Washington should support Ukraine striking Russian oil facilities

Bob McConnell
April 15, 2024

In the last three weeks, we have heard – and Ukraine and the world have heard – repeatedly that the United States would like Kyiv to stop attacking Russia's oil facilities. Surely, Putin appreciated the sentiments.

Administration officials — Jake Sullivan, Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken,  and Assistant Secretary of Defense Wallander  — may be stating Administration policy, but they do not speak for me, and their presentations are embarrassing.

In support of their urging Ukraine not to strike Putin’s oil facilities, they talk about ramifications to oil prices – really?  One must wonder if they believe what they are saying.

Russia is waging a barbaric war against Ukraine, and Ukraine is fighting for its very survival.

Targeting Russian refineries that fuel Putin's war machine is entirely legitimate according to international law. (And attacking the means of war under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter includes assets that permit the invaded state to respond, including oil and gas.)  The United States Government should be supporting Ukraine's legal actions and protecting Ukraine from Russia's illegal ones.

Reducing Russian refineries' capacity to produce petroleum products does nothing to reduce Russian crude oil exports.  In fact, it likely increases it as crude not run in Russian refineries would be exported instead. (The recent runup in global oil price has more to do with the growing conflict in the Middle East.)

The bottom line is the Administration does not want Ukraine to target anything in Russia.  That has been bad American policy throughout Russia’s criminal war against Ukraine, and that policy has, among other things, assured Russian military sanctuaries both inside Russia and in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory.

The Administration is against Ukraine targeting anything inside Russia.

The Administration has refused to provide Ukraine with long-range, precise weapons like the ATACMS we have called for now for over two years.  Weapons that could make those now U.S.-protected Russian sanctuaries untenable.

It is time for the Administration to stop focusing on how to minimize Ukraine’s ability to protect itself and defeat Putin and adopt an unequivocal policy, committing the United States to seeing Ukraine has what it needs to defeat Putin.


Co-Founder, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation

Director of External Affairs, Friends of Ukraine Network

The expressed here are Mr. McConnell’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN)