As Ukrainian forces struggle to capitalize on recent battlefield victories, the fast-approaching winter threatens to stall the conflict and offer Russian commanders a chance to stop their momentum. Falling temperatures are expected to increase troop demand for even the most basic supplies, straining already overloaded supply lines.
Millions of Ukrainians without electricity
Recently, Presidential Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak also said that Ukraine must win its war with Russia before winter to prevent its neighbour from going to bed in the long run.
“It is very important for us not to go into the winter. After the winter, when the Russians will have more time to stand up, it will certainly be more difficult. It is very important for us not to give them this chance.” Yermak told the Ukrainian weekly Novoye Vremya.
Russia is systematically destroying the country. Millions of Ukrainians no longer have electricity. They are willing to plunge the country into darkness during the winter, which is a war crime,” said the European Union’s high diplomatic representative, Josep Borrell, during a G7 ministerial meeting last week.
Russia waiting for general winter
Putin is waiting for ‘General Winter’ to come and support the Russian Army,” concluded his statement, in which he advocated shielding allied aid to Kyiv in the hard months ahead.
With winter knocking at the doors of Ukraine and Europe, more and more analyzes of the war revolve around the casuistry of the weather and its effects on the conflict. The trite ‘general’ now appears in conversations and meetings, often distorted by historical epics and war folklore that, from Napoleon to Hitler, assume that sub-zero degrees are Russia’s friend in troubled times.
But if the first war in Europe in the 21st century has done anything, it is to break down myths, clichés and prejudices. Ukraine’s allies have increased supplies of coats, hats and other insulating clothing to give their personnel an advantage over the elements.
Concern for Ukrainian commanders
In reality, no one knows exactly what kind of winter the Ukrainians will face this time. A couple of weeks ago, the Ukrainian meteorological service forecast a milder season than usual.
“The average temperature of the winter period is expected to be 1º or 2º higher than normal […] The probability of long periods of very cold temperatures with minimum temperatures of -25º or -30º in Ukraine is very low.
The most likely cold period is 1 to 5 days with minimum temperatures at night of -15º or -20º”, the state meteorological center said.
Still, the season is challenging for soldiers. First, the autumn (rains) that have already been felt on the ground, muddying roads and muddying trenches. And then the cold, harsher and drier in the north, and wetter in the south.
Now, the concern of Ukrainian commanders is the risk that certain weapons will degrade due to inclement weather. It’s unclear, observers say, how durable their military systems are, given their heavy use. And operating such equipment in the cold will require more energy, since the accumulation of snow only complicates the transportation of fuel and parts.
Russia’s interest to freeze
In this context, the consensus of analysts is that it is in Moscow’s interest to freeze as much as possible on most of the fronts where it is currently on the defensive and to dig in during the winter. Putin could use this oxygen balloon to regroup and redeploy his forces on the ground.
The president assured this week that his levy has recruited some 318,000 troops, of which almost 50,000 would already be in a combat zone, stabilizing and densifying Russian defensive lines.
“The Russian strategy seems to be focused on defense during the winter, with the hope that the mobilization [of the reservists] can rebuild their forces. If the pressure rises, it will use that time to draw more equipment from its reserves (including from Belarus) and potential sources of ammunition, such as North Korea, ”explained Michael Kofman, director of the CNA (The Center for Naval Analyses) and an expert in Russia, in a thread on Twitter.
But, thousands of kilometres from the trenches, the ‘Agent Winter’ will operate on other fronts of the war that must be taken into account to analyze its possible implications on the ground. Moscow has unleashed a relentless campaign of bombing and kamikaze drone strikes that are crippling Ukraine’s power grid and other key civilian infrastructure. It is not just the morale of civilians that Putin wants to undermine by making his life miserable; also the patience of the Western allies.
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