No to a 'no-fly zone'
Bradley Blankenship
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers an address in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022. /CFP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers an address in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022. /CFP

Editor's note: Bradley Blankenship is a Prague-based American journalist, political analyst and freelance reporter. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave a virtual address to both chambers of the U.S. Congress on March 16. Invoking Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terror attacks, Zelenskyy pleaded for more military assistance, as well as the imposition of a so-called "no-fly zone" over Ukraine.

"To create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people; is this too much to ask?" he said. He went on, "You know how much depends on the battlefield, on the ability to use aircraft, powerful strong aviation to protect our people, our freedom, our land, aircraft that can help Ukraine, help Europe. You know they exist and you have them, but they are on Earth not in the Ukrainian sky."

While Zelenskyy may have some support among some members of Congress for shipments of planes to Ukraine, since this would, of course, juice the military-industrial complex, most are worried Russia would perceive this as a direct act of aggression against its forces in Ukraine. Russia has made its attitude towards NATO's possible intervention quite clear, given its recent military operations in Lviv near the Polish border.

However, to answer Zelenskyy's question about a no-fly zone, yes, that is too much to ask for.

I should preface my explanation by noting that I have many Ukrainian friends. As of writing, I was just at the largest registration center for Ukrainian refugees in Prague. Though I'm not in Ukraine personally, I have seen the faces of this conflict and spent many hours consoling those suffering over the fate of their loved ones.

I can understand the emotional aspect of the argument for a no-fly zone. But we must be under no illusions as to what that actually entails. It does not mean creating a magical bubble around Ukraine where planes can no longer fly; it means shooting down Russian planes and attacking points in Russia where those aircraft are stationed. In effect, this means a direct war between NATO and Russia, and this would be a complete disaster.

Barricades partially block a road at dusk in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 14, 2022. /CFP

Barricades partially block a road at dusk in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 14, 2022. /CFP

We must remember that a war between Russia and NATO (the United States) would pit the largest nuclear powers against each other. Russia sees its interest in this conflict as existential – that is, NATO encroachment into Ukraine coupled with the destruction of the Russian economy.

In sum, we are at the precipice of a conflict that would result in no winners, a nuclear war. Within this context, there can be no rational moral position in which it would make sense to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine while increasing the potential for "nuclear Armageddon."

It is also worth mentioning the tactical sense of such a move. Zelenskyy's addresses to his people, and to Russians, since he delivers them in both Ukrainian and Russian, continually suggest that Ukraine is winning the conflict while Russia is suffering heavy casualties in addition to the destruction of its economy and full-spectrum isolation. If this is the case, why does he need larger powers to help the conflict effort?

I am admittedly not a military expert, but it seems to me that these addresses are aimed at demoralizing Russian soldiers and not actually a reflection of the situation on the ground. The pleas for a no-fly zone clearly indicate that the Ukrainians are not winning, even if they are putting up a surprising fight. It suggests a very active role is needed by outside forces to turn the tide.

No lone one can fault Zelenskyy for doing everything he can in an existential fight. Personally, I can understand my friends posting on social media with the slogan "protect the skies" because the destruction of the world might mean little when their world is already destroyed. But, none of this changes the fact that the U.S. entering this conflict would be a complete disaster for every living thing in the world.

What's happening in Ukraine is a tragedy. But a no-fly zone could turn this localized event into extinction – and that's why sensible people must stand firm against it.

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