Putin Wants a Fleet of Aircraft Carriers and Has Also Maybe Eaten Shrooms

Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin wants to build an entire fleet of aircraft carriers, and I want a garage full of Lamborghinis.

Let’s see whose dream is more realistic.

I could, with some difficulty, buy a Lambo. I would have to raid my retirement savings and possibly sell my house for a much smaller one, but I could just barely swing it.

Sure, I’d have no retirement and Melissa and the kids and I would be practically stacked on top of one another, but…Lamborghini!

Keeping it maintained after frequent drives would probably be more than I could afford at that point, so my driving days would be kept to a minimum. My Lambo would be a garage queen, taken out briefly for special occasions.

I’m also not trained to drive such a powerful supercar, and those maintenance expenses would be too much to gain the experience I need. So I’d never be able to push my Lambo to its full potential.

There’s also that tiny little final detail of geography: My home on Monument Hill, with all of Colorado’s weird weather on steroids, isn’t exactly Lamborghini-friendly territory.

(Let’s not talk about the resulting divorce and what that would cost.)

I’d have to be on drugs to make such a bad decision.

That’s me buying one Lamborghini. Two or more? Fuggidaboudit.

On the vast nation-state scale, Putin announced on Navy Day his intention to turn Russia into a “great maritime power,” including multiple aircraft carriers.

To be fair, Russia does have some experience with aircraft carriers — all of it bad.

Their only operational carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is a hand-me-down from the Soviet Union. The Kuznetsov is small and doesn’t carry many aircraft — 30 compared to 90 or more on board an American CVN.

The aircraft it can carry aren’t up to Western standards, and because of the primitive “ski lift” launch ramp, can’t take off with full weapons loads.

The Kuznetsov is also out of commission, possibly permanently.

The ship last saw some small amount of action off the coast of Syria in 2016. You could recognize it by the massive plumes of black smoke (cough, cough) and the ever-present Russian tugboat (just in case).

After sailing back to the Kola Peninsula on the Barents Sea for repairs and a lengthy refit, Kuznetsov’s floating dry dock collapsed, damaging the ship. It was the only dock Russia had that was capable of servicing the Kuznetsov outside of the Black Sea, which is all the way around Europe.

Then a serious fire broke out on board the ship in 2019, further delaying its planned refit.

The announced plan is to have the Kuznetsov back in service in 2024 after years of delays. Will that happen under the new sanctions regime?

Geographically, a carrier fleet doesn’t make much sense for a land power like Russia. The country has four different coasts — the Barents Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, and the Pacific. They’re widely separated and also hemmed in by NATO countries and Japan. Getting out into the open waters where carriers must operate is a problem.

Carriers are also outrageously expensive to operate and maintain, and getting sailors and aviators trained up on them is pricey and time-consuming. Russia couldn’t afford that (as the USSR) during the heady ship-building days of the ’70s and ’80s, and can afford it even less now.

Win or lose in Ukraine, Russia is going to have to spend a lot of money and industrial resources rebuilding their army. Up to 80% of their combat power is or has been engaged in the Ukraine War, and combat losses have taken a heavy toll on their most modern equipment and their best-trained men.

In a world of limited resources, Russia’s best use of theirs is to rebuild their bruised army, not a fleet of massive ships they can’t properly operate or maintain.

Like me, Russia doesn’t have the means to acquire a bunch of fancy — but unnecessary — vehicles. They can’t even afford to properly maintain the used one they already have.

So I’m not saying Putin is actually on drugs.

But I am saying that you’d have to be on drugs to believe he’s ever getting the fleet he wants.

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