Negative temperatures, equipment failures and energy crisis: winter will be decisive for the war in Ukraine

The arrival of the European winter, in just over two months, puts Russian and Ukrainian military strategists on alert. The season is usually much stricter in Europe than on Brazilian soil, and in Ukrainian territory it has already reached -30°C. Even before winter, the autumn rains already compromise troop movements, in the so-called “season of bad roads”, the rasputitsa. The climate and weather in the coming months will be decisive for the fate of the war in Ukraine.

In December, the conflict will be about to complete ten months. The invasion began late last winter in the northern hemisphere. According to Marcelo Suano, professor of international relations and director of the Center for Strategy, Intelligence and International Relations (CEIRI), despite having been announced much earlier, the invasion of Ukraine would have been postponed as much as possible to avoid the harshest temperatures. “The question remains whether the Russians will be able to withstand this war, in this climatic condition that they avoided”, highlighted the professor.

Suano pointed out that the troop’s morale, the combatant’s capacity and reserves available to act in this combat are variables that must be analyzed within this condition of a war that drags on longer than the invader predicted and that will take place, soon, under low temperatures.

The professor evaluated that , so far, Ukraine has not surrendered, realizing the failure of Russian logistics and focusing its counteroffensive on the paths the Russians use to bring troops, food and equipment to war. This logistics can become even more compromised in the winter, exposing even more the Russian weaknesses.

On the other hand, the speed with which Ukraine recovered territories in the month of September could hardly be repeated during the winter. European. Both sides will have disadvantages.

Yohann Michel, a researcher-analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), described that winter compromises war equipment, which can break more easily, in addition to vehicles having difficulty in locomotion. Therefore, the armed forces of the two Eastern European countries will have to step up their pace to achieve their main objectives before the coldest season of the year arrives.

Although the cold makes the attacks slower of the two sides, the war should not lose strength, as Michel analyzed to the French newspaper Le Figaro. “History shows that offensives were not lacking in wars during the winter phases, but they became more complicated”, highlighted the researcher.

Focus on key regions

Continuing the strategy that bore fruit during the European summer, experts point out that Ukraine tends to seek to reconquer territories, such as Kharkiv (northeast of the country) and Kherson (south).

In recent days, Russian President Vladimir Putin has focused on the escalation of the war in response to the Crimea Bridge explosion, intensifying attacks across the neighboring country, hitting nine regions, even the capital, Kyiv. But soon, Russia will have to re-prioritize the oblasts it recently declared annexed – Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk.

Strategically, the key regions must be prioritized by the two countries in conflict in the days before winter. Kherson, for example, is the largest occupied province and a strategic point for Crimea. François Chauvancy, in an interview with Figaro, this region determines the political power of the countries involved, making keeping Kherson under Russian rule “fundamental for Putin to remain in power” “.

Power system is targeted by Putin

The Russian president declared earlier this week that the escalation of the war focused, in addition to military centers, the country’s electricity system. With the proximity of low temperatures, this becomes more of a threat and blackmail to the Ukrainians who resist the war.

According to the Minister of Energy, Herman Haluschchenko, the Russian army has bombed since Monday ( 12), 30% of Ukrainian energy infrastructure, mainly coal-fired power plants. They are of paramount importance, as collective heating in Ukraine must be activated around 15 October for the entire winter season.

As Ukrainian authorities have urged residents to reduce energy consumption, while in the capital several districts are facing power and water cuts.

“At least 12 energy facilities, in eight different regions, were targeted. Facilities that could be crucial for the survival of the Ukrainian population as temperatures start to drop and we approach winter. It is simply intolerable. Directly hitting civilian infrastructure is a war crime,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Population threatened

Natacha (who prefers not to disclose her name) is a 41-year-old woman who moved with two children from Donetsk to a village near Lviv to escape the attacks. However, she has heard several explosions up close in the past few days. “The war is catching up with us and I don’t know how we are going to spend the winter,” the Ukrainian told the newspaper Le Monde. She says that this week, her six-year-old son lamented: “Mom, I’m scared. We’re out of power.”

With the intensification of Russian attacks on the four corners of Ukraine, more residents of key regions become “internally displaced”: they change cities within their own country. The UN estimates that about 6 million Ukrainians today live in this condition. The biggest movement, at the moment, is towards the west.

This huge number of Ukrainians who felt obliged to leave their homes to protect themselves will go through this severe cold, with chances of having a power outage. for heating, food preservation and water treatment.

Weakened Western support

In this war, especially, there is an extra concern that comes with the approach of winter. Due to the Western sanctions imposed on the Russians and the energy crisis resulting from the war, European countries that support Ukraine suffer, directly or indirectly, from strong blackmail from Russia. The lack of energy and the consumption limits that must therefore be imposed by Europeans can compromise the economy of countries and, consequently, support for Ukrainians.

“Winter will play with the psychological factor of war and can weigh on people’s support for the conflict”, warned Édouard Jolly, a researcher at the Instituto de Investigación Estratégica da Escola Militar (IRSEM, in the acronym in French) and specialist in the theory of armed conflicts to Figaro.

Professor Marcelo Suano recalled that Putin could use the “winter general” to cut the gas produced in the country to Europe, putting pressure on Western countries that are highly dependent on its import.

“It remains to be seen whether Putin is managing to maintain control of politics in his country – and the information We have very few. It is also necessary that it has an importer that takes on this European consumer market significantly and that the country presents mobilization capacity to make the dynamics of the economy grow even without exporting gas to Europe”, described Suano.

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