Mud and snow are already setting in on the battlefield in Ukraine, bringing a slowing of the tempo of war, according to the former deputy head of the CIA.
Avril Haines, US director of national intelligence, said Ukraine and Russia will likely now turn to repairing broken people and equipment and restock depleted ammunition supplies in preparation for spring offensives.
I’m not so sure.
Contrast Kyiv’s troops, who know they are fighting for their homes, their loved ones and the very existence of their state, with the ill-equipped and poorly-led mob facing them, freezing to death for the warped fantasy of a man bankrupt of both morals and ideas.
One side staves off the cold with the burning sense of injustice at the outrage perpetrated against their country. Many on the other side use vodka to achieve the same effect. It is a poor substitute.
Winter slows activity, of that there is no doubt.
As the ground freezes, vehicle fuels, oils and lubricants thicken and are less efficient. Minds suffer likewise.
But once past the worst ravages of the rasputitsa – the wet periods just before and after winter, when mud turns to glue and all movement becomes a cloying, exhausting effort – military operations, even as the mercury plummets, are possible.
If Ukrainian forces were trying to build a core of nippy and very mobile troops, capable of exploiting success here, or rushing to plug a gap in the line there, they could do a lot worse than start with a massive fleet of Humvees.
These light, four-wheel-drive military trucks (correctly titled as High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) are easy to operate and endlessly versatile.
Over the last few months, the US has gifted Ukraine hundreds of them.
As the world saw in September in the area to the east of Kharkiv, much of the Russian disposition in Ukraine is actually a thin crust, with little except artillery units, increasingly starved of ammunition, behind.
Once this crust had been breached it was only geography and the Ukrainians’ own appetite for risk – in terms of how far to go before becoming overextended – that dictated where they stopped. Russian troops did not get a vote in the Mad Max-style dash that followed.
Ukraine may be in a position to repeat that headlong cavalry charge, even as winter bites.
Fighting in winter with armoured forces – tanks and infantry carriers – is largely governed by the ground pressure generated by the vehicles.
Once the weight of a vehicle can be distributed satisfactorily through the footprint on the ground – the length of both tracks in the case of tanks, or the, much smaller, portion of wheels with most infantry personnel carriers – firepower, mobility and protection, the holy trinity of armoured forces, can be brought to bear.
Modern wheeled combat vehicles – more versatile and generally easier to maintain than tanks – can lower the air pressure in the tyres, making them more “squishy” but better able to spread the total weight.
Do not be surprised if Ukraine, with the better equipment, training and, most importantly, motivation, takes the fight to Russia even in the grip of the coming frozen winter.