March 15, 2022

Rasputitsa: Or, How Ukraine's Mud Is Foiling Putin


Rasputitsa: Or, How Ukraine's Mud Is Foiling Putin
Soupy. Wikimedia Commons user WM wm WM.

It saved Russia in the thirteenth century from the Mongols, in 1812 from the French, and in the 1940s from the Germans, and now it may be helping to save Ukraine.

This potent force, of course, is none other than Russia's infamous mud: rasputitsa.

Rasputitsa refers to the tendency of Russian earth, especially unpaved roads, to turn to slop in the spring and fall. This is common in places like European Russia, which is mostly low-lying and swampy, with soil full of clay. Lack of freezing temperatures and heavy precipitation turn loose earth into sticky and impassible mud, rendering transportation nigh impossible.

If social media posts from Ukraine are to be trusted, then Russia's military machine is being ground to a halt by the very thing that stalled previous invaders. Twitter videos and internet photos show expensive tanks, trucks, and antiaircraft units up to their axles in freezing mud, abandoned by their crews.

Little wonder, then, that convoys have instead been moving conspicuously via road, forced to use highways to transport supplies, reinforcements, and ammunition. After all, what was impassible for a 700-pound horse is even more difficult for a forty-ton tank, regardless of how technologically advanced it is.

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