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The US and France are playing good cop, bad cop with Ukraine’s attacks on Russia

Washington maintains it doesn’t “support or enable” Kiev’s deep strikes, while France argues they’re legitimate

“It’s our policy from Day One, when it comes to Ukraine, to do everything we can to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression. At the same time, we have neither supported nor enabled strikes by Ukraine outside of its territory,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said while standing beside his French counterpart in Paris a few days ago, in the wake of Ukraine’s drone attack on the Nizhnekamsk oil refinery in Tatarstan, responsible for over 6% of Russia’s oil output.

“Ukraine is acting within the framework of legitimate defense. We consider Russia to be the aggressor. Based on this, there can be no other comments,” said the French foreign affairs minister, Stephane Sejourne, of the incident, chalking it up to the refinery being a military target, even though its oil output as one of the country’s five largest such facilities sounds pretty important for civilians. 

The United Nations generally condemned “all attacks on civilian infrastructure” without getting caught up in the debate of whether this particular target was legitimately military or civilian. That’s for international law to decide years from now, if ever. France could have said something like that, but decided instead to go all-in on its support for this new escalation involving attacks deeper inside Russian territory – even when the target isn’t overtly and unambiguously military, or at least in the absence of any evidence from Paris for why it was qualifying it as such.  

Why is France so keen to encourage strikes inside Russia while standing right beside Blinken, if the US truly condemns them? The answer is that maybe the US actually doesn’t. Just ask the Ukrainians. “The flights are determined in advance with our allies, and the aircraft follow the flight plan to enable us to strike targets with meters of precision,” an unnamed Ukrainian source told CNN for a report referencing the drone attack on Nizhnekamsk and Russia’s massive Rosneft Ryazan refinery, both hundreds of kilometers away from the Ukraine conflict front line.

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Of course there’s always the possibility that the CNN report isn’t talking specifically about the US – just its Western allies – and the Pentagon has absolutely nothing to do with this targeting, and its hands are squeaky clean. Except that Ukrainian sources bragged to the press again in February 2023, in a “my daddy lets me play with these cool rockets” kind of way, telling the Washington Post that they were getting the coordinates for US-made HIMARS rocket attacks from Washington and its allies. A US official even confirmed it. “One senior Ukrainian official said Ukrainian forces almost never launch the advanced weapons without specific coordinates provided by US military personnel from a base elsewhere in Europe,” according to the Post. Is that any different now? Or is Washington just hoping to create a smokescreen using its allies and corporate lingo to deflect responsibility? 

The Post quotes a “senior US official” who underscored that the role is strictly “advisory.” Sounds kind of like when Blinken says that the US neither “supports nor enables” strikes. If Washington happens to leave the HIMARS or drone coordinates lying around where you can see them, don’t go using them to blow stuff up, okay? 

Some people’s parents don’t “support or enable” them doing drugs or alcohol, either, but then tell their kids that if they absolutely must, and are going to do it anyway, then just do it in the garage where it can be supervised. Nice parental supervision the US and its allies are doing here with Kiev. An audio recording, intercepted by Russian intelligence, just leaked back in February of German Air Force brass plotting to help Ukrainians target the Crimean Bridge with drones, which unlike refineries is an indisputably civilian target. A highlight of their musings was how they might go about doing it without leaving any German fingerprints. Of course, Washington would never entertain such thoughts.

We keep hearing how Washington doesn’t want Russian refineries to be hit because it risks driving up the global oil price, particularly if Russia retaliates proportionally. Yeah, that sounds totally legit in light of all the US-driven energy market deregulation that’s taken place so far as a result of the Ukraine conflict, including the mysterious explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia to Europe. Washington seems really broken up about that – and about the EU now having an overdependence on US liquified natural gas instead. How absolutely horrible would it be if oil prices spiked because of Ukrainian drone shenanigans at a time when headlines abound of US oil exports hitting record highs as it becomes the top global oil producer?  

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This latest performance in Paris by Blinken and Sejourne is on par with French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent Napoleonic musings about sending French troops to fight Russia while he posed up a storm for glamor shots with a punching bag. If there’s one country whose recent rhetoric makes the US look almost pacifist by comparison right now, it’s France. It’s like someone with a mild drinking problem hanging out with a raging alcoholic and looking reasonable by comparison. 

Blinken flying over for this press conference in Paris had the vibe of an actor traveling to be on location for filming. Maybe they can record this new buddy movie and submit it to next year’s Oscars, where they can have fellow actor, Vladimir Zelensky, present it. Throw in some more footage of Macron preparing to fight Vladimir Putin with the help of Coach Photoshop, and Blinken holding the punching bag talking about how Macron’s such a maniac for wanting to go over to Russia and kick down doors against Blinken’s advice. 

Something definitely seems to be up with these two. Since when does Paris stand there right in front of Washington like Sejourne just did with Blinken, and imply that Ukraine can risk escalation inside Russia now? Unless, of course, Washington is in fact totally cool with it. It would be nice to know what the US is offering France in exchange for playing the bad cop role, or if France is just dumb enough to be doing it for free. 

 

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