Ukrainian Winter Campaign
This is an introductory overview on themes we will elaborate upon over the winter months of the campaign.
More than eight months after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the armed conflict is now entering a new phase. High-intensity war operations are truncating along a relatively well-defined military geography in Ukraine with Russia’s faltering advance grinding to a halt, while Kyiv’s counter-offensives are unlikely to achieve any major territorial gains in the coming weeks. The situation is compounded by the inevitable arrival of winter as both sides prepare for a new phase of the conflict.
As we approach the end of the year and the first ‘anniversary’ of Russia’s second invasion of Ukraine, Audere is thinking prospectively about the future of the conflict and considering several key factors:
1. The evolution of the tactical and operational conditions on the ground between Kyiv and Moscow,
2. The strategic outlook for the war, most notably, the prospects of a negotiated settlement and the reaction of the international community, and
3. Impact of the war on the internal dynamics within Ukraine and Russia.
War operations in Ukraine are slowly transitioning from active manoeuvre to more static, positional warfare. Kyiv and Moscow know they must prepare their armies for the coming winter when weather conditions will eventually ‘freeze’ military positions on the ground and limit the pace of engagements and movement. Ukraine and Russia are fighting on two operational fronts – in occupied Donbas and in the Southern oblasts of Kherson and Zaporizhia. The winter may allow both countries to reconstitute their forces and rotate troops; a further ‘spring offensive’, from both sides remains a real prospect.
As the military establish fixed defensive positions between Ukraine and Russian-occupied territories, the winter months will likely bring changes to the diplomatic situation. During Putin’s much condemned speech announcing the annexation of occupied parts of Ukraine in late September, he called for a ‘negotiated settlement’ of the conflict. Over winter, the coherence of Western policy towards Ukraine will be continuously tested, as Russia further integrates its seized Ukrainian territories. A G20 Summit, organised for mid-November, will almost certainly represent a landmark in the future of international unity over Ukraine, and will be critical to agreeing ongoing military assistance to the country.
Kyiv’s resilience will be further tested over the winter as energy shortages, caused by the destruction of critical national infrastructure by Russian missile strikes, begins to impact on every aspect of Ukrainian life. In Russia, Moscow must increasingly balance its decisions regarding the war with the impact of international sanctions on the economy, as well as the growing internal discontent on the trajectory of the war, particularly amongst hardline nationalist elements in the Kremlin.
Over the next three months, Audere will deliver a monthly briefing to your inbox, picking apart the various aspects of the conflict in more detail. The briefings will provide insightful thinking and analysis from our team of expert analysts and commentators in London, New York, and Kyiv. They will examine aspects of the conflict as the conflict unfolds; anticipating how the winter will transform the campaign for both sides, whilst reflecting on the strategic elements of the first year of the war.