Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has proven that Putin seeks to rebuild the former Soviet empire by force and if he must kill tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people to accomplish his goal, he is willing to do it. What is happening in Ukraine is jarring and we should learn the lessons that it is teaching. Putin thought he would cruise to victory in Ukraine in a matter of days. But his efforts bogged down in part because his conventional fighting forces are weaker than most would have predicted, and the Ukrainian people’s willingness to fight for their country was greater than most would have anticipated.
However, once Putin’s military stalled and not so veiled nuclear threats began to leak out of the Kremlin, it allowed the rest of the world the time and opportunity to not only condemn Russia, but to provide much needed aid to the Ukrainian people.
Putin showed us that it is a mistake to assume that because our conventional military forces are the world’s strongest, that we don’t need to worry about nuclear threats. To most Americans the idea of unleashing nuclear weapons seems incomprehensible. But if you are thoroughly evil, and have grandiose ambitions, and your conventional military cannot defeat the west, you only have one card to play — a nuclear one. Russian military doctrine actually states that it can win a nuclear war, so our defenses against nuclear threats must be every bit as robust as our conventional military forces.
Russia doesn’t have as robust of a surface navy as it once had when it was the Soviet Union. But it continues to maintain a highly capable submarine fleetthat is part of Russia’s nuclear threat.
It should not come as a surprise that a nation who has learned it cannot compete militarily on a conventional basis, will rely more heavily on its nuclear capability. It is no coincidence that for the past decade or two, Russia has invested heavily in nuclear assets. They have invested heavily in hypersonic missiles as a delivery mechanism, and have also been busy developing tactical nuclear weapons while we havebeen essentially decommissioning ours. Allowing Russia — with a leader like Putin — to have the upper hand in a nuclear conflict is a catastrophically bad strategy. As we’ve seen in Ukraine, trusting in the goodwill and decency of a man like Putin is complete folly.
We must therefore be prepared to neutralize the Russian nuclear threat. Missile defense is obviously an important component of that. But perhaps an unknown or under-appreciated part of our defensive capability is the P-8 Poseidon. It is the world’s most capable sub-hunting aircraft. It has ultra sensitive radar, special cameras, sonar buoys for finding and tracking submarines, and the capability to destroy threatening submarines.
But that’s not all. The P-8 Poseidon is a highly versatile, multi-mission aircraft. It is an effective reconnaissance plane, and it can engage and destroy surface ships, and do search and rescue missions. In so many different missions, the P-8 is truly state of the art.
The P-8 has been a highly successful program, as a modified and tailored 737, it has been designed and built from the ground up to perform its vital functions. It has been delivered on time, within cost perimeters, and it does everything that it was designed to do while performing above expectations.
But the problem is we don’t have enough of them to counteract the threats we face. And it isn’t just Putin. China has become increasingly belligerent and has been building a navy larger than our own. Their stated goal is to replace the US as the world’s most powerful nation. China’s communist leaders don’t seek stability, they seek domination.
During the height of the Cold War, we had far more sub-hunter aircraft than we do now, yet the risk is much greater today. In 1975, we were not worried about China. Today, we have every reason to be worried about both Russian and China.
A number of our allies also see the P-8 as the future of sub-hunting. But we don’t yet even have a full compliment of the numbers our war fighting experts said we needed several years ago — and that was when we saw Russia as a far less dangerous threat. So the truth is, we need a lot more P-8 Poseidons than we currently have. And we need them yesterday.
There is tremendous urgency to ramp up our ability to neutralize the nuclear threats that Russia and China pose. While the P-8 isn’t the only thing we need, it is a very good place to start. And we have no time to waste. As we have learned, our adversaries are watching and when they determine
d that we are not prepared or strong, they will jump at the opportunity to expand their dominance and control. So let’s hope Congress and the Pentagon are paying attention and send a signal that America will always be ready and capable. And they can do that by making sure we have plenty of P-8 Poseidons to counteract this growing nuclear threat.