, capabilities, and formations to the Indo-Pacific theater that can deter adversary aggression and provide response options in a crisis. As an example, while live-fire tests receive much publicity in the open media, the Army’s long-range hypersonic and mid-range capabilities have quietly participated in a number of joint and multinational exercises in the Indo-Pacific under the control of a combatant command since the fielding of the systems to tactical units. The value of these fires’ capabilities is that by operating alongside space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities (also organic to multi-domain task forces), they create regular and iterative opportunities for experimentation with both kinetic and nonkinetic effects. This experimentation helps further realize Army senior leaders’ vision to open up windows for the joint force in an antiaccess, area-denial environment. Executed forward and underneath a combatant commander, this experimentation ensures the capabilities are not overlooked and are positioned appropriately, ahead of any crisis, for employment in a time of need. Thus, exercising forward in the environment as part of a larger joint and multinational rehearsal not only enhances the deterrent effect while signaling commitment to partners, but also increases the chance that leaders can appropriately respond to adversary aggression across all domains in a meaningful way.

Signaling Commitment: A New Trilateral Opportunity

The third component of integrated deterrence is signaling, which is fundamentally about communicating—both to allies and partners and to potential aggressors. On April 11, US President Joe Biden will hold the first three-way summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. at the White House. This summit—with the two pivotal allies in the Indo-Pacific—may be one of the most important diplomatic events for the United States in 2024 and is an opportunity to firmly signal its commitment in the region. President Biden’s agenda at the talks may be aimed at successfully tilting the security posture in the Indo-Pacific with increased activities already being discussed by the three governments.

At this historic summit, Washington will likely reaffirm the steadfast alliance with Manila, its oldest ally in the Indo-Pacific, and reassure its unwavering commitment amid rising tensions and increased confrontations between Philippine and Chinese vessels in the South China Sea. Nevertheless, whatever form the talks take, promoting this new trilateral partnership is crucial for the United States and its other allies and partners, in the region and beyond. Japan and the Philippines are the two most reliable US partners in western Indo-Pacific, outside of Australia and New Zealand. This strengthening cooperation, along with enhanced interoperability and defense capabilities positioned in these island nations, signals a strong commitment among the three partners. Tokyo and Manila both echo the principle of the free and open Indo-Pacific and share their concerns about Beijing’s growing maritime forces within their territorial waters.

The Will to Fight: Deterrence’s Key Element

The fourth component of strong deterrence is will. For allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region, the will to fight in the event of a conflict is best gauged before a crisis by the will to prepare. Demonstrated will to fight can galvanize international support, as it has done for Ukraine. The PRC has observed President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s ability to rally the Ukrainian people and international public. It is likely that Taiwanese leaders would also take extreme measures to convince allies and partners to support Taiwan in a similar manner during a conflict triggered by a PRC invasion.

Here, too, lessons from the war in Ukraine are instructive. Russia was targeted by international sanctions after its 2014 annexation of Crimea. After its 2022 large-scale invasion, a coalition of countries grouped together and imposed more wide-ranging and severe sanctions against Russia, but these efforts have been marginally effective. The PRC has taken note of Russia’s transition away from SWIFT international payment system to its own Mir national credit system to sanctions-proof its economy and is already taking measures to decrease its own vulnerability and increase its economic resilience.

Ahead of Russia’s invasion, intelligence diplomacy was key to shaping the narrative in the information dimension. Despite the unambiguous warnings of Russian preparations and intent to invade Ukraine, though, President Vladimir Putin was not deterred. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that we will have the same indications and warnings for a Taiwan invasion. However, the forward presence of capabilities, enabled by the new trilateral partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, will meaningfully contribute to deterring an invasion by the PRC.

A Vision to Challenge the Status Quo

There is one final observation from the war in Ukraine with direct relevance to security in the Indo-Pacific region. Prior to February 2022, the three Baltic states and Poland provided the greatest percentage of their gross domestic product to Ukraine and were among those who warned most vocally of the impending Russian invasion. Following the invasion, these states were also the most impacted socially, economically, and with respect to security considerations. Why? Proximity. Amid growing geopolitical tension and efforts in the Japanese southwest islands and Philippine islands in the Luzon strait to prepare for the prospect of Chinese aggression, it is evident that the closest geographic neighbors to Taiwan are heeding the actions of their European counterparts.

The United States must do everything within its power in the Indo-Pacific to thicken cooperation among regional allies and partners. The PRC recognized that the Ukraine war has unified NATO rather than fracturing the alliance. While the Indo-Pacific region does not enjoy the same alliance structure, it is important for like-minded states to demonstrate solidarity in opposing PRC efforts to unilaterally change the status quo. The trilateral partnership involving two of the nations—Japan and the Philippines—with the most at stake has the potential to lead these efforts for the entire region.

Lieutenant Colonel Ben Blane is a field artillery officer and commands the Army’s first long-range fires battalion as part of the 1st Multi-Domain Task Force at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. He holds an undergraduate degree from the United States Military Academy and graduate degrees from Columbia University and John Jay College.

Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Lee is an Indo-Pacific foreign area officer for US Army Japan. He holds an undergraduate degree from the United States Military Academy and graduate degrees from Columbia University and UCLA.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.

Image: Mid-Range Capability (MRC) Launcher from Charlie Battery, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, is loaded into a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III as part of the capability’s first deployment into theater on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, April 4, 2024. The historic deployment, undertaken in part with the pilots and flight crew of the US Air Force’s 62nd Airlift Wing from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, marks the first time the service has flown the exquisite capability. (credit: Capt. Ryan DeBooy, US Army)