Russia has been waging war on Ukraine for eight years now and further incursions are very possible, according to a research fellow at the Australian National University’s Centre for European Studies.
Some 15,000 soldiers and civilians have been killed since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and invaded some regions in Ukraine, Sonia Mycak told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Tuesday.
The chances of a full-scale invasion are “unfortunately very, very high” at this point, she said.
The amassing of troops at the border between Russia and Ukraine in past months is not a “new or recent act of aggression,” but part of a “war that Russia has been waging,” she said.
“What’s happened in the last 24 hours is simply part of that war strategy that has been going on now for eight years,” she said. “Further incursions into Ukrainian territory are very, very possible.”
However, whether Russia will ramp up aggression against Ukraine is still a question of “if” not “when,” especially if swift action is taken by European countries and the United States, Mycak said.
Her comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Monday evening announcement that he would recognize two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent. Putin issued a decree calling for forces to enter Donetsk and Luhansk — though it is unclear what that mission entails.
That is the danger at this point — that the so-called recognition of independent regions in Ukraine is just an excuse to enter with even more military force than he has already done
Mycak said that seems to be a “pattern of behavior” for Putin, pointing to how he “allegedly acknowledged a separatist area” in Crimea to “assist” Ukrainians who wanted to break away before making laws to bring Crimea into the Russian Federation.
“That is the danger at this point — that the so-called recognition of independent regions in Ukraine is just an excuse to enter with even more military force than he has already done so to this point, and then incorporate those territories into the Russian Federation, thereby annexing them,” she said.
Peter Zwack, a global fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, said Russia is carrying out a “creeping annexation” that isn’t formalized, which has similarities to what Moscow did with Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014.
“A key point here is that they’ve declared the peacekeepers. That is always what happens here,” he said.
— CNBC’s Amanda Macias contributed to this report.