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A no-fly zone in Ukraine will backfire - by Aris Roussinos for Unherd

Creating a no-fly zone over the Ukraine by NATO forces, as advocated in a late-night tweet by Tobias Ellwood MP, Chair of the Commons Defence Select Committee, would be a profound mistake according to Aris Roussinos and serve only to escalate the conflict into a general European war whose outcome we can only guess.

"While wars are not won by manic late-night tweets, they can nevertheless create much damage, in this case the risk of significantly escalating the conflict through creating unrealistic expectations among the British media class about what should be done, and among the Ukrainians about what will be done.

As the Biden administration’s spokeperson Jen Psaki very sensibly observed last night in her attempt to persuade journalists to tone down their rhetoric, a No-Fly Zone “would essentially mean the US military would be shooting down planes, Russian planes. That is definitely escalatory. That would potentially put us in a place where we’re in a military conflict with Russia. That is not something the President wants to do.”

The operation would be fraught with practical difficulties too:

If Nato jets are flying from airbases in Central and Southeastern Europe to shoot down Russian aircraft, not only would the jets become military targets for Russia’s air defences, but those bases would themselves then become likely targets for Russian military retaliation, along with the basing locations of Nato air defence systems covering Western Ukraine. For all their diplomatic support of Ukraine and their supply of vital munitions to Ukrainian forces, countries such as Poland, Romania and Bulgaria will naturally shy away from a course of action likely to lead to Russian air and missile strikes on their own territory.

Russian military tactics would also render a NATO no-fly zone essentially irrelevant:

The Russian way of war is based on heavy artillery barrages to soften up defences for a ground assault, unlike the Western approach in which aerial bombardment has become the dominant tool. A No-Fly Zone would do nothing to prevent this outcome, though rhetoric demanding one may well play a role in encouraging Russian decision-makers to intensify their artillery bombardment in search of a swift and overwhelming victory — one which would cause vast numbers of civilian casualties.

The author concludes:

Britain, and other Nato countries are already doing about as much as we can, by supplying Ukraine with the munitions making the Russian advance so costly, and by imposing great financial and diplomatic costs on Russia for Putin’s invasion.

Beyond this, there is little more we can do other than encourage Russia towards meaningful negotiations before Kyiv is encircled and Ukraine’s bargaining hand is dramatically weakened.

The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it:

Article by Aris Roussinos for Unherd - A no-fly zone in Ukraine will backfire - 01.03.22
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