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Strategically unwise move: diplomat Bryza on White House criticism of Ukrainian strikes on Russian oil refineries

4 May, 2024 Saturday
17:28

Former US Secretary of State Matthew Bryza has sharply criticised the White House for asking Ukraine to refrain from striking oil refineries in Russia

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He said this in an interview with Antin Borkovskyi, host of the Studio West program on Espreso.

"I think that was a really unwise request or warning from the White House for Ukraine not to target deep into Russian territory, target oil refineries. It comes across as so selfish and so arrogant, and fundamentally, it's strategically unwise. Of course, I understand that President Biden really wants to win the election in autumn, and I think that's best for all of us, for all friends of Ukraine, if he does win. But the importance of undermining Russia's fuel supplies to me far outweighs whatever potential marginal increase there might be in the price of refined products, meaning gasoline, in the United States before the election in November. There are so many reasons why oil prices, and then why refined products, so benzene prices rise or decrease, and the elimination of a relatively small supply in global markets of Russian refined crude oil or gasoline or diesel cannot possibly be big enough to have an impact on the US elections," Bryza said.

The expert suggested that the White House's decision could have been hasty and caused by internal debates related to possible political consequences for US President Joe Biden.

"So strategically, I think the political team of President Biden panicked, and probably there was an argument over along the lines of you people who want to enable to welcome Ukraine targeting Russia's refineries, don't you know, you'll be out of a job, and there will be no President Biden in the second term, and therefore no help at all for Ukraine if oil prices rise too highly. That's true. But if oil prices rise too high, it's a global phenomenon, and it's not because your oil refineries in Russia have been damaged," the former US Secretary of State's adviser concluded.

At the same time, if Donald Trump wins the election, he will still continue to support Ukraine, Bryza said.

"If Trump is re-elected, though he's much less supportive in principle of Ukraine. And of course, he was impeached because of the way he was behaving with President Zelensky, I mean the first impeachment of President Trump. However, having said that, it was not Barack Obama who provided any military assistance to Ukraine after Russia's previous invasion. It was Donald Trump when he first authorized the transfer of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. And also this time, when Speaker Johnson finally said he's going to put the Ukraine assistance package to a vote, Donald Trump did not oppose it and, in fact, said positive things about Speaker Johnson after the vote to provide the assistance to Ukraine went through. I think even Donald Trump, as unpredictable as he is and as sometimes as problematic as he is with regard to Russia, I think he understands that the United States needs to keep on supporting Ukraine as much as possible," he concluded.

What preceded it 

At the Munich Security Conference in February, US Vice President Kamala Harris personally appealed to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to refrain from striking Russian oil refineries.

On April 10, US Assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander said that Russian oil refineries are "civilian targets".

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said that Ukraine's attacks on Russian oil refineries could affect global energy markets. He advised Ukrainians to focus on other targets.

On April 10, Espreso correspondent Tatiana Vysotska reported that the PACE called Russian refineries a legitimate target for Ukraine and included it in a resolution.

As a reminder, the US has cancelled its demand that Ukraine not strike Russian refineries.

"Just a few weeks ago, US officials were very persistent in asking Ukraine not to strike Russian refineries at all. After a short time of deliberation, the Ukrainian side replied that there was no help from the US and we would do everything to stop Russia. Now the aid has been voted for, but the strikes continue," Ivan Stupak, a military expert, told Espreso.

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