The United States and its NATO allies are accelerating transfers of arms, warm clothing and anti-drone technology to Ukraine in preparation for months of bitter combat through the winter. Washington believes shoring up frontline forces before mud and ice set in will help Kiev to hold ground over the coming season.
Speaking on condition of anonymity during a recent NATO summit in Berlin, a Western official told reporters that the alliance had already started providing winter gear, claiming “The Ukrainians are on their front foot, and they certainly feel prepared for the winter campaign,” and that foreign aid is currently “very much [focused on] the winter.”
While top officials acknowledge that the snow, mud and ice of winter will slow troop movements, they believe Kiev can continue to push counter-offensives to reclaim territory now occupied by Russian soldiers despite the frigid temperatures.
“I expect that Ukraine will continue to do everything it can throughout the winter to regain its territory and to be effective on the battlefield,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said after a meeting in Brussels last week.
Ukraine has gained ground from Russian forces over the last two months, and is advancing into regions which Moscow now claims as its own territory. President Vladimir Putin has vowed to use his entire arsenal to defend all of Russia, including four recently annexed regions of Ukraine which voted to join the Russian Federation in (internationally disputed) referendums last month.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has echoed Austin’s optimism about Ukraine’s chances to make progress against the Russians during the cold season.
“Our task is to enable them to also be able to conduct meaningful operations throughout the winter and continue to supply them with everything from fuel, winter clothing, tents to advanced weapons systems,” he said.
Kiev has heavily depended on the West to train its soldiers and supply arms, ammunition and battlefield intelligence since Russian forces invaded in late February. In that time, the White House has approved at least $70 billion in aid to Kiev, much of that devoted to heavy weapons and vehicles, including long-range multi-launch rocket platforms, artillery pieces, shoulder-fired rockets, helicopters and drones.
Though US stockpiles have become increasingly depleted after countless rounds of arms shipments, the flow of aid appears set to carry on at the present pace, with Secretary Austin recently declaring that Washington will continue to “do everything we can to make sure that they have what’s required to be effective.”