Dr. Colin H. Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, predicted Tuesday that the fighting, which has already been altered by the increasingly colder conditions, will continue, “even if the intensity of the fighting goes down.”
“You’re already seeing the sloppy weather in Ukraine slow things down a little bit,” he said during a Project for Media and National Security event. “It’s getting really muddy, which makes it hard to do large-scale offensives. I think that that challenge is going to get worse in the coming weeks. So we’ll have to see whether the fighting slows down as a consequence of that.”
Both sides will likely continue to exchange artillery fire as “the fighting is not going to stop,” even if the fighting’s intensity decreases. For the troops on the front line, the winter months will be a chance to get resupplied and bring in reinforcements.
“I think you’ll see both sides taking some effort on the front lines to rest and refit. So give their forces an opportunity to get some rest to do some training to get resupplied,” he said. “Both sides, I think, are straining their own supplies of ammunition and other hardware.”
The winter also presents a possible avenue for diplomacy between the Russians and the Ukrainians.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his Monday nightly address that his country is open to “genuine peace negotiations” with Russia, though he alleged that their previous attempts for diplomacy “always” led to “insane Russian responses with new terrorist attacks, shelling or blackmail.”
He laid out five main tenets of any deal.
“Restoration of territorial integrity, respect for the U.N. Charter, compensation for all damages caused by the war, punishment of every war criminal, and guarantees that this will not happen again,” the president said. “These are completely understandable conditions.”
He has previously said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had to be out of power for diplomacy to work. But he dropped that after some nudging from the Biden administration, according to Politico, which cited two anonymous officials familiar with the situation.
The change came after Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan traveled to Ukraine earlier this week.
The United States has provided more than $18 billion worth of security assistance since the war began. In addition to weapons, the U.S. has provided resources to prepare Ukrainian forces for the colder weather.
“The U.S. committed approximately 50,000 parkas, approximately 4,700 trousers, and 39,000 fleece hats, as well as more than 23,000 boots, 18,000 gloves, and 6,000 tents,” deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said last month.