This is How Ukraine Can Avoid a Stalemate

Wes O'Donnell
7 min readNov 6, 2023
Licensed by the author from Envato Elements

Contrary to popular belief, it was mud, not snow, which stopped the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

That same mud is on its way back, what the Russians call the rasputitsa (“muddy road”), as the Fall rains soak the Ukrainian plains ahead of what’s guaranteed to be a cold, dark winter.

As we approach Ukraine’s coldest season, it’s becoming clear now that the summer counter-offensive didn’t quite have the results everyone had hoped for.

Now, Ukraine faces the real possibility of a protracted stalemate — precisely the type of war that Russia was built for. Russia’s “tooth-to-tail” ratio favors slow, immobile slug fests as opposed to blitzkrieg-style attacks.

The tooth-to-tail ratio is the idea that it takes X amount of support soldiers to enable X number of infantrymen. In the U.S., this ratio is about 10–1; as in, it takes ten support personnel like medical, logistics, and cooks for every one U.S. Army infantryman to be combat effective.

The Russian military doesn’t have a significant support structure to speak of… At least, not one that functions as it should. We witnessed this firsthand when Russia tried to sprint to Kyiv at the war’s start only to find itself unsupported — out of gas and out of ammo.

However, Russia’s tooth-to-tail weakness doesn’t affect defensive operations, at least not as significantly, and so Russia is set up to fight exactly the war it is best equipped to fight.

Now reports are surfacing that U.S. and European officials have approached Ukraine to discuss the possibility of peace talks with Russia. To make matters worse, even the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s own armed forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said that the war had entered an impasse last week.

Perhaps sensing a change in the trade winds, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy rejected claims that the war with Russia has reached a stalemate in an exclusive interview with NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

But the reality is that with minimal forward momentum from the summer offensive, a divided U.S. Congress, and the start of the Israel-Hamas War, there is a general feeling in the intelligence community that the Ukraine War has turned into a slog.

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Wes O'Donnell

Army & Air Force Veteran | Global Security guy at War is Boring, GEN, OneZero | Intel Forecaster | Law Student | TEDx Speaker | Pro-Democracy | Pro-Human Rights