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Ukraine’s drones targeting Russian oil supplies

Apr 3


Rapid advancements in drone technology, both military and civilian, have reshaped the Russia-Ukraine war on a number of occasions since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. Recently, Ukrainian drones successfully hit a number of valuable oil depots and refineries deep within Russia, while Russian drones struck the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv itself.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan says that the Ukrainians are again demonstrating new tactical and strategic abilities, specifically the ability for their drones to hit targets over 600 miles away. Zeihan argues that the selection of their targets also shows a deepening Ukrainian understanding of Russian vulnerabilities on both military and economic fronts.

The following is an excerpt from Peter’s April 3 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

The Ukrainians are getting creative and finding ways to launch longer-range attacks on Russian infrastructure. We’ve already seen strikes on pipeline nexuses and chemical complexes as deep as Samara and Tatarstan.

Attacks like these hold significant economic implications for the Russians, as any disruptions to these oil facilities could be devastating. The issue isn’t so much that Ukraine is poking holes in Russian air defense, but perhaps exposing that there… isn’t any.

Attacks like these will likely prove to be a growing challenge for Russian security and economic stability as the conflict continues.

Hi, everyone, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Colorado got a fresh dusting overnight because you know, April, it’s April 2 And the news in the last three or four days is that the Ukrainians have demonstrated a significantly longer range for weapons systems launched from Ukraine proper. Specifically, the Ukrainians have been able to hit targets with their new drones that are in the locations of some Mara and torture stand. Now, these are more important than a lot of these in pieces of infrastructure that Ukrainians have been hitting with their drone campaign recently. Semara is a major pipeline Nexus, where a lot of the crude that comes in from Southwestern Siberia gets processed or redirected to European or Black Sea markets. And Tatarstan is even deeper within the Russian Federation in Siberia. Proper edit is also a major chemicals and refining complex. So the significance here is pretty pretty strong. The issue is throughput, the Russians don’t have a lot of storage, the country is really big. And the most of these systems were built in the Imperial age into the Soviets. So they were designed to supply the Empire. Well, now that the Empire has gone its own way and most of the former Soviet republics, and former Soviet satellite states are getting their crude and natural gas from somewhere else. The Russians are completely dependent now for income on getting this crude out to the wider world. That means getting into the black and the Baltic Sea because they can’t really use the pipes to go into Germany anymore. So when you think of that, and then you look at notes, like somewhere in Tatarstan, we have a problem. Because if these are interrupted, especially tomorrow, which is a Nexus, then the crude has nowhere to go. There’s not a backup system. When these clusters get taken offline, for whatever reason, pressure builds up in the pipe back to the wellhead. Now, this could be worse. The facilities that are in southwestern Siberia, especially places like Tatarstan in butcher, Kyrgyzstan, it doesn’t get so cold there in the winter that the wellheads freeze. But now that the Ukrainians have demonstrated the ability to strike over 1000 kilometers from their border, it’s only a matter of time before they start aiming for targets that are north of Moscow instead of south of Moscow. And if those pipeline nexuses go offline, then you’re talking about the wellheads in northwestern Siberia actually freezing shut and a lot of the stuff just goes offline forever. Because if the wellhead freezes shut, you have to read drill it and you can only drink read drill in the Arctic summer and that only lasts for about three or four months a year. So that’s kind of piece one piece two is what’s going on in Tatarstan Tatarstan because it is a combination of producing zone and chemical zone. A lot of these chemicals are what allows the Russian agricultural system to work and a lot of this stuff is exported to China. So what the Ukrainians are demonstrating is the capacity to identify targets that move up the value added chain not just going after raw crude, not just going after refined product, but even downstream products like chemicals manufacturer. So the economic hits to the Russians from this continues to climb. And now it’s really just an issue of whether or not the Russians have the capacity of getting meaningful air defense at the hundreds of facilities that they have across European and Western Siberia and Russia in order to stymie these attacks in the first place. Because they’re clearly not moving fast enough on the front in order to disrupt these drones launching. And this is a very, very cheap way to do it. These things cost more than say the Iranian Shaheed drones, but you’re still talking about Well, well, well, well under a million dollars a pop, whereas a refinery that handles 100,000 barrels a day is going to run, you know, cool billion dollars on a good day. So the disruption here is real, it is getting bigger. And we’re getting to the point where it’s time to start thinking about what happens when Russian crude and materials processing goes offline in some form. Because we’re only in the early days of this Ukrainian campaign. And now that they found a soft spot, you can guarantee they’re going to hit it over and over and over and over. Quick at the end. There is very clear footage coming out of toddler son of a small passenger plane think of something like the size of assess that maybe a little bit bigger, fly in and ramming into a munitions factory that builds drones for the Russian military, specifically, the Shahed type has been causing Ukrainians so many problems. Now, it’s not so much the significance of this attack because attacking the factory floor with a 5200 pound bomb. You know, let’s let’s call it huge saves 300 pounds isn’t going to cause enough damage to really take anything offline. The issue is that it got there it flew over 1000 kilometers through Russian air space. That means one of two things either number one, the Ukrainians now have kits that they can smuggle into Russia, modify a plane at an airfield within Russia and launch like that which would be from an internal security point of view and a technical point of view just a disaster.


For the Russians, or the Russians have absolutely no anti aircraft coverage in the core of the country where most of the infrastructure is and most of the people live, no matter what the outcome here is, this is a disaster for the Russians, because there’s no doubt that the Ukrainians will be now be doing it at scale because it’s clear the Russians can’t stop them.


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