As the US government warned a Russian invasion could occur in the coming days, Peter Dutton said there were multiple signs this was on the cards.
"It's tragic and we'll see terrible scenes unfolding," Mr Dutton told the Nine Network on Friday.
"You would expect that President (Vladimir) Putin, who obviously can't be taken at his word, is manufacturing some sort of trigger, or is in the process of executing the final stages of his plan to go into Ukraine."
The Kremlin has accused Joe Biden of stoking tensions after the US president said Russia was engaged in a "false flag" operation and seeking an excuse to invade.
"We have reason to believe they are engaged in a false flag operation to have an excuse to go in. Every indication we have is they're prepared to go into Ukraine and attack Ukraine," Mr Biden told reporters as he departed the White House.
"My sense is this will happen in the next several days."
Ukrainian forces and pro-Moscow rebels have already clashed - the two groups traded fire in Ukraine's east.
Mr Dutton said while European leaders have attempted to prevent a conflict in Ukraine, President Putin was intent on military action.
"That really is going to result in the loss of innocent life," he said.
"We've seen it before in eastern Europe. We don't want it repeated but we live in a very uncertain world."
However, the defence minister said Australia had not been asked to provide troops to Ukraine, should there be any military retaliation.
Mr Dutton later told Sky News that Russia's decision to invade would also embolden China.
"China is the one country that hasn't denounced the actions of President Putin, in fact provided some words of comfort, and we should be concerned about that... that provides great instability for the Indo-Pacific," he said.
"We're expecting China will be watching very closely what happens in Ukraine ... China will be watching very closely also to see the world's reaction."
Labor deputy leader Richard Marles said the warning from the defence minister was dire.
"We all hope for that 11th-hour miracle. I think what's really important is that the international community is of one, giving support to Ukraine," he told the Nine Network.
"Russia should be withdrawing, obviously, and de-escalating but it's really important at this moment that the world stands with Ukraine."
Overnight, Mr Biden ordered Secretary of State Antony Blinken to change his travel plans at the last minute to speak at a United Nations Security Council meeting on Ukraine.
Mr Blinken told the council that Russia planned to manufacture a pretext for an invasion.
"It could be a fabricated so-called terrorist bombing inside Russia, the invented discovery of a 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," he said.