Ukrainians don’t need to be fans of George R.R. Martin to know that “winter is coming.” Russia’s bombing campaign on urban centers and civilian infrastructure leaves Ukraine facing the prospect of a very real humanitarian crisis if its electrical grid collapses.
Virtually all of the large non-nuclear power stations in the country have been hit in recent strikes, along with more than 30% of the network’s routing substations. Already, Kyiv has pleaded with Western countries to supply badly needed spare parts, along with more missile defense systems to help counter such damaging attacks.
“This is the biggest missile attack on electricity infrastructure in history,” Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, the chief executive of Ukrenergo, the sole operator of the country’s high-voltage transmission lines, told The Guardian. “Therefore, the impact is huge. Unfortunately, the situation is critical. They are trying to specifically destroy the Ukrainian power system, and this supplies tens of millions of the population.”
Ukraine War: Enter the Wet Cold
A Russian or Ukrainian winter may evoke images of frozen tundra with blinding blizzards and sub-zero temperatures. This further conjures images of “General Winter,” the ally of the Russian people that has helped defeat countless invaders from the west.
General Winter could make an appearance later in this war, but even right now, the weather can be especially dangerous for those fighting on the frontlines.
Ukraine is entering a period described in the U.S. Army Official Winter Field Manual as the period of “wet cold,” which is actually harder to live in than the “dry cold” that could begin early in the new year. According to the manual, “Wet cold conditions occur when wet snow and rain often accompany wet cold conditions. This type of environment is more dangerous to troops and equipment than the colder, dry cold environments because the ground becomes slushy and muddy and clothing and equipment becomes perpetually wet and damp.”
It added, “Under wet cold conditions, the ground alternates between freezing and thawing because the temperatures fluctuate above and below the freezing point. This makes planning problematic.”
Just as brutal cold has saved Russia in the past, the wet cold could help the Kremlin’s forces now. The mud and the wet conditions could slow Ukraine’s progress and result in a much-needed pause for Russia. David Axe of Forbes reported that Kyiv’s military may try to fight through the wet cold, and even the dry cold that follows, to maintain their hard-won battlefield advantage.
Russia’s plan to use cold weather to its advantage may not pan out – and there are reports that Europe could experience a mild winter. In addition to failing to slow Ukraine’s forces, such a season could neutralize Vladimir Putin’s efforts to weaponize energy and ramp up prices. Likewise, the cold won’t likely demoralize Ukraine’s forces – and it could still hurt Russia’s military worse.
In fact, as was the case when Russia began its unprovoked invasion in February, there are already reports that Putin’s forces could literally freeze to death – they suffer a continued lack of cold-weather equipment.
This time it appears that General Winter could be favoring Ukraine. But it will still be the Ukrainian people who suffer through Putin’s war this winter.
A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
Dr. Scooter Van Neuter
November 1, 2022 at 7:56 pm
At face value, it would seem the winter favors Russia, but I would not underestimate their ability to mismanage their supply lines nor the West’s ability to outfit and supply Ukraine in a superior fashion.
November 2, 2022 at 3:59 am
Ukraine bomb civilian in Donbas since 2014…
And Russia were asking for “western democracy” stop it…
But “western democracy” only support Ukraine nazi by weapon.
Russia has repeatedly over the years offered options to stop the conflict and stop civilian casualties. The “western democracy” only laughed at this and continued to build up its military infrastructure around Russia…
So who is the culprit of what the situation has come to?
November 2, 2022 at 8:57 am
General Winter crushed the equally unprepared and unmotivated Soviets when they invaded a fiercely independent and resourceful Finland.
November 2, 2022 at 10:49 am
Incorrect. Russia, though badly handled by the Finns in the first month of the 1939-1940 Russo-Finnish war, defeated the Finns. The war lasted about three months with the Finns suing for peace and agreeing to terms that gave more Finnish territory away then the Soviet government had originally demanded. It is common for people to focus on only the first month of this war. The real lesson is that the Soviets stopped their campaign after the initial disaster, reorganized and then came back for the win. That is the lesson to remember, not the debacle of the first month.
November 2, 2022 at 11:50 am
While it can be argued that the USSR tactically won the Winter War, strategically it did not. Finland continued to exist as an independent democracy up until today’s date. No other part of the formal Russian empire – and USSR can make such a claim. Finland played a weak hand expertly, all the way through the siege of Leningrad-which they did not help the Nazis with the siege- because they took the long view of things.
November 2, 2022 at 3:33 pm
The Soviet goal in this war was not to end Finland’s existence, but to obtain territory from Finland that would deepen the defenses of Leningrad. This what Stalin got when Finland sued for peace in 1940.
When Finland joined Nazi Germany in what the Finns call The Continuation War, they regained lost territory. But when they noticed that Germany was losing the war they began trying to make a peace deal with Stalin. This was eventually obtained and Finland remained independent and unmolested to the present day. All the Russians wanted from Finland was neutrality and a non-threatening foreign policy. It worked. But now the Finns have thrown that out the window and joined a hostile alliance against Russia.
November 2, 2022 at 10:22 am
Neil Ross Hutchings
November 2, 2022 at 3:04 pm
So Finland won the Winter War because they ceded land to Russia yet remained an independent country free from the rulers in Moscow? Then I say declare Ukraine the victor in this conflict, maintain the independence of the government in Kyiv and let Russia have parts of the Donbas and Crimea and its water supply. Life will differ little for the majority of people in the contested areas whether they are under the guidance of either respective government in Kyiv or Moscow. Neither government or country is to be admired for their day to day activities. Life only gets difficult for the majority of citizens if their homes and livelihoods are constantly being destroyed. End the suffering resulting from this pointless proxy war.