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The Ukrainian No-Fly Zone That the West Refuses to Enforce, Explained

¿Qué es la zona de exclusión aérea que pide Zelenski y occidente no quiere otorgar?

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Despite continued demands by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a no-fly zone to stop Russian bombing, both the United States and other Atlantic Alliance countries have rejected such a possibility, because of the risk of military escalation involved.

The purpose of the no-fly zone is to prevent aircraft banned from flying through it, and to implement it requires the use of military means, such as surveillance systems, anti-aircraft defenses, and planes to neutralize flights that improperly enter the restricted area.

In short, if the Atlantic Alliance were to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, it would have to intercept by military means any Russian aircraft or plane flying over it, which would increase the risk of the conflict going global.

“If (Western countries) are united against Nazism and against this terror, they should close (Ukraine’s airspace). Don’t wait for me to ask so many times, millions of times. Close the sky,” the Ukrainian president said last night.

But there has been no positive response from the West.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the Ottawa Conference on Security and Defense Wednesday that NATO’s decision not to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine was “painful” but seeks to avoid an “all-out war” with Russia.

Stoltenberg explained that imposing a no-fly zone would require direct confrontation with Russian aircraft and that NATO would have to “massively” attack Russian air defenses located in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus, which would amount to “all-out war.”

“It assumes a direct confrontation between NATO’s air capabilities and those of Russia. It will significantly escalate the war in Ukraine. But it also of course risks an all-out war in Europe, with NATO members,” the NATO secretary-general added.

The issue was back on the table with the Polish initiative to move MIG 29 aircraft to U.S. bases in Germany so that they could then be deployed in Ukraine’s air defense.

But the U.S. settled the controversy raised by the Polish proposal. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin conveyed the rejection to his Polish counterpart, Mariusz Blaszczak, during a telephone call on Wednesday.

Based on the intelligence available to it, the United States believes that the MiG-29 transfer could be taken by Moscow as an escalatory step and result in a significant Russian reaction that could increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a press briefing.

What is a no-fly zone?

A no-fly zone is a territory or area over which a military force establishes a prohibition to be flown over by certain aircraft.

The establishment of these exclusion zones can be ordered voluntarily by the authorities of a country in order to protect sensitive areas, but in the military order, its implementation responds to the dynamics of a military conflict and acts similarly to a demilitarized zone on the earth’s surface.

How does it work?

Since the objective of the no-fly zone is to prevent aircraft that are banned from flying through it, it requires the use of military means, such as surveillance systems, anti-aircraft defenses, and aircraft that neutralize a plane that improperly enter the restricted area.

The no-fly zone strategy is a relatively modern concept, which began to be applied in the 1990s, after the end of the Cold War, and has developed in parallel with the technological progress that has allowed the use of satellites and radar aircraft, essential tools to ensure compliance with the overflight veto.

Area exclusion zones in other conflicts

Iraq. In 1991, following the first Gulf War that broke out after Iraq invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France agreed, without a UN resolution, to establish a no-fly zone in Iraq above the 36th parallel to defend the Kurdish people.

A year later, this decision was extended and delimited below the 32nd parallel, and then, in 1993, the United States extended the zone to the 33rd parallel.

The restricted area remained in force until 1996 for the area north of the 36th parallel and until 2003 for the area south of the 33rd parallel.

Bosnia and Herzegovina. In October 1992 the UN Security Council established a no-fly zone in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which was maintained until 1995 through NATO deployment, to prevent Bosnian Serb aviation attacks on Bosnian army positions. The measure did not prevent tragedies such as the Serb siege of Sarajevo or the massacre of civilians in Srebrenica.

Libya. The last time a no-fly zone was established was in 2011 in Libya, during the civil conflict that ended with the death of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi and the end of his regime.

The exclusion, agreed in March of that year by the United Nations Security Council, was extended until October with the aim of protecting civilians from attacks by Qaddafi’s air force.

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