The President of the US, Joe Biden, has said that Russia is expected to conduct a “false-flag” operation to claim justification for an invasion in the following days.
The President said:
“Every indication we have is they’re prepared to go into Ukraine, attack Ukraine … My sense is it will happen in the next several days.”
Over the past few months Russia has been building up a military presence on the Russian side of the Ukraine-Russia border, currently expected to entail over 60% of the Russian army; at least 150,000 troops. US intelligence currently estimates between 160,000 and 190,000 Russian troops are at the border. Russia has continuously claimed that it has no intention of invading Ukraine, and that the troops’ presence is for joint military exercises with its CSTO ally Belarus.
Earlier this week the Russian Defence Ministry claimed that it was withdrawing troops from the border that had completed their exercises, but western figures have insisted that no withdrawal has been observed.
False-flag operations are manufactured incidents designed to create a casus belli or excuse for greater involvement. False-flag operations were named for pirate ships which would fly national flags to get close to merchants before launching an attack, but creating false-pretence for war is as old as human conflict itself. Some better known false-flags include the Reichstag fire of 1933, which the Nazis used to justify crushing their political opposition, and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which the US used to justify deploying ground troops to Vietnam.
US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said:
“First, Russia plans to manufacture a pretext for its attack. This could be a violent event that Russia will blame on Ukraine, or an outrageous accusation that Russia will level against the Ukrainian government. We don’t know exactly the form it will take. It could be a fabricated so-called terrorist bombing inside Russia. The invented discovery of the mass grave, a staged drone strike against civilians, or a fake – even a real – attack using chemical weapons.”
“Russia may describe this event as ethnic cleansing, or a genocide, making a mockery of a concept that we in this chamber do not take lightly.”
In eastern Ukraine, separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk are attempting to aquire international recognition of their independence. In 2014, Crimean separatists, managed to seize control of the region, subsequently being recognised, and then annexed by the Russian Federation.
On Tuesday Russia’s state Duma voted to ask Putin to recognise the independence of the two regions. On Thursday British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss urged Putin not to do so, as it could jeopardise the fragile peace process.
On Thursday tensions escalated further, as Ukrainian and Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region of Ukraine exchanged fire with each other. Both sides accused the other of instigating the violence.
An image recently emerged of a Ukrainian kindergarten that had been hit by a shell. Boris Johnson accused the kindergarten shelling of being a Russian false-flag operation.
“A kindergarten was shelled in what we are taking to be, what we know was a false flag operation designed to discredit the Ukrainians, designed to create a pre-text, a spurious provocation for Russian action.”
Some politicians are less averse to blunt threats than others. President of Belarus Lukashenko stated made it clear that in the event of a military conflict with the west, Belarus would take whatever measures necessary to protect itself. He said:
“In the event of emergency, if our enemies and opponents take such senseless, stupid steps, we will deploy not only nuclear weapons, but even prospective supernuclear ones, to defend our territory.”
Russia recently delivered a series of proposals to NATO for “long-term European security”. However, after NATO issued their counter-proposal, Russia published a document accusing NATO of ignoring most of the key points, including so-called “red-lines”, from its initial proposal.
The document reiterates that Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine, insists that NATO must not expand further eastward, must stop placing nuclear ordinance in Europe, and that Crimea should be recognised as a legal Russian territory.