Doyle McManus: The war in Ukraine could become a long, frozen conflict. Are we ready for that?

LOS ANGELES (Tribune News Service) — According to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s grand plan, this was to be the hard winter that would break Ukraine and divide its allies in the West.

Putin unleashed missile attacks on Ukraine’s cities and its electrical grid, but the Ukrainians repaired their transformers and fought on.

Putin unleashed a mercenary force, the Wagner Group, which used convicts to try to take the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. They’re still trying.

Putin cut natural gas supplies to the West, hoping to freeze comfortable Europeans into abandoning Ukraine. But Europe’s winter has been one of the warmest on record; gas prices are lower than they were before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Instead of abandoning Ukraine, the United States and its allies are sending more aid: Patriot missiles and Bradley fighting vehicles from the United States, Challenger tanks from Britain, armored vehicles from Germany and France.

That doesn’t mean Ukraine is winning. The winter war has settled into a stalemate with little territory changing hands.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s promise that victory is coming may be good for morale but remains premature.

Putin has told foreign visitors that he’s planning for a two- or three-year war. He says he’s confident his larger forces can outlast Ukraine and its allies.

Both sides are preparing for new offensives this spring.

Russia is training an estimated 150,000 conscripts to launch new attacks, drawing on its seemingly limitles