War in Ukraine: can the “rasputitsa” block Russia?

WAR IN UKRANE – According to some observers, this is one of Ukraine’s main assets in the face of the Russian invasion. The climatic factor could indeed play a decisive role in the expected arrival of the “raspoutitsa”, a seasonal phenomenon where the mainland turns into sticky mud dangerous for military vehicles.

This Russian term meaning “the weather of bad roads” is a well-known reality in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, where warmer temperatures and snowmelt in the spring, as well as the heavy rainfall in the fall, lead to several weeks of slush, twice a year.

Even before the rasputitsa started, there were images on social media of Russian tanks and military vehicles stuck in Ukraine.

“There have been many situations where Russian tanks and other vehicles drove through the fields and were blocked. The soldiers were forced to abandon them and continue on foot,” Ukrainian military analyst Mykola Beleskov told AFP.

Napoleon and the Nazis are already trapped

“This problem exists, and it will get worse,” he adds, regarding the advent of this debacle of the famous “black soils”, or chernozems, which are the agricultural wealth of Ukraine and the neighboring regions between the Don and the Volga. have made.

Napoleon’s troops made the painful experience of this, which was delayed during their retreat from Russia in late 1812 to the point of being overtaken by the harsh winter.

On the Eastern Front during World War II, “when major mechanized operations were almost completely halted during heavy autumn rains or spring thaws due to the famous rasputitsa, the mud of the Russian plains, they were resumed in winter, when the ground had hardened again” , historian Laurent Henninger explained in Défense nationale magazine in 2015.

“With the arrival of the winter of 1941, Hitler was able to launch his great – failed – offensive to take Moscow,” he underlined in an article on the impact of the climatic factor on the war. Then in the opposite direction, the rasputitsa slowed down the Soviet counter-offensive in 1943.

Bad timing for Putin

“Historical memories: the thaw generates a silt season (rasputitsa) that lasts 3-4 weeks, moving from the south (Crimea) to the north to Belarus in a few days. In 1942 it started around March 21. In 1943 the 18. In 1944 the 17”, states the military historian Cédric Mas on Twitter. “Time is not in Putin’s favor,” he said on Sunday, noting, in addition to Russia’s sanctions and diplomatic isolation, that “the weather will soon deteriorate with the rasputitsa.”

“Early spring is a bad time to invade Ukraine,” National Security Strategy professor Spencer Meredith wrote in an article published just days before the launch of the Modern War Institute’s invasion of the prestigious US military academy at West Point. was published.

“Normally, in mid-February, the roads are covered with layers of ice and compact snow, which then melt and reveal a ‘minefield’ of potholes,” he underlined. This year, according to the latest predictions, the phenomenon should appear from mid-March.

The situation will continue to worsen

For Russian troops, “the situation will get worse as the weather warms and the rains begin,” confirms Mykola Beleskov. “They will find themselves transfixed,” he continues.

The raspoutitsa, “makes the ground muddy, channels operations on the asphalt of roads and streets,” noted military historian Michel Goya in the review last week The Great Continent† A configuration that forces the invasion forces to advance in columns on the main roads, more exposed to logistical difficulties or attacks.

The climate factor is one of Ukraine’s key assets in the face of Russia’s military superiority, agrees Jason Lyall, a specialist in political violence in civil and conventional wars and a professor at the American University of Dartmouth.

“The four horsemen of the Ukrainian army: the Javelin, the Stinger, the rasputitsa and TikTok,” he summed up on Twitter, referring to the Javelin anti-tank missile launchers, the Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and the social network widely used for reporting of the war.

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