Ukraine Strikes Oil Refinery Deep Within Russia

AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

There was an interesting report from Business Insider this weekend suggesting that Ukraine's recent tactics in its ongoing war with Russia may be "proving the Biden administration wrong." The Ukrainians sent some of the longer-range missiles and drones we've been giving them to hit a pair of Russian oil refineries deep inside of Russia in Kaluga. That city is located to the southwest of Moscow, far from Ukraine's border. The Gazprom facility was set on fire, putting it out of operation for the time being. This is something that the Biden administration has explicitly told Zelensky that they shouldn't be doing, but it appears that Ukraine has run out of patience with that strategy. The Russians are no doubt furious over this, but it's not as if there's much they can do about it at this point other than continue the attacks they've already been launching against Ukraine.

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Ukraine has been ramping up attacks on Russian oil refineries in recent months as it seeks to hamper Russian export revenues and curtail fuel supplies to Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces.

In one of the latest attacks, Ukrainian drones struck an oil refinery in Russia's Kaluga region, setting it on fire, the RIA state news agency reported on Friday, per Reuters.

Ukraine also hit Gazprom's Neftekhim Salavat oil refinery, one of Russia's largest oil refineries, earlier this week, Radiy Khabirov, the head of Russia's Republic of Bashkortostan, said in a post on Telegram.

The Ukrainian strategy here is fairly straightforward. If they can cripple Russia's oil production, they reduce the amount of revenue Moscow can generate to finance the war and limit the fuel that will be available to send to the front lines. It's a bit of a gamble because they are defying the guidelines established by the Bidan administration, but it would be horrible optics for Biden to suddenly limit aid to Ukraine immediately after he chastised the GOP for seeking to do the same thing.

Let's also keep in mind the reason that Joe Biden doesn't want Zelensky hitting Russia's oil infrastructure. It has nothing to do with military strategy. In fact, it's the polar opposite of that. Biden is afraid that if Russia's oil exports are reduced, prices will rise because of the law of supply and demand. And he doesn't want to see energy costs going up even further in the middle of his reelection effort and plunging approval ratings regarding inflation.

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But this is a no-brainer for Ukraine. They are already being driven back on the eastern front by Russia's troops and their own energy infrastructure is being pummeled mercilessly. Short of breaking out the nukes, there isn't all that much more that Russia can do to them than they are already doing. Also, Vladimir Putin's people have been willing to tolerate his war with Ukraine thus far largely because they aren't seeing much direct damage in their own neighborhoods beyond the parade of body bags coming back from the front lines. When things start blowing up in their own neighborhoods, those attitudes may begin to change.

On top of that, some foreign affairs analysts believe that Biden's rationale for opposing strikes on Russian oil refineries is misguided. Several of them recently published an analysis in which they concluded that the net impact on energy prices from these strikes will be minimal. They point out that by hitting the refineries, Russia is still able to export the same amount of crude oil but it loses some of its ability to produce gasoline, diesel, and other refined products, the majority of which are used domestically. 

So how will Joe Biden respond? He seems to be between a rock and a hard place. If he stops shipping missiles and drones to Ukraine, the war is basically over and Russia has won. Perhaps Zelensky's defiance will be what it takes to drive the White House toward shifting gears and beginning to work on a diplomatic path to end the war. 

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Dennis Prager 12:00 AM | May 22, 2024
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