WASHINGTON—In addition to artillery pieces, tactical vehicles, light arms and other weapons, the U.S. and its allies have begun providing the Ukrainians with warm materiel for their arsenal: parkas, socks, pants and other cold-weather gear.
With winter approaching on the Ukrainian steppe, where overnight lows can drop below freezing next month, U.S. officials have said the provision of warm clothing is one way allies who are unable—or unwilling—to turn over lethal weapons can contribute to the Ukrainian war effort. And it is expected to give the Ukrainians a battlefield advantage over Russian forces, who have struggled with logistics throughout the war.
U.S. officials don’t expect the fighting to pause for the winter, as it did in Afghanistan, saying the Ukrainians are battling to regain territory lost to the Russian forces.
“Winter equipment can make a considerable difference for service conditions and for the troops. It impacts morale, reduces losses due to illness and can substantially impact troops’ ability to sustain combat operations,” said Michael Kofman, who heads the Russia Studies Program at the Virginia-based think tank CNA. “It’s an important factor.”
The U.S. has so far provided several thousand parkas, pants, hats and gloves, and has committed to many more, Army Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “This effort is part of broader contributions by the international community who have also been providing military equipment in preparation for the winter months,” he said.
The Pentagon said it couldn’t provide a breakdown of how much winter clothing it had provided.
Canada’s Defense Minister Anita Anand said the country would send up to 500,000 pieces of winter clothing to Ukraine’s military.
“Canada has a particular expertise in winter clothing and combat,” she told reporters at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels last week. “Ukraine has specifically asked for winter clothing. Those are items that we know will be useful for soldiers on the front line.”
A quarter of the pieces—jackets, pants, boots, gloves and parkas—would come from Canadian forces inventory, and the rest would be bought from Canadian suppliers at a cost of 15 million Canadian dollars, or the equivalent of roughly $11 million.
Describing its donations to Ukraine as humanitarian aid, Bulgaria will provide 5,000 each of lined half-coats, leggings, long-sleeved shirts, hats and pairs of shoes, the NATO member’s government said last week.
“Some countries aren’t in a position to offer lethal assistance but we urge them to provide vital nonlethal aid, such as medical supplies and cold-weather gear that the Ukrainians need to fight in the winter, because every contribution counts and the members of this contact group stand united in our support for Ukraine’s self-defense through any season,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last week in Brussels following a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which comprises more than 50 nations and meets to assess Ukraine’s defense needs.