NATO No-Fly Zone Over Ukraine Would Be ‘Wrong Tool for the Wrong Job'

Here’s why a no-fly zone over Ukraine is a terrible idea.


NSFW    KYIV, UKRAINE — Ukraine no-fly zone explainer. Why Ukraine no-fly zone is a bad idea.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly called on NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over his country, sparking debate around its consequences in which most military and political leaders have come out against the idea.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, associate professor of political science Peter Harris explained a no-fly zone in Ukraine would mean prohibiting Russian military planes from flying over it, and retired U.S. military personnel writing for War on the Rocks detail that this involves maintaining not only control of the air, but also the elimination of threats from the ground.

The first issue with such air supremacy is that it is difficult to attain, and the second is that it may not even help Ukrainian aircraft, as currently they are not under major threat from Russian ground defenses, which are only available to the Russians in Russian-controlled areas.

Additionally the concept represents a major escalation for little even theoretical gain, as current air parity in Ukraine has not significantly halted Russia’s advance through the country.

Enforcement would require flights into Ukrainian airspace, putting NATO forces directly in contested airspace, while surface-based air defenses in bordering countries would not allow for domination of airspace Russian aircraft were flying in, but would invite the escalatory response of Russia attacking NATO aircraft over Ukraine from outside Ukraine.

Even in terms of direct civilian casualties, a no-fly zone may have limited effect, as the majority of Ukrainian civilian casualties do not appear to have been caused by airpower but rather by artillery. Russian precision strikes seem to be inflicted by ballistic and cruise missiles, which once fired, it says, cannot be interdicted by aircraft in a no-fly zone.

The end result, then, would appear in theory to be that NATO would enter a direct conflict with Russia, with what would at this stage be little to gain, either in military or humanitarian terms.

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