Biden inexplicably urges Ukraine not to be so effective fighting against Russia

It was another week of bad decisions in Washington, and Ukraine continues to pay the price. 

According to the Financial Times, the Biden administration, in response to Ukrainian drone attacks on 12 oil refineries in Russia, “urged Ukraine to halt attacks on Russia’s energy infrastructure, warning that the drone strikes risk driving up global oil prices and provoking retaliation.”

So the White House seems more concerned about keeping global and domestic oil prices below $85 in an election year than it is about stopping the revenue that funds Russian aggression in Ukraine.

To date, Bloomberg News estimates that Kyiv has destroyed 12 percent of Russia’s refinery production capacity, including a strike against the St. Petersburg Oil Terminal 900 kilometers deep into Russia. 

It is absurd to ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his generals to stop attacking Russian wartime energy capacity. Militarily speaking, it is also doctrinally unsound. During World War II, the Allies began bombing Nazi Germany’s oil refineries in Ploiești, Romania in 1942, and continued doing so unabated until the war’s end in May 1945. This was key to winning the war, as it destroyed the Germans’ ability to fuel tanks, fighter planes, bombers, armored vehicles and supply trucks.

To win the war, Ukraine must likewise degrade the Kremlin’s ability to deliver troops, munitions and weapons to the front lines in the Donbas and the Crimean Peninsula.

What has changed in Washington? Paying the “Putin Tax” was acceptable when this was used politically, to explain away the 2022 surge in inflation. But paying a “Zelensky Tax” on gasoline during Biden’s re-election year is apparently not acceptable.

This is a terrible look for the Biden administration — putting the cost of gasoline over the lives and sovereignty of Ukrainians. The White House has not issued any condemnations over the recent Russian cruise missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets and energy infrastructure — power plants, energy supply lines, electric grids, and a hydroelectric power plant. Not only are Ukrainian cities under daily Russian attack — including Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv, and Zaporizhzhia — but so are their civilian populations.

Zelensky is fighting back with what he has — drones. And he is striking Russia where it hurts, in the pocketbook. He is attacking the Kremlin’s global means of funding Putin’s war.

This is not the White House’s only self-defeating policy decision in Ukraine. This self-serving election year decision is second in its illogic only to the White House’s decision to modify HIMARS so they could not be used to fire long-range missiles into Russia. Even as Biden discourages Ukraine from a winning strategy, he continues to withhold critical weapons and ammunition needed to fight and win the war.

Biden’s success in November cannot be made more important than saving Ukrainian lives.

After twenty-five months of sustained combat operations in Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military, its doctrine and tactics are clear. It intends to annihilate Ukraine. Yet the U.S. and NATO are falling short of enabling Ukraine to effectively counter or defeat the Russians. Rather, they provide just enough for Ukraine to survive with a losing, defense-oriented strategy.

There is still no plan in place to defeat Russia. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin opened the 20th Ukraine Defense Contact Group conference in Ramstein, Germany on Mar. 19 by saying, “The United States will not let Ukraine fail. This coalition will not let Ukraine fail.” But fail they will, unless they are given the weapons necessary to defeat and forcibly evict the Russian military from Ukraine. And defensive weapons will not accomplish that task.

While the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government continue their impasse on funding Ukraine, Zelensky has turned to individual countries to secure unilateral security agreements. To date, it has achieved seven: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark, Canada, Italy and the Netherlands. Such agreements with Poland and Romania are currently being finalized.

Added to this is the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group and the artillery coalition led by France and the Czech Republic. In the works are coalitions for armor and drone warfare, an air force, maritime security, ground-based air defense, de-mining and information technology capabilities.  

But the West’s stated purpose is “to build a future Ukrainian force capable of deterring Russian aggression for the long term.” Putin is well beyond the point where deterrence is possible. For Ukraine, the choice is now one of win or perish.

To date, the Russian military has repeatedly failed on the battlefield, amassing a staggering  437,390 casualties in the process. Its ground forces, however, continue to advance through sheer brute force and mass. 

With dwindling munitions for the close fight, Ukraine is forced to strike strategic targets to weaken Russia. The 800,000 rounds of artillery secured by the Czech Republic will help in the close fight and kill many Russians, but Putin will simply find more warm bodies to put into its uniforms.

Russia plans on winning, and probably not just in Ukraine. Newsweek reports that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu plans to stand-up two more combined arms armies and “14 divisions, as well as 16 brigades by the end of 2024.” That is in addition to the two armies that were activated in 2023 and are already fighting in Ukraine.


The West does not have an effective response. Ukraine has one, but the White House does not like it.

Washington and Brussels need to start making better decisions. More of the same is not going to work, because Putin is not going to give up. 

Col. (ret.) Jonathan Sweet served 30 years as a military intelligence officer. Mark Toth writes on national security and foreign policy.

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