As the summer war in Ukraine transitions into autumn and the harvesting of sunflowers begins, repeated Russian military setbacks in the Donbas region and Kherson Oblast are forcing Vladimir Putin to show his hand. Impatient to reverse course on the battlefield, the Russian president is signaling that Moscow fully intends to weaponize Europe’s winter energy needs — for not just Ukraine but the entire European Union.
Under the current circumstances, though, Russian ground forces may not make it to winter. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky possesses the Valyrian steel sword; he just requires the Biden administration’s full confidence and support to wield it decisively and bury Putin’s “special military operation” in the fields of Ukraine.
Despite long-range weather forecasts to the contrary, Putin is gambling on a brutally cold and snowy winter like that of 1941, which helped derail the German army’s attack on Moscow during Operation Barbarossa. Theoretically, the Kremlin’s strategic aim is to produce an energy crisis in the dead of a European winter to break the will of NATO from continuing to militarily and economically support Kyiv. The underlying assumption is that Europeans would choose warmth and comfort over Ukraine’s independence.