The unfortunate reality of our situation is that a military term has become part of our lexicon overnight without people understanding what that word means and what the action will entail.
Putin has forced the world to choose between watching the continued pain of Ukrainians or total global destruction
By Matthew Fraser, Editor in Chief
The war in Ukraine has justifiably elicited some very strong emotions and responses. As people see the ongoing atrocities and horrors that plague the Ukrainian population we often feel driven to do something or help in some way. Particularly, we hear the calls for help emanating from the Ukrainian people themselves and we are tempted or encouraged to provide them with precisely that which they ask for. Unfortunately, we run the risk of causing worse problems if we act too incautiously.
Recently, the term “No-Fly Zone” has gained popularity. Anecdotally, I’ve seen numerous posts on social media with well-meaning people throwing their support behind the action. In many ways, these calls have been bolstered by the calls from Ukrainian governmental officials themselves. In a March 1 media appearance, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky stated that he did not want to drag NATO into a war but that Russia had already started a war and dragged the world into it. His point was that a NATO-backed No-Fly Zone “would have helped a lot.” He referred to the need “to close the sky” as a “preventive sanction.”
The following day Ukrainian Parliamentary member Oleksandra Ustinova spoke on NBC Today and gave her thoughts on the preceding day’s State of the Union speech from President Biden. Her reaction was simple: “It was a total disappointment for us [Ukrainiaan people].” In the interview, she spoke of a No-Fly Zone or a dome (a reference to the ‘Iron-Dome’ that protects Israel) that would offer protection in the sky. This caused the host of the show to offer the fact that NATO and the US government have repeatedly declined to institute a No-Fly Zone over Ukraine or put foreign troops into the conflict. Yet there lies the problem with the calls for a No-Fly Zone.
A No-Fly Zone is not like a trade embargo where a few nations come together and simply agree not to trade with a country and ban all imports and exports related to that nation. As retired Lt. Gen Deptula explained in an interview with The National Interest, a No-Fly Zone rests on “full-fledged combat, designed to deprive an enemy of its airpower.” As he explained, this fighting would require whichever country implements the No-Fly Zone to destroy any Russian air defence systems that could be in striking range of the zone even if they are located inside of the Russian border. The procedure for a No-Fly Zone is not a simple statement, but rather an “air occupation with [the] attendant consequences.” In the case of a nuclear power like Russia, the consequences could include a nuclear holocaust.
An actual act of war and a true start to combat between Russia and NATO—which would instantly include America—or a war between Russia and America—which would similarly involve NATO—is a fast track to a very scary confrontation. As MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell states: “Everyone in the White House discussing this knows that would change the war between Russia and Ukraine into a war between Russia and the United States. And no one knows what happens after that.”
The unfortunate reality of our situation is that a military term has become part of our lexicon overnight without people understanding what that word means and what the action will entail. A No-Fly Zone is not meaningfully different from putting NATO/American troops into the conflict as ground soldiers. Pilots will need their support crews and logistical support and they may actually require soldiers on the ground to reclaim or take tactical positions that are not under friendly control at the moment. The reason that calling for a No-Fly Zone is such a bad idea is not that we do not care about the Ukrainian people but that the predictable consequences are so dire that they must be avoided. Worst still, Putin has revealed himself to be a man outside of the realm of prediction.
Though it might seem callous, engaging Russia directly via a No-Fly Zone is a dangerous way to see many more people killed than even the current situation. Though the current state of the conflict is sickening, the risk that Putin will choose to nuke as a response to a No-Fly Zone is too high to take the risk.