No-fly zones are intended to prevent hostile aircraft from using the airspace. They also need combat fighter planes capable of intercepting any invasions. These interceptors may attempt to escort hostile aircraft out of the zone or shoot them down in the worst-case scenario.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made strong air defence demands for his country, asking, “How many people must be blown up, how many legs, arms, heads must be torn off and fly away?” before Ukrainian supporters are driven to impose a no-fly zone?

The President is well aware that establishing a ‘no-fly zone’ would prevent any unlicensed aircraft flying over Ukraine. Keep in mind that Germany was forbidden from military aviation after World War I. The contemporary no-fly zone was established in the 1990s, after Saddam Hussein’s onslaught on Kurds in northern Iraq and Shias in the south. America, the United Kingdom, and France imposed no-fly zones in northern Iraq and over the country’s southern half. NATO imposed similar no-fly zones over Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993 and 1995 and Libya in 2011.

What are the implications of declaring a no-flying zone?

  • No-fly zones prohibit a nation from attacking military objectives or civilians on the ground with aircraft.
  • The declaring power must patrol the region with its planes and fire on hostile aircraft.
  • The Air Force must have confidence that its aircraft will not be shot down to undertake such patrols safely. Furthermore, that means detecting, jamming, or destroying ground-based air defence systems.
  • Mr Breedlove asserts that “the truth of a no-fly zone is that it is an act of war.”
  • This would imply that the US military would fire down Russian aircraft. That is unquestionably escalatory and might possibly precipitate a military clash between the US and Russia.
  • British fighter planes would fire down Russian fighter jets in a no-fly zone.
  • It has the potential to draw NATO into the battle, resulting in “a war against Russia across all of Europe.”
  • No-fly zones, on the other hand, have their restrictions. Furthermore, although no-fly zones deter adversaries from deploying aircraft, they do nothing to deter them from employing other troops, like the massive convoy of Russian armour currently 15 kilometres from Kyiv.
  • Proponents of no-fly zones downplay these risks.

These are some of the reasons why the US and UK in concert with other governments, have been adamant in their opposition to any effort to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. They contended that this might result in an escalation of hostilities and would not, in any event, protect the people of Ukraine from the horrible assault by ground-based artillery. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg: “We understand the desperation, but we also believe that if we did that, we would end up with something that could end in a full-fledged war in Europe”. 

Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, said Western sanctions amounted to a declaration of war and that any nation imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine would be considered to have joined the war.

There is serious concern that enforcing a no-fly zone could escalate at the nuclear level. However, proponents believe a no-fly zone would cut off Russian air support, blunt the advance of Russian troops toward Kyiv and save the lives of innocent Ukrainians.