“General Frost” is a loyal ally of the Russian army. At least that’s what Russian war propaganda has been saying for decades, as the Russian investigative portal “The Insider” shows. In the wars against Napoleon and Hitler, the cold winter played into the hands of the Russian troops, according to Kremlin propagandists. But in this winter war, cold, ice and frost should help the Ukrainians – and not the Russians.
Russia is relying on the “Big Freeze”, as Ukrainian commentators call Putin’s current war strategy. Western representatives call this tactic “weaponization of winter”. In English: turn winter into a weapon. Since mid-October, Putin’s forces have been bombing Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, leaving millions in the war-torn country without water and electricity as temperatures continue to plummet.
In Russian military history, winter is considered a useful tool, as the attackers often suffered heavy casualties due to the cold temperatures in Russia. In 1812 only 10,000 of Napoleon’s original 600,000 soldiers returned from the campaign against Russia. The freezing cold set in – and the great army was defeated by “General Frost”, as the surviving soldiers described in their memoirs. This view has often been contradicted. But war historians at least largely agree that weather conditions need not be a determining factor – but they do play a role.
Just before Christmas, ten months after the start of the war, everything indicates that Ukraine, not Russia, will be better able to shoulder the dangers of winter. While Russian propaganda places so much emphasis on “General Frost’s” own advantages, one major difference remains: against both Napoleon and Hitler and foreign enemies in the Crimean War, Russia fought on its own territory – with Western support. Now the soldiers are on foreign territory – and Ukraine is receiving support.
From a military point of view, the Ukrainian winter is the most unfavorable. Temperatures are often below 0 degrees, the ground is muddy, armored vehicles get stuck. Shelters need to be built, bases heated, and more meals provided. Soldiers fight colds and other diseases.
In winter, the so-called “golden hour” – the period during which a soldier seriously wounded on the battlefield can be rescued – is reduced by about half. In addition, experts assume that combat missions in winter will require 50 percent more supplies, writes the Russian investigative portal “The Insider”.
With the support of the West, Ukraine is better equipped for all of this than Russia. London is supplying more winter clothing, the USA the effective Patriot air defense systems – the news of the past few days speaks volumes for Ukraine. In July, the Ukrainian military asked NATO for winter clothing and shelter for 200,000 soldiers. The focus of military aid was quickly adjusted to the winter.
According to the Russian investigative portal “The Insider”, Russia has so far made little systematic preparation for the Winter War, although soldiers suffered frostbite on their limbs at the beginning of the war. At the end of November, the first recordings of hypothermic Russians in trenches were already circulating.
“Winter will kill more Russians than Ukraine ever could,” predicted ex-soldier and military expert Thomas Theiner. Many Russian soldiers lack winter clothing, and the troops also lack enough food – even more important in winter than in summer. Also, very few recruits are experienced in winter warfare – and Russian morale was already at a low point in the warmer months.
Even the simplest work of maintaining equipment and weapons will become more labor-intensive, and as a result, the number of breakdowns, breakdowns and malfunctions will increase.
According to the Ukrainian side, even the kamikaze drones deployed by Russia have not been seen in Ukrainian skies for some time due to their poor performance in cold weather. According to The Insider, even if the Ukrainians didn’t fire a single shot, the winter could result in high casualties on the Russian side. “It’s going to be a long, cold, dark winter, especially for Russia,” said US defense expert Brynne Tannehill.