In the year since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukrainians have learned who they can truly count on as friends. Taiwan has emerged as an important Asian ally, offering strong support to Ukraine at a time when other countries in the region have preferred to maintain a more neutral stance.
This backing was recently evident as Ukraine struggled with the consequences of a nationwide infrastructure bombing campaign unleashed by Vladimir Putin with the aim of freezing the country into submission. In October 2022, Russia began launching regular waves of airstrikes against residential areas and civilian infrastructure across Ukraine. The goal was to leave tens of millions of Ukrainians without access to power, heating, water, and other basic amenities during the coldest period of the year. Moscow believed this would break their will to resist.
With towns and cities throughout Ukraine plunged into darkness, the population began adjusting to a new reality marked by bottled water, flashlights, canned food, and candles. Large numbers of generators were urgently imported into Ukraine, providing homes, businesses, and public services with electricity. Taiwan was at the forefront of international efforts to provide Ukrainians with sufficient generators. In early March, the seventeenth powerful generator unit arrived in Kyiv as part of an aid package from the Taiwanese government coordinated via the Darnychany charity fund.
The delivery of generators is only one of the many ways Taiwan has shown its support for Ukraine over the past year. Since the full-scale Russian invasion began in February 2022, Taiwan has provided hundreds of tons of humanitarian goods along with financing to help Ukrainian communities coping with the aftermath of Russian aggression. Taiwanese officials have also offered training programs to their Ukrainian colleagues. In late 2022, Taipei confirmed the allocation of a further $56 million in aid for Ukraine to help finance rebuilding and recovery efforts during the current year.
These policies of support appear to enjoy a high degree of popular backing among the Taiwanese public. Numerous pro-Ukrainian rallies have taken place in Taipei over the past year. Meanwhile, when Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu announced news of the country’s plans to provide Ukraine with generators, I was struck by the overwhelmingly positive tone of the coverage in the Taiwanese media and throughout the country’s social media space. This supportive response was very touching and pointed to a strong consensus within Taiwanese society that the country’s national interests are best served by standing with Ukraine.
I encountered these sentiments for myself in late 2022 while traveling to Taiwan as part of an official Ukrainian delegation. It soon became apparent that the Taiwanese people have been deeply moved by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the heroism of the Ukrainian people. There was huge sympathy for Ukraine and great interest in our experience, which many clearly see as offering important insights for Taiwan itself.
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During our visit to Taiwan, journalists and members of the public alike asked me the same thing again and again. “If you had known two or three years ago that Russia was preparing to launch a full-scale invasion, what would you have done differently?” This line of questioning is hardly surprising. The Taiwanese are understandably eager to study Ukraine’s experience because they also live alongside a large neighbor with territorial claims to their country, and wish to be as prepared as possibible for all eventualities.
The idea that the fates of Ukraine and Taiwan are now somehow linked has often been discussed over the past year. During the early months of the Russian invasion, I remember reading a comment on social media from somebody claiming that Ukraine was “not only fighting for its own freedom but also indirectly saving Taiwan.” Such claims may sound exaggerated but they are in fact entirely justified. We are well aware in Ukraine that our fight against Russian imperialism will also shape the wider world and define the future of international relations. For obvious reasons, this is nowhere more acutely felt than in Taiwan.
With Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine now in its second year, an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians remain confident of victory. It would be a victory for the entire free world that would send a powerful warning to autocrats around the globe who may be thinking of launching their own “special military operations” against peaceful neighbors. Defeating Russia would be the best way to say “thank you” to all of Ukraine’s partners throughout the democratic world including Taiwan.
Kira Rudik is leader of the Golos party, member of the Ukrainian parliament, and Vice President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).