Senator Cornyn

Cornyn Op-Ed: Winning the Next War by Preventing It

March 8, 2023

WASHINGTON – Following the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and his trip to the Munich Security Conference, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) authored the following op-ed in Newsweek on ways the United States and its allies can prepare to counter China and Russia’s growing threats:

Winning the Next War by Preventing It
Senator John Cornyn
March 8, 2023

In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain described the escalating conflict between Nazi Germany and Czechoslovakia as “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.” Less than two years later, Nazi bombs fell on London.

More than eight decades have passed since then, and while Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine is far from a perfect comparison to Nazi Germany’s attack on Czechoslovakia, it bears striking similarities. A powerful authoritarian government launched a war over bogus territorial disputes and false claims of genocide. Its soldiers are perpetrating war crimes. And democracies worldwide are faced with a decision: unite against the aggressor or remain on the sidelines.

I recently traveled to Germany with a bipartisan delegation of senators for the Munich Security Conference, which brings together world leaders to debate the greatest security threats of our time. Unsurprisingly, our conversations focused on Russia and Ukraine.

In just a year’s time, this war has had a remarkable impact on the world. Europe has nearly severed its dependence on Russia for energy. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is expanding its alliance to include Sweden and Finland. NATO members have pledged to boost long-neglected defense spending. And Russia’s army—once thought to be among the world’s most powerful—has suffered significant blows without the direct involvement of NATO troops.

These are all positive developments, but this war hasn’t come without global consequence. Military aid for Ukraine has exposed profound inadequacies in America’s defense industrial base. The Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates it will take six years to replenish our supply of 155-millimenter ammunition, the standard artillery round. For Stinger and Javelin missiles, both fundamental to Ukraine’s success, the turnaround time is even longer.

The impact on America’s military readiness is concerning, but the cost of doing nothing is even higher.

Today, the benefit of hindsight allows us to see what Prime Minister Chamberlain didn’t in 1938: this conflict is the beginning, not the end. Power-hungry dictators will not be satiated by small territorial gains. In fact, an ounce of success will fuel their appetites. And in this case, it’s not just Russian President Vladimir Putin who’s ready to dine—it’s also Chinese President Xi Jinping.

President Xi has made no secret of his desire to invade Taiwan. The Chinese Communist Party falsely asserts that Taiwan is part of its territory and President Xi has said he wants to be ready to invade by 2027—just four years from now.

Given everything we’ve learned from the war in Ukraine, there are three key steps we need to take to prepare.

One: the U.S. and its allies must remain committed to victory in Ukraine through strategic investments with thorough oversight. A Russian defeat is the only way to prevent this conflict from spilling across borders in Europe and to keep NATO troops out of the picture. It also shows President Xi that the West is operating in lockstep in defense of democracy.

Two: we must strengthen our defense industrial base to protect our own military readiness and that of our allies. During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt transformed the United States into the “arsenal of democracy.” That arsenal must remain fully stocked.

And three: we must reduce our reliance on China for semiconductors and other technologies crucial to our advanced weapons systems and so much more. Europe paid the price for its longstanding dependence on Russian energy. We could soon find ourselves in a similar position if China invades Taiwan. Now that we’ve addressed the chip shortage through my CHIPS for America Act, we must keep Western investment from fueling the Chinese military and economy by increasing outbound investment transparency.

These conflicts are thousands of miles from our shores, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t our problem. A myopic view of these threats may be superficially appealing, but it fails to confront the current threat landscape. This is not about protecting “them” or “us.” The United States has the greatest military in the world. It is fully capable of safeguarding our own national security and promoting democracy around the globe.

What’s at stake today isn’t the fate of one or two nations—it’s the future of democracy itself. Our own security and economic interests are on the line, and we have history as our teacher. If we aren’t ready, we will only have ourselves to blame.