Escalation: Sen. Inhofe Wants to Surround Putin With F-22s, Aegis Ships

A US Air Force F-22 Raptor roars through the sky during the Australian International Airshow in Melbourne last March. (PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)

A US Air Force F-22 Raptor roars through the sky during the Australian International Airshow in Melbourne last March. (PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)

Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jim Inhofe is a Cold Warrior. While presidents and chancellors, secretaries and ministers talked of forcing Russian President Vladimir Putin out of Ukraine via mostly economic means, Inhofe wants to surround Putin’s invading force with some of America’s most lethal weaponry.

US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and their top diplomats, as well as other Western leaders, intend to use economic sanctions and diplomatic tools to pressure Putin and other top Russians in their efforts to resolve Moscow’s military invasion and occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Obama and Western leaders have given zero indications they are willing to even consider using military force to oust Putin’s invaders. Inhofe on the other hand…

The SASC’s top Republican told an Oklahoma newspaper that the Obama administration should “put some F-22s in Poland.”

Washington has been reluctant, or so it seems, to use the Air Force’s prized F-22 Raptor fleet. After all, it got far fewer of the Lockheed Martin-made fighter jets than it wanted — for a slew of reasons we’re not going to re-litigate in this post. But, it’s a fact the Pentagon has really not used the world’s most advanced combat aircraft in, you know, combat.

Inhofe would change that in a move that surely would get the attention of Putin and his top generals. Some might call such a move an escalation.

He also told the Tulsa World he would send some Navy war ships armed with the best-in-the-world Aegis combat system to the Baltic and Black seas. Another escalation.

Inhofe also wants to begin sending US natural gas to European Union member states to weaken Putin’s leverage over them, which other lawmakers and experts are advocating.

But when it comes to deploying America’s best weapon systems, Inhofe just might be the only hawk circling Putin’s war room.

According to the report, Inhofe thinks the F-22s and Aegis ships would “show [Russia] we still have a military and are willing to stand up to them.”

That’s a rhetorical escalation, something Obama, Merkel and other Western leaders have been trying to avoid.

Does Inhofe really want to risk a real escalation with another nuclear-armed super — err, regional — power? Or, just maybe, is the standoff with Putin, to him and other hawks, merely a bargaining chip in congressional hawks’ efforts to convince their colleagues to raise defense-spending caps?

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett