https://www.newsweek.com-By Brendan Cole
Ukrainian soldiers and volunteer fighters inspect a destroyed Russian tank in an undisclosed location in eastern Ukraine on November 10, 2022. The Institute for the Study of War said that Ukrainian forces might have the advantage over Russian troops in cold winter weather. BULENT KILIC/Getty Images
Winter weather will not deter the Ukrainian counter offensive against Russian troops, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said in its latest assessment.
The U.S. think tank said on Thursday that there were “faulty” assumptions by Western officials that the cold weather could stop hostilities or see them “enter a stalemate,” which could pave the way for diplomacy between Moscow and Kyiv.
This follows reports that Ukraine’s allies question Kyiv’s ability to remove Russian troops completely from occupied areas and doubt that either side can achieve all of their military aims.
However, the ISW noted that autumn and springtime mud can also slow or halt military advances, as well as insufficient wintertime equipment.
It said that some equipment would need to be adapted for colder weather and “shortages of equipment or ammunition could slow advances due to logistical difficulties—not winter weather.”
“Winter weather could disproportionately harm poorly-equipped Russian forces in Ukraine,” the ISW said. “But well-supplied Ukrainian forces are unlikely to halt their counter offensives due to the arrival of winter weather.”
It also concluded that Ukraine may actually be able to take advantage of frozen terrain “to move more easily than they could in the muddy autumn months.”
If fighting “does halt this winter, it will be due to logistical challenges and the culmination of several campaigns on both sides,” it added.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian defense ministry about the ISW assessment, which comes after Moscow announced it was retreating from Kherson, the capital of the region with the same name which it seized early in the war.
Glen Grant, a security consultant with the Baltic Security Foundation, said the winter would favor Ukrainian troops if they continued their counteroffensive, partly because Russia’s forces had “lost all their leadership.”
“I haven’t seen any evidence of quality leadership at the tactical and operational level (in the Russian forces) for the past three months,” he told Newsweek.
“The winter is a time when you need leaders because you have got to keep the battle discipline going and they have no chance of doing that.
“There’s a few units probably that can, but once you start watering down the front line with mobilized soldiers who don’t want to be there, then the actual demands on leadership go up exponentially.”
In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization, which has been beset by problems, with reports of those being drafted getting little training or equipment.
Grant said that as well as leadership issues, Russian troops would be hampered by “a lack of knowledge of how to deal with equipment in the cold. Making a tank work in minus 10, or minus 15 is a real life skill. Most of them won’t be able to do that.”