(NewsNation Now) — It will be difficult to monitor the fluid and ever-changing situation in Ukraine as the Russian attack on the country rages on, NewsNation’s Leland Vittert said on “Morning in America.”
Russia launched the wide-ranging attack Wednesday evening, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling, as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee. At least 40 people were confirmed dead with dozens injured.
“This is the time you’ve got to be really careful because the fog of war is quite real. And anything’s true, but nothing’s real if that makes any sense,” Vittert said in part. “Formally, the real invasion is underway. The fog of war is real here. And I think what we’re going to see over the next 12 to 24 hours is the Ukrainians really realize the overwhelming nature of the Russian military power.”
In unleashing Moscow’s most aggressive action since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, President Vladimir Putin deflected global condemnation and cascading new sanctions — and chillingly referred to his country’s nuclear arsenal. He threatened any foreign country attempting to interfere with “consequences you have never seen.”
Ukrainian authorities described ground invasions in multiple regions, and border guards released security camera footage Thursday showing a line of Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine’s government-held territory from Russian-annexed Crimea.
The Russian military claimed to have wiped out Ukraine’s entire air defenses in a matter of hours, and European authorities declared the country’s airspace an active conflict zone. Russia’s claims could not immediately be verified, nor could Ukrainian ones that they had shot down several Russian aircraft. Vittert warned of the potential for misinformation and the chance of quick escalation as the world’s eyes turn to Ukraine.
“You’ve got the second largest, most dangerous army in the world, the Russian army, the largest land army in the world involved in this such a massive operation. They’re bombing and taking on Ukrainian targets very close to the Polish border. That’s exactly where US and NATO troops are,” Vittert said. “So the chance of miscalculation here in an escalation is really high. It’s very easy to start a war.”
Putin has painted today’s Ukraine as a modern construct used by the West to contain Russia despite the neighbor’s inextricable links. Putin has used this reasoning as a rationale for the attacks on Ukraine.
The relationship between Ukraine and Russia has evolved in the more than 20 years since Ukraine has become its own nation. Of those born after independence was declared in 1991, 87% identify as Ukrainian while 21% of those born before 1991 call themselves “Soviet people.” But this does vary by region — 80% of Western Ukrainians want to be economically tied to the EU versus just 26% in eastern Ukraine.
Putin previously annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Vittert said that the attacks happening in Ukraine weren’t a repeat of 2014.
“History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself but it does rhyme. The justification is a little different in the sense that Russia is saying that the people in the red area are ethnically Russian, and have asked for the protection of the Russian military from Ukrainian aggression,” Vittert said on “Morning in America.” “So in a sense, yes, what we would think based on the way the Russian military is acting, and we see that there are more reported Russian attacks on this map, that the Russians are doing a lot more than if they just wanted to occupy the red area. There’s definitely a desire to punish the Ukrainian military.”
Putin continued this narrative Thursday afternoon in an address, blaming Russia’s invasion on an alleged NATO eastern expansion calling them “fundamental threats.”
“It is a fact that over the past 30 years, we have been patiently trying to come to an agreement with the leading NATO countries regarding the principles of equal and indivisible security in Europe,” Putin said in part. “In response to our proposal, we invariably faced either cynical deception and lies or attempts to pressure and blackmail. While the North Atlantic Alliance continued to expand, despite our protests and concerns. Its military machine is moving and as I said, is approaching our very border.”
As the conflict in Ukraine continues, NewsNation will bring Americans the latest developments from abroad and insights into its impact at home throughout our newscasts. We’re dropping the paywall on our live stream so it’s available to everyone. You can watch NewsNation’s programming, including the latest on Ukraine, at the top of the hour from 7-10 a.m. and 5-11 p.m. ET.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.