Tensions have continued to be high at the Ukrainian border as close to 200,000 Russian troops and members of aligned militias sit along the border.
The conflict continues to change by the hour, with US President Joe Biden stating that he is ‘convinced’ that Russian President Vladimir Putin has already decided to invade Ukraine.
“We have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning to, intend to, attack Ukraine in the coming week, in the coming days,” Biden said. “We believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people.”
Biden is hopeful that diplomacy has still been used to calm the conflict.
With the possibility of a war happening at any moment, Oksana Dudko, a post-doctoral fellow in Ukrainian Studies at St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan, said this conflict is nothing new.
“The current escalation of the war in Eastern Ukraine is a part of the ongoing war that Russia began in Ukraine in 2014, and this war began when Russia illegally annexed Crimea,” she said. “Later when Russia started a proxy war in Donbas in Eastern Ukraine that continues to this day.”
Dudko said the conflict is all on Russia.
“Putin is terrified by Ukraine’s desire to join the European Union and NATO,” she stated. “Putin’s foreign policy is shaped by new imperial thinking; according to him, Ukraine is an inseparable part of Russia. Putin does not acknowledge Ukrainian sovereignty and wants it to come back under Russian orbit; this is why he demands legally binding assurance from NATO members and the US, that Ukraine would never be able to join NATO.”
“Putin wants to restore a ‘great Russia,’ and without Ukraine, the second-largest country in Europe, he won’t be able to fulfill his imperial ambitions,” Dudko added.
She added that every Ukrainian, both in the country and those who have ties to it, are ‘worried sick about the current escalation of the war.’
In terms of how likely a full-fledged war is, Dudko said it is very possible.
“There is an ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine (Donbas), and given the current escalation, it can quickly lead to mass casualties,” she said. “I still hope that there is room for diplomacy, but as of now, I’m not sure. What is absolutely clear, in the case of full-fledged Russian military intervention, the war would be very bloody, with a high death toll.
Dudko said one of her biggest worries is using civilian lives to create a ‘false flag’ for the war to start.
“I’m afraid a false flag operation has been started. I do worry that Putin will order the killing of civilians strictly to put the blame on Ukraine and manufacture a reason to intervene more actively.”
Dudko added that Russia is fighting a war on the ground and through phones and computers screens as they have launched a large disinformation campaign, something that can affect Canadians if they are not careful. She said Russia has mastered how to “manipulate perceptions and anxieties” and that Canadians should read any pro-Russia articles with a grain of salt.