Ukraine, Russia Deal With Napoleonic Obstacle: Mud

In the spring, the heavy rains mostly worked against the attackers
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2022 2:28 PM CDT
Mud Slows Both Sides in Ukraine's Rainy Season
A Ukrainian serviceman jumps to shake the mud from his boots near the frontline village of Krymske, Luhansk region, in eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022.   (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Russians and Ukrainians have different terms for the muddy seasons, both essentially meaning there's a lack of roads. It happens in the spring during the winter thaw and the fall during heavy rains. In wartime, the mud can cover roads, sometimes causing military vehicles to be stuck in the open, targets for fire from the other side. That's the case now, the New York Times reports. Like Napoleon's army in 1812 and Hitler's in 1941 that were trying to roll through Eastern Europe, forces in the Russia-Ukraine battle are having trouble moving heavy equipment on sometimes-unpaved roads during the heavy rains.

"This is the rainy season, and it's very difficult to use fighting carrier vehicles with wheels," Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said this week in explaining that his troops' advance to reclaim territory seized by Russia will be slowed by the mud. Military analysts were baffled when Russian leaders seemed to ignore the calendar when they launched the invasion in February, an oversight of the pending rain and mud that benefited Ukraine. "This has been known about for hundreds of years—literally Napoleon had this problem," a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute told CNBC in April.

On Friday, Ukrainian defense officials said Russian soldiers are stealing and looting because of their "lack of warm clothes" as temperatures drop. That's a familiar problem, too. Nazi Germany was caught unprepared for the cold during its invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941; its troops didn't have winter uniforms, per US forces had similar problems during the Battle of the Bulge during World War II, in the winter of 1944-45. "We were so cold, you could not get any colder," said retired Brig. Gen. Albin Irzyk once told the Palm Beach Post. "We had two enemies: the Germans and the weather." (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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