Before the invasion, I posted a 7-day weather outlook for Ukraine and wrote, “Those are above-freezing temperatures, meaning that grounds are already thawing out, creating a soft mushy mess that would bog down any Russian incursion deep into Ukraine.” It wasn’t a particularly novel observation.
A brief from the Center for Strategic and International Studies on January 13 noted that, “An invasion that begins in January or February would have the advantage of frozen ground to support the cross-country movement of a large mechanized force [...] Should fighting continue into March, mechanized forces would have to deal with the infamous Rasputitsa, or thaw [...] In March, the frozen steppes thaw, and the land again becomes at best a bog, and at worst a sea of mud.”
The National Interest devoted an entire story on February 10 to the topic:
It has been said that Russia's weather helped save the motherland from numerous invasions. While harsh winters played a major role, so too did the Russian mud that came from the fall rains and spring thaws. “Rasputitsa” is the Russian term for the two seasons of the year—spring and autumn—when travel on unpaved roads across the vast plains of the country becomes difficult due to the muddy conditions.
The term literally translates to "thaw," but it has come to mean "time without roads."
Time without roads? Like this?
Seriously, click “play,” and see if you can find anything that looks like a passable “road.”
The lack of passable countryside is a problem for two reasons. One, mechanized units need space to maneuver. There’s a reason we’ve seen so many videos of Russian equipment bogged down in, well, bog. That’s what they’re supposed to do, spread out, and attempt to flank the enemy, attacking it on its sides, attempt to surround them. They’re called “maneuver units” for a reason. When the countryside is swallowing tanks, well, there’s no maneuvering happening.
The second reason is the obvious one—by forcing Russian units to remain on roads, it makes it easier to funnel them to ambush points, makes it easier for aircraft and drones to find and hit, and limits their progress toward key objectives to wherever the roads may take them.
Russia supposedly invaded as late as it did so it wouldn’t step on China’s Olympics. Whatever the actual reason, it has cost Russia dearly, in time, in material, in lives, and in treasure. Apparently, it’s Russia’s time to learn what Napoleon and Hitler discovered the hard way.
Latest update, for March 5, from the Institute for the Study of War.
Russian forces in Ukraine may have entered a possibly brief operational pause on March 5 as they prepare to resume operations against Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mykolayiv, and possibly Odesa in the next 24-48 hours. Russian troops did not launch major ground offensive operations against Kyiv, Kharkiv, or Mykolayiv in the last 24 hours. Ukrainian forces near Kharkiv, on the other hand, conducted a counter-offensive that reportedly penetrated to the Ukrainian-Russian border.