< Distinguished speaker series

Elbridge A. Colby

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development, The Department of Defense

The Case for Prioritizing Taiwan Over Ukraine

DATE: November 6, 2023 6:00 pm


Event information

As Republicans attempt to organize the House of Representatives and agree on a national agenda in the coming weeks, one of the key decisions will be whether to send more aid to Ukraine. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy personally favored aid but stripped it from the Continuing Resolution on September 30th in an effort to appease ultra-hardliners. They voted to oust him nonetheless. Yet there’s a sizable majority in both chambers that favor more aid to Ukraine. McCarthy himself tied the case for aid to the lessons of appeasing Hitler on the eve of World War II.

The most coherent argument for stripping the aid is that made by a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense who will be our next speaker. In this era of great power competition, says
Elbridge Colby, China is a bigger foe than Russia, and the top U.S. priority should be deterring a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. It’s a controversial thesis, and that’s an understatement. In an op-ed he wrote in the Washington Post a few months back, he argued that the U.S. should “prioritize” Taiwan over Ukraine and let its allies take “primary responsibility for Europe’s conventional defense.” His essay provoked 1,099 online comments. Here’s a sampling from the first 50. “You’re wrong…What a narrow vision…We can in fact walk and chew gum at the same time here…Civilians are being murdered by Russians in Ukraine! I don’t see anyone being murdered in Taiwan…I hope that no decision maker pays attention to the advice offered in his article. It is a recipe for war with China…Gosh no, it’s a recipe for reprehensible capitulation in Ukraine!”

Elbridge Colby spoke to the Baltimore Council two years ago, promoting his new book, The Strategy of Denial, American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict.

He is co-founder and principal of The Marathon Initiative, a policy initiative focused on developing strategies for an era of sustained great power competition. He served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development from 2017-2018. In that role, he was the lead official in the development and rollout of the Department’s 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS). The NDS shifted the Department of Defense’s focus to the challenges to U.S. military superiority and interests posed by China and Russia. He also served as a primary Defense Department representative in the development of the President’s 2017 National Security Strategy. From 2014 to 2017 he was the Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow at the Center for New American Security. From 2010 to 2013 he was principal analyst and division lead for global strategic affairs at Center for Naval Analyses.

Please join us November 6th at 6 pm for what should be a lively debate on whether to “prioritize” Taiwan over Ukraine.


Elbridge A. Colby bio: Elbridge Colby | The Marathon Initiative
Department of Defense bio: Elbridge A. Colby > U.S. Department of Defense > Biography

Co-founder &amp; Principal – The Marathon Initiative, 2019-present
Director of the Defense Program – Center for a New America n Security (CNAS), 2018-2019
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy &amp; Force Development, 2017-2018
National Defense Panel, 2014
Strategic Posture Commission, 2008-2009
Office of National Intelligence, 2005-2006
President’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (Iraq WMD intelligence), 2004-2005
Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, 2003

Yale Law School, 2009
Harvard College, 2002

The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict (Yale University Press, 2021)
World events are not going America’s way, The Spectator, 09/13/23
The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict, BCFA presentation,
The United States Should Defend Taiwan, National Review, 12/20/21
The U.S. Must Support Ukraine, But China Must Be Our Priority, Time, 02/27/22
Zeitenwende – German Defence Policy in an Era of Great Power Conflict, The Marathon Initiative,
Opinion: To Avert War with China, the U.S. Must Prioritize Taiwan over Ukraine, The Washington Post,

Distinguished and Exceptional Public Service Awards, Department of Defense
Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards, Department of State