When Napoleon invaded Russia in the winter it caused a ton of problems for his military. Same with the Nazis.
But technology has advanced. If the modern armies of western europe did a land invasion of Russia in winter would they face the same problems that Napoleon and Hitler faced, or are those problems surmountable?
Plus I’d assume Russia has far better infrastructure now which would make it easier.
Basically would equipment stall, soldiers get frostbite, supply lines fail, etc. if a european nation invaded Russia today the same way this happened in the 20th and 19th centuries?
I would guess that yes, modern gear would make the cold much more manageable. In Afghanistan, for instance, there was an instance of American-made winter gear being so good that a 10th Mountain Division commander wished for cold weather to set in, knowing that his troops could handle the cold and the Taliban couldn’t.
So if ECWCS-III gear were manufactured and distributed on a massive scale to American and NATO forces invading Russia, it could greatly reduce the hypothermia risk. But I don’t know if modern tanks, vehicles, etc. are better at handling cold than WWII ones. Lubricants might still freeze, etc.
Its not just the soldiers though. My understanding is that vehicles couldn’t get through the snow, and the fluids inside the would freeze making the materiel unusable. Batteries would die. Guns wouldn’t work. Tank treads would freeze to the ground, etc. Guns, artillery, tanks, trucks, planes, etc. all failed to work properly in the soviet winter.
Plus there are issues of supply lines, providing all the food and equipment a military needs in several feet of snow is not easy.
But I don’t know how much of that was due to lack of technology back in the 1940s, or how much was just bad preparation by the Germans. The USSR seemed to be able to get their heavy equipment to work in the winter, probably because it was designed to work in those temperatures.
Well, as one data point, when my father was growing up in Saskatchewan in the 30s, most people stopped using their cars for January and February and sometimes into March, because they just wouldn’t start or run in the cold. The fluids in particular turned to jelly in the oil pan, batteries didn’t work, etc. Now, Saskatchewan isn’t Russia, but it was clearly a technology problem in winter weather.
That’s not the case today. Cars run year round, and we don’t even have to “winterise” our cars in November anymore, which we still had to do when I got my first car.
So I would conclude that a well-equipped invading force would be in a better position than the Germans in 1941/42.
A lot of it was bad preparation by the Germans. They apparently thought that the Russian campaign would be the same as their previous campaigns - a bit of supply stockpiling, then a lightning push deep into the country followed by a quick enemy collapse and and surrender, then back to barracks to rest, repair, and resupply. No need to issue winter gear or figure out how to winterize equipment as it would all be over well before the cold weather.
Germany arguably had the best army in the world at the tactical level, but both the political and military leadership were seriously lacking in longer-range strategic planning.
An interesting point related to this was the German military had never developed lubricants with cold-weather properties. They simply had never had to do so before. So when the campaign ran into its first winter, they had nothing at home they could ship to the army to keep the guns and other material from freezing up. The Russian Army of course did not have this problem as they were equipped for winter conditions including lubricants that could handle the sub-zero temperatures.
Invading Russia in winter might actually be preferable. You comprehensively nuke Russia, preferably during a blizzard, wait a day or three for fresh snow to cover the radioactive fallout, then the troops go in to mop up.
That the Soviet Union did NOT collapse is something of a surprise. Stalin himself was out of public view for a brief period during the worst of Operation Barbarossa, and he may have wrestled with capitulation during that time, before resolving himself to endure the losses and press on regardless of the cost.
While the Germans would have been wise to be better prepared for a long war, it wasn’t entirely unreasonable to assume an attack inflicting such staggering losses might end the conflict quickly.
The American military has a fair bit of training and combat experience operating in extremely cold and harsh environments (F-22s operating from Alaska, deployments to the mountains of Afghanistan, the 10th Mountain Division trains specifically for cold-weather warfare, etc).