Streetwise Professor

April 13, 2024

Would You Believe . . . Ukraine Refinery Attack Edition

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia,Ukraine — cpirrong @ 10:53 am

As I noted in a previous post, the Biden administration has tried to restrain Ukraine from attacking Russian oil refineries. The previous reason, as set forth by SecDef Lloyd “AWOL” Austin, was that these attacks would disrupt world energy markets.

Translation: these attacks would increase gasoline prices which scares the bejesus out of an inflation-battered administration in an election year.

But apparently the administration decided that wasn’t a very good look. Too obviously self-serving, and perhaps too dissonant with its the-war-in-Ukraine-is-a-vital-US-national-interest one.

So, would you believe, the administration is REALLY concerned on humanitarian, just war grounds:

Nah, we wouldn’t believe that, actually. Especially since this oh-so high minded critique of Ukrainian military tactics has heretofore been completely absent from American policy makers’ discourses. It’s obviously a lie to cover the election-obsessed administration’s true motivations. That is, AWOL Austin committed the Kinseyan gaffe of speaking the truth, and this gaffe had to be cleaned up.

This justification is also utterly ridiculous on myriad grounds. For one thing, as Rep. Scott pointed out, why should Ukraine fight asymmetrically, but in a bad way, taking blow after blow to its civilian targets but not striking back. For another, oil refineries are a legitimate military target, given (a) Russia’s armies in Ukraine run on the fuel they produce, (b) fuel exports are a material source of revenue for the Russian government, and (c) the Kremlin is clearly concerned about higher fuel prices, and the potential effect they would have on support for the war.

For yet another, in military conflicts in the modern age the United States has made attacking enemy energy assets a primary target. In WWII, the most effective element of the strategic bombing offensive (and one that probably should have been introduced earlier) was the attacks on Germany synthetic fuel production. (The attacks on the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania in 1943 less successful, but the April-August 1944 attacks did materially restrict fuel supplies to the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe). In Gulf War I, one of the first targets of American air strikes (after Iraqi air defenses were dismantled in the first wave) were Iraqi electric power plants, which were attacked with graphite bombs. Soon after, the US turned its attention to, yes, Iraqi oil refineries. In 1999 the US unleashed graphite bombs on Serbian power plants.

The US, in other words, has long recognized the strategic importance of enemy energy production, and has made it a priority target. So why shouldn’t Ukraine?

And note that given the previous history, Wallender is implicitly accusing the United States of violating the laws of armed conflict.

It’s actually quite disgusting that the administration covers its nakedly political motivations with high sounding blather about “the laws of armed conflict” and the “standards of European democracy.” Maxwell Smart was funny. These clowns are not.

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  1. Given the usual effect of war in accelerating technical developments I’m surprised we’ve not heard anything about Russian EV tanks. Those would not be too bothered by strikes on refineries.

    Comment by dearieme — April 13, 2024 @ 1:54 pm

  2. I’d be interested to hear the Prof’s thoughts on the impact that disabling Russian refineries would actually have on the global refined oil products markets. Prices might go down, as Russia is forced to export more crude that they’re unable to process at home. Or prices might go up as Russia imports more refined products, competing with other consumers. Or they might not, since the limited transport capacity might limit Russian purchases… Maybe the Biden administration is tying itself up in knots over nothing.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — April 15, 2024 @ 8:55 am

  3. This is all a waste of life. We broke our promise and treaties with Russia by pushing NATO membership on Ukraine. The “war”:is over and now that it has come out the majority of Ukraine’s farm land is owned by USA investment companies, we had bio labs set up across the country, NGOs were set up just to fill the pockets of our politicians friends, families and ex-staff, they will continue to push the population of Ukraine to their deaths and we should all reflect on who is really running our country. . .We should be ashamed.

    Comment by OldSarg — April 19, 2024 @ 10:45 am

  4. I’ve found this Mearsheimer lecture from 2015. I find him persuasive (but then I am an ignoramus on the subject – I have never, for instance, sat on the board of a Ukrainian company that pays bribes to …)

    Comment by dearieme — April 20, 2024 @ 6:09 am

  5. Oops! Herewith:

    Comment by dearieme — April 20, 2024 @ 12:51 pm

  6. @OldSarg “We should be ashamed”.

    To the contrary: you should be proud. Compressing around a half of all Russian disinfo on the topic into a single rant is quite a feat.

    Comment by Ivan — April 20, 2024 @ 5:10 pm

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