There is always a psychological temptation at the beginning of a new year to interpret it as a universal watershed in world affairs when, in reality, most of life proceeds in a seamless continuum from where it left off in the run-up to Christmas. In one instance, however, it does appear to mark a milestone, in that the arrival of a new year is coinciding with a change in the pattern of the war in Ukraine.

Superficially, nothing much has changed. The fighting continues to be fierce, but fairly immobile. The weather has inhibited large-scale operations and a mild winter has delayed the freezing of the ground that would permit a tactical escalation of hostilities.