Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has renewed calls for NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, despite the repeated rejection of the idea by western leaders concerned about triggering a wider war in Europe.
But military analysts say there is no chance that the US, Britain and their European allies will impose a no-fly zone because it could easily escalate the war in Ukraine into a nuclear confrontation between NATO and Russia.
What is a no-fly zone?
- Articles under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter dealing with ‘Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression’ are invoked to authorise a potential no-fly zone.
- Article 39 dictates the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to determine the probable existence of any threat to peace or an act of aggression.
- It suggests further measures, if required, are to be carried out in accordance to Article 41 and 42 to restore international peace and security.
- No fly zones have been implemented without UN mandate too. In 1991 after the first Gulf War, U.S. and its coalition partners imposed two no fly zones over Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussain from attacking ethnic groups. In non-combat situations,
- No fly zones can be imposed permanently and temporarily over sensitive installations or for high profile events like Olympics.
- This military action was not authorised by the United Nations.
Why won’t NATO take this step in Ukraine?
- In simple terms, because it would risk a direct military conflict with Russia that could escalate into a wider European war with a nuclear-armed superpower.
- While the idea may have captured the public imagination, declaring a no-fly zone could force NATO pilots to shoot down Russian aircraft.
- But it goes beyond that. In addition to fighter planes, NATO would have to deploy refueling tankers and electronic-surveillance aircraft to support the mission. To protect these relatively slow, high-flying planes, NATO would have to destroy surface-to-air missile batteries in Russia and Belarus, again risking a broader conflict.
- The only way to implement a no-fly zone is to send NATO fighter planes into Ukrainian airspace, and then impose that no-fly zone by shooting down Russian planes.
What would a no-fly zone achieve?
- Ukrainian authorities and people cowering night after night in bomb shelters say a no-fly zone would protect civilians — and now nuclear power stations — from Russian air strikes.
- But analysts say it’s Russia’s ground forces, not aircraft, that are causing most of the damage in Ukraine.
- What Ukrainians actually want is a broader intervention like the one that occurred in Libya in 2011, when NATO forces launched attacks on government positions.
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