On the 20th of February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The attack was timed around one month before the start of spring and has raged throughout summer.
Now, winter is coming. The eyes of the world are fixed on the conflict in Ukraine and are anxious to see how winter will change the war.
In today’s article, we’re going to draw upon our prior experience in conflict zones in the harsh winters of Eastern Europe to provide an insight into five ways the war will change.
Less Daylight Means An Increased Need For Night Vision Capability
As the war in Ukraine surged throughout summer, we’ve seen instances of harsh combat raging 24 hours a day.
An average of 15 to 16 hours of daylight gives soldiers immense visibility and the numerous advantages that come with it.
Increased visibility in summer afforded both sides increased mobility, and frontlines shifted enormously. Particularly towards the end with the major Ukrainian push East.
In winter, Ukraine will see a maximum of 9 hours of daylight. Offensives will likely be few and far between, and the frontline will undoubtedly become a static, bogged down, and all-around miserable affair.
Night vision capability will be vital. Those who don’t have it will be unwilling to fight in the dark.
However, there are claims that Ukrainian night vision technology is a thorn in Russia’s side, so time will tell if it will be a deciding factor during nighttime warfare this winter.
Temperatures Will Plummet
Some of my toughest times in Eastern European conflict zones have been working during the dead of winter. It’s not for the faint-hearted.
The warm, balmy summer temperatures will be a distant memory as temperatures plummet to below zero in the coming weeks.
The fighting may dull, but death rates will undoubtedly rise. Russia has proven its inability to operate logistical lines to its troops successfully, and Ukraine faces its own problems.
The fervent Western support for Ukraine at the beginning of the war may fade away in the wake of the energy crisis across Europe, thus hampering the flow of Western military aid.
Without adequate winter clothing supplies, both sides will suffer enormous losses from frostbite, hypothermia and other cold injuries.
In addition, winter will see the Golden Hour, the critical timeframe to rescue a wounded solder, sliced in half in the wake of freezing temperatures.
This will make firefights much more threatening, thus limiting each side’s desire to fight even further.
Unleashing Psychological Warfare
There are concerns that Russian forces will use winter to batten down the hatches, rebuild, regroup, and launch a new form of warfare in the meantime.
Russia could be preparing a new wave of devastating missile strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure to blackout the country and make it uninhabitable for civilians this winter.
The overall aim could be to trigger a second wave of migration and add pressure on the Ukrainian population to demand an end to the war by any means possible.
Winter Will Change The War By Causing Severe Issues With Kit Maintenance
The coming winter in Ukraine will see a dramatic increase in rain, wind and snow. All of which will bring a flood of issues for both sides.
Naturally, it will hit the already low morale of mobilized Russian conscripts being thrown into the fight.
But, in particular, it will cause severe issues with the maintenance of weapons and equipment.
In particular, it could hit Western-supplied armaments to Ukraine hard. Russian kit is better suited to harsh winter weather conditions when compared to its Western counterparts.
A Time For Reflection, a Time To Regroup
It’s widely accepted that Russia massively misjudged the initial invasion of Ukraine. Their forces were unprepared for the fight ahead and expected widespread capitulation.
Winter will provide the Kremlin with a time to reflect on mistakes made and a long-awaited time to regroup, re-arm and plan out their strategy for 2023.
It will also give Russia a chance to seek out new flows of arms from old and new friends. Increasingly, all eyes are looking towards China as Russia’s arms supplying saviour, although China has heavily dismissed any prospect of supplying lethal aid to the Kremlin.
“Russia badly needs a pause to regroup, to get support from China and then hit us again.”– Steven Myers, former member of the State Department Advisory Committee on International Economic policy and founder of a defense consulting firm.
Similarly, Ukraine will undoubtedly do the same. The West has already pledged to resupply the country with more arms, kit, and aid to try and ensure their chances of survival through winter and beyond.
Winter Will Be a Merciless Battle Ground. But Which Side Is Better Prepared?
Only time will tell what will come. But it goes without saying that this winter will be a bloody and harsh one indeed.
Whatever the ice brings, there will be no true winners of this devastating war.