Vladimir Putin turns to “General Winter” – but this time he may be fighting for the other side

The Russians have long considered General Winter their trusted ally.

Itler had to take this to his credit when he invaded the USSR in 1941, having learned nothing from Napoleon’s retreat across the steppes in 1812.

But in both campaigns, winter was only one factor. Anyone who thinks that sub-zero temperatures in Ukraine will now favor Russia is fundamentally wrong.

For one thing, Ukrainians are neither German nor French. Like the Russians, they are used to snow, ice and low temperatures. They know how to live and survive in it, as did the Finns when Stalin invaded in 1939 and was defeated by a much smaller army in a freezing war for their territory.

Those who have fought in sub-zero temperatures know that winter warfare is as much about staving off the cold as it is about dodging shells and bullets. Even if both sides are acclimatized in this war, the cold weather will hit them hard as frostbite threatens to cripple and kill them.

The tremors of a frozen dugout or abandoned farmhouse with no prospect of recovery from the weather can seep through even the toughest soldier and drive him to fend for himself. Then hypothermia strikes, sometimes fatally.

In such conditions, training is vital, with soldiers being taught to look out for one another to spot early signs of deterioration. Ukrainian troops are better trained and more disciplined than the Russian invaders and are therefore better armed.

Cold-weather clothing keeps soldiers alive and fighting in the winter. For the most part, Ukraine’s men are well-equipped and are being supplied by allies.

The Russians are less so, with reports of newly mobilized soldiers having to find their own coats, hats and sleeping bags to make up for missing supplies to line their quartermasters’ pockets.

In all wars and in all seasons, morale is the most important factor in combat, and never more so than in winter.

Here the Ukrainians will have the upper hand. Russian soldiers were sent to a foreign country to fight, many do not know why, and some resent it.

The Ukrainians, on the other hand, are fighting for their lives, their families and their homes. They’ve suffered badly in the fighting so far, but their morale has been boosted by months of success.

It is the will to fight with all your might, even under such terrible conditions, that makes the difference between persevering, giving up or even fleeing.

Putin’s generals withdrew from Kherson this month because they could not adequately supply their armed forces. Herein lies another crucial difference between today and the wars when General Winter came to Russia’s aid: This is a Russian offensive, not a defensive operation.

Ukraine’s focus on Russian supply lines has paid off and will yield even bigger dividends this winter as logistics tighten, equipment breaks down and demand for fuel and food increases.

However, this is anything but a one-sided challenge. Russian missile attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in recent weeks have also disrupted military logistics, including hampering the movement of supplies, troops and armored vehicles.

Meanwhile, supply chains on both sides will be under greater pressure as armies wage the Winter War while concentrating supplies and forces for renewed large-scale fighting when the weather eases.

Russia needs a lull in the fighting to train and equip troops and advance into the combat zone. Ukraine, too, needs time to revive and resupply an army that has been battered despite its victories in nine months of fighting.

We should remember that Putin was hoping to use the winter to undermine European support for his enemy, cut energy supplies to drive up prices and force a trembling population to pressure politicians to abandon Ukraine. The situation looks less dire than it did a few months ago as the market has adjusted, gas reserves have built up and prices are now lower.

Still, war fatigue in the West remains a concern our leaders must work to overcome as Ukraine enters the “worst winter” predicted by President Zelenskyy as an independent nation.

Colonel Richard Kemp is a former commander in the British Army

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/vladimir-putin-turns-to-general-winter-but-this-time-he-may-be-fighting-for-the-other-side-42166151.html Vladimir Putin turns to “General Winter” – but this time he may be fighting for the other side

Fry Electronics Team

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