UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Ukraine 2022 - Timing

Former US State Department Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker said 13 January 2022 that "we should be worried about what will happen in the next few weeks", because it is likely that Putin "will resort to certain actions" in the Ukrainian direction before mid-February. Why until mid-February? Because the Russians "want to be able to conduct a military operation on frozen ground and complete it before the ground thaws." The rasputitsa (“time without roads” – the spring thaw) is a major timing constraint.

Some analysts suggested that in midwinter it was questionable how long the Russians would want to keep 100,000 soldiers in field conditions near the border, not conducive to maintaining morale. But the forward deployments in 2021 had been of equipment, while the troops remained in garrison. Some time and effort would be required to move the troops up to their equipment, and further time and effort would be needed to move these formations up to the Ukrainian border itself.

Off-road trafficability is one of the most important factors during military operations. Primarily, there are four factors like landuse, soil type, slope and moisture, which are responsible for predicting off-road trafficability. Ground forces cannot maneuver effectively when the footing is unfriendly. They move fast across open terrain that is frozen solid. During the Great Patriotic War, the Red Army's wide-tracked tanks had better trafficability in the mud than the narrow-track German tanks. What made winter in the Ukraine during the beginning of 1944 so unusual was that the spring thaw began nearly two months early, catching both Germans and Soviets by surprise. The dirt roads, which were trafficable when frozen, turned into rivers of mud which caused trucks and halftracks to bog down.

The Pripet / Pripyat Marshes, also known as the Pinsk Marshes, the Polesie Marshes, and the Rokitno Marshes, occupy most of the southern part of Belarus. While there is some solid ground west of Pinsk, there is practically nothing but swamps to the north, south, and east of the city. It has been called it a gigantic lake which away from its shores has turned into swamps. It is only in the winter that movements through these marshes are safe for then the ground is frozen, deep and can sustain traffic across its surface.

Pripyat Marshes Pripyat Marshes

John Collins noted that "The Pripet Swamp, currently located in parts of Belarus, Ukraine, and European Russia, has channelized mass migrations and military operations for centuries. That formidable morass, which intersperses dense woods with countless ponds, moors, treacherous meadows, and shifting streams, extends 300 miles (480 kilometers) west to east and 140 miles (225 kilometers) north to south astride the Pripet River, not counting two discontinuous offshoots that lead to Lakes Peipus and Lagoda near the Gulf of Finland. The entire complex expands twice a year, once in springtime when melting snows raise water levels and rivers overflow, again in the fall for about 4 weeks from the onset of autumn rains until the first hard frost. Permanent inhabitants are scarce, except along the fringe and in a few local centers such as Pinsk.

"Cross-country movement is slow for foot soldiers and impossible for motor vehicles in most places. Roads in the region are widely spaced, mainly unimproved, largely of local importance, and, like all rivers save the Pripet, run north-south at right angles to topographical corridors between Russia and Poland. Many lanes are so narrow that military vehicle columns can neither detour nor turn around."

In the Great War in 1915 the Russian and German armies had to contend with tremendous difficulties, which were caused chiefly by the fact that this part of the country, with the exception of a few sections, was almost impassable. In World War II, the German planners were never able to properly analyze the Pripyat Marsh problem. The Pripet marshes rendered any lateral shifting of forces impossible. The Pripet Swamp, which created a great gap between German Army Group Center and Army Group North soon after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, made it impossible for large military formations to conduct mutually supporting operations. Attempts to bypass such extensive wetlands proved perilous.

But Thomas C. Theiner argued that "the Germans’ logistics got stuck in the mud because there were no roads at all. But in fall 1941 only wheeled vehicles got stuck — tracked and half-tracked vehicles actually performed well... A year after first encountering the rasputitsa the Germans had overcome the problem and the Russians won’t have any problems with the rasputitsa in 2022.... No matter where you wish to go in Ukraine, there is an asphalt road to drive on. This will allow the Russian wheeled vehicles, especially its logistics trucks, to avoid driving on muddy roads or in swampy field.... In short, the rasputitsa will have little to no effect on Russian operations."

Due to the relatively mild weather conditions, a January 2022 invasion seemed unlikely to some [indeed, the month came and went with no invasion]. Various military analysts had previously speculated that Moscow was mounting troops near the Ukrainian border in November and December to be ready for an offensive once the harsh winter had begun in earnest and the ground was frozen and sufficiently stable to allow for effective tank deployment. Others suggeted that the modern Russian military was an all-weather army that could operate under any conditions.

Russian troops officially arrived in the Belarusian town of Yelsk, 18km from Ukraine, on 20 January 2022. Russian troops were now about a four hour drive away from Ukraine's capital of Kyiv. Tom Rogan noted "Were Russia to use southern Belarus as a launchpad for invasion, its forces would have to move across dense marshlands in the area. That would mean doing so before those marshes thaw and Russian forces get bogged down in mud."

Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko addressed the nation and the parliament on 28 January 2022. The president stressed that for the West it is important to drown the Russian-Ukrainian-Belarusian brotherhood in blood. “But our Slavonic peoples are a family, all of them were bathed in the same baptistery. Our roots go deep into the centuries. And we have to preserve it whatever the cost. Because this brotherhood is above the contrived umbrage and short-sighted political ambitions. Our unbreakable ties represent the foundation of common security and survival,” the head of state stated. Aleksandr Lukashenko assured: “We will return Ukraine into the fold of our Slavdom. We will definitely do it.”

The tradition of the “Olympic Truce”, or “Ekecheiria”, was established in Ancient Greece in the ninth century BC through the signing of a treaty between three kings – Iphitos of Elis, Cleosthenes of Pisa and Lycurgus of Sparta – to allow safe participation in the ancient Olympic Games for all athletes and spectators from these Greek city-states, which were otherwise almost constantly engaged in conflict with each other. Since 1993, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly has repeatedly expressed its support for the Olympic Truce.

In 2008, Russia invaded Georgia during the Summer Olympics in Beijing. US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said 26 January 2022 that Putin may weigh launching an invasion of Ukraine after the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. “We certainly see every indication that he [Putin] is going to use military force sometime, perhaps [between] now and the middle of February,” she said.

Beijing had a vested interest in Moscow’s success against Washington in Ukraine, as it would pave the way for its own success against the US in Taiwan and the rest of Asia. Putin would attend the Beijing Winter Olympics Games opening ceremony on 04 February 2022. Bloomberg quoted an anonymous diplomat saying President Xi Jinping may have asked the Russian leader not to attack Ukraine as China hosted the Olympic Games. China’s foreign ministry said 24 January 2022 the "‘smearing and provocation towards Sino-Russian ties" was a futile attempt to drive a wedge between the neighbors. The Olympics could present an opportunity for reprieve from brinkmanship.

Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 ends on 20 February 2022. In Ukraine, the snow normally melts in March in continental areas, which turns roads and fields into mud and can make it difficult to travel in rural areas. Likewise, spring in Belarus sees temperatures increase rapidly. The thaw occurs between March and April, which is a difficult time for travelling because of the mud outside of the cities and on unpaved roads. Some joked that Ukrainian soil does not want to submit to “Russian invaders”.

While Putin may have reassured the Chinese that he would not step on their Olympics opening ceremony, it is not apparet that he would wait until the end of the games to act. The date of 20 February is just too close to the Spring thaw. The 2022 Winter Paralympics event for disabled athletes is scheduled to take place in Beijing from 4 to 13 March 2022. Putin would surely not wait for the conclusion of this event. The modern media environment is too diverse for any single news event to preempt all others. The primetime audience delivery of the Tokyo Games was roughly half of the 2012 London Olympics. The Tokyo Olympics joined other "event programming" with a double-digit decline in linear viewing, as audiences turned to streaming video platforms. Sports fans can follow the Olympics while remaining blissfully oblivious to the carnage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators agreed 27 January 2022 that a permanent ceasefire in Ukraine’s war-torn Donbass region must be observed “unconditionally,” following talks held as part of the Normandy Format, which also includes France and Germany. The parties will meet again in Berlin in two weeks for further discussions, that is, on 10 February 2022.

The US presidential administration denied media reports that Joe Biden warned in a telephone conversation 27 January 2022 with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about Russia's "imminent" invasion. This was stated by the representative of the White House National Security Council Emily Horn. President Biden said there was a good chance that the Russians would invade Ukraine in February. He had previously stated this publicly. Reports of something more or different from this are completely untrue, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council added. The meaning of imminent is happening very soon. No direct translation in Ukrainian for "imminent" — that word is nemynuche & closest translation is “inevitable." So when the US dministration says "imminent," Ukraine hears "we can't stop the invasion."

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a press conference with international media on 28 January 2022 and called on the West not to create "panic" over tensions with Russia, saying it had further damaged Ukraine's long-fragile economy by prompting capital outflows. "We don't need this panic," Zelenskyy said. "It cost Ukrainians dearly."

While he did not dismiss the possibility of military conflict with Russia, the Ukrainian president said the White House was making a "mistake" in highlighting excessively the risk of a large-scale war, saying he had told President Joe Biden as much in a telephone call the previous evening.

"There are no tanks in the streets. But media give the impression, if one is not here, that we have a war, that we have army in the streets... That's not the case. We don't need this panic," Zelenskyy said, adding that "I don't consider the situation now more tense than before," though, "I am not saying an escalation is not possible."

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on January 29 that he and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock would visit Ukraine on February 7-8. He said he had reassured Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba "of our full backing and solidarity with Ukraine."

As of 05 February 2022 it was reported that US & NATO had observed that Russia had increased number of Battalion Tactical Groups (750-1,000 troops) from 60 to 83 in the previous 2 weeks, with 14 more en route to the border region. The US assessed that Putin had 70% of forces needed for full invasion & could get to 100% in 10 days, that is, by 14 February 2022.

"We are in the window. Any day now, Russia could take military action against Ukraine, or it could be a couple of weeks from now. [...] We believe that there is a very distinct possibility that Vladimir Putin will order an attack on Ukraine", Sullivan said in interviews with Fox News and ABC 06 February 2022. "It could take a number of different forms. It could happen as soon as tomorrow, or it could take some weeks yet. He has put himself in a position with military deployments to be able to act aggressively against Ukraine at any time now", Sullivan claimed. But Ukraine’s presidency adviser Mykhailo Podolyak stated that the chances of finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis remained “substantially higher than the threat of further escalation”.

The risk of a large-scale war in Europe is the highest in 30 years, said OSCE Chairman, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said 08 February 2022. "We are at a critical moment when it comes to European security and global security. At the moment, the risk of a serious war in Europe is the highest in 30 years".

The Russian force amassed on the frontier was growing at a rate that would give Putin the firepower he needs for a full-scale invasion -- some 150,000 soldiers -- by mid-February, US officials said. Two weeks ago, a total of 60 Russian army battalions were positioned to the north, east and south of Ukraine, particularly in the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed after an invasion in 2014. By 04 February 2022, there were 80 battalions and 14 more were en route from elsewhere in Russia.

"Do not believe the apocalyptic predictions. Different capitals have different scenarios, but Ukraine is ready for any development," Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote. "Today, Ukraine has a strong army, unprecedented international support and the faith of Ukrainians in their country. It is the enemy who should fear us." Presidency advisor Mykhailo Podolyak insisted that the chances of finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis remained "substantially higher than the threat of further escalation".

National security adviser Jake Sullivan warned 11 February 2022 that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could come before the conclusion of the Winter Olympics on 20 February 2022. “As we’ve said before, we are in the window when an invasion could begin at any time, should Vladimir Putin decide to order it,” Sullivan said at a White House news briefing. “I will not comment on the details of our intelligence information, but I do want to be clear: It could begin during the Olympics, despite a lot of speculation that it would only happen after the Olympics.”

Sullivan urged Americans still in Ukraine to depart the country within the next two days, saying Biden would not send troops into harm’s way to evacuate U.S. citizens who could have left the Eastern European country when they had the chance. "We continue to reduce the number of employees of the embassy in Kiev. We call on all American citizens who remain in Ukraine to leave the country immediately. We cannot predict the future. But the risks are quite high," Sullivan said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a regular briefing, "We recognize that were President Putin to make the decision to invade, it would make it difficult for American citizens on the ground," she added, "We want to make clear of the risk posed to them, to any civilian if they remain in the country."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Russia could invade the eastern European country "any time" during the ongoing Beijing Winter Olympics. “Simply put, we continue to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border,” Blinken said in Canberra, Australia. “We’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time and, to be clear, that includes during the Olympics,” Blinken added. Russia will start a physical assault on Ukraine as soon as Feb. 16, multiple U.S. officials confirmed to POLITICO, and Washington communicated to allies that it could be preceded by a barrage of missile strikes and cyberattacks. One person said the leaders’ call indicated that cyberattacks are “imminent” and another said the intelligence is “specific and alarming.”

Russian armed forces were ready to embark on a full-scale military operation against Ukraine from the second half of February. Once military readiness had been achieved, only a political decision is required to launch the operation.

David Martin at CBS reported late 15 February 2022 that the US can see Russia units moving out of assembly areas toward the Ukraine border; it looked like Russian military uncoiling in preparation for an invasion. CBS News reported 17 February 2022 that US officials believed that the timeline for a Russian attack on Ukraine had been pushed back another 4 or 5 days.

Germany Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on 19 Febr;uary 2022 said "In the last 48 hours, we've seen false flag operations once again. They have been used as a pretext by separatists to say there's been further escalation. We've therefore now introduced further measures to show we are prepared for all eventualities".

"It defies basic logic to believe the Ukrainians would choose this moment, with well over 150,000 [Russian] troops arrayed on its borders, to escalate a yearslong conflict," US President Biden said on 17 February 2022. "We have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week, in the coming days," Biden told reporters at the White House on 18 February 2022, adding that Kyiv would be a target.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on 20 February 2022 all signs suggested Russia is on the brink of invading Ukraine, but still vowed that Washington will use every opportunity until the last minute to see if diplomacy dissuades Moscow from going ahead. "Everything we are seeing suggests that this is dead serious, that we are on the brink of an invasion. We will do everything we can to try to prevent it before it happens," Blinken said.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 15-04-2022 20:24:52 ZULU