U.S. Asks Ukraine To Spare Russian Oil Refineries

U.S. White House | Image by Marc Guitard/Getty Images

On the same day that a terrorist attack in Moscow killed dozens of people, the United States was warning Ukraine to hold off on some of its asymmetrical warfare tactics, including attacks on oil refineries.

The Biden administration’s admonition was communicated to senior Ukrainian officials in the state security service as well as the country’s military intelligence, according to the Financial Times.

The reason for the proscription from Ukraine’s principal patron, per the outlet, is that the drone strikes — like the roughly dozen carried out by Kyiv against Russia’s refineries and related energy facilities — risk driving up the global price of oil and invite retaliation.

Though Russian energy products are under Western imposed sanctions as well as a price cap, Russia is the second biggest oil and gas exporting country in the world. Further, as FT reported, U.S. intelligence agencies are concerned that Moscow could respond by shutting down the central Asian energy infrastructure that the West relies upon, such as the CPC pipeline from Kazakhstan that passes through Russia.

It remains to be seen how receptive the Ukrainian government is to the message. On Friday, Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, said, “The Ukrainian side responded, I think, precisely by achieving its goals and by very successful operations conducted on the territory of the Russian Federation,” per FT.

“We understand the appeals of our American partners,” Stefanishyna remarked during the Kyiv Security Forum. “At the same time, we are fighting with the capabilities, resources, and practices that we have today.” To Kyiv, Russia’s energy infrastructure is an important target as it seeks to disrupt its larger neighbor’s ability to supply its troops with fuel and to cut the Kremlin’s ability to fund its invasion.

Yet the appeals Stefanishyna noted are tied to President Biden’s desire to arrest rising gas prices, which have increased domestically by 15% so far in 2024.

“Nothing terrifies a sitting American president more than a surge in pump prices during an election year,” said Bob McNally, president of consultancy Rapidan Energy, per FT.

Another reason for Kyiv’s attacks deep into Russia to hit refineries and other targets is to send a message that Moscow is vulnerable, too, as FT reported.

Revelation of the administration’s request to its embattled ally came on the same day that a group of terrorists opened fire on a crowded concert hall outside Moscow, killing at least 137 people. Though the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the massacre, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted that the perpetrators had ties to Ukraine. Ukraine has denied any involvement in the terrorist attack.

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