Zelensky Slams NATO’s Decision Against a No-Fly Zone in Ukraine
While Zelensky acknowledged NATO’s concerns of a no-fly zone leading to an escalation between Russia and NATO, he dismissed them as ill-founded.
Speaking from his office in Kyiv, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky harshly criticized NATO’s refusal on Friday to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine. “All the people who die, starting today, will also die because of you,” Zelensky said, arguing that Western leaders who stood by and allowed Russian planes to bomb Ukraine would bear partial responsibility for Ukrainians’ deaths.
At the NATO summit on Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the United States would defend “every inch” of NATO territory. However, Blinken repeated that Ukraine is not a member of NATO and could not be defended under Article 5 of the treaty, which provides for collective security.
Zelensky described Friday’s NATO summit as “weak” and “confused,” suggesting that “not everyone considers the fight for freedom for Europe [to be] the number one goal.” “All the intelligence agencies of the NATO countries are well aware of the enemy’s plans. They confirmed that Russia wants to continue the offensive … NATO has deliberately decided not to close the skies over Ukraine.”
A no-fly zone, in which an outside country forbids aircraft from flying over a specified area and threatens to shoot down any that attempt to take off, would have given Ukrainian ground forces a measure of protection against Russian aircraft. However, because such a measure would need to be enforced with NATO military strength, it would have brought Russian and NATO forces into direct confrontation—an extremely dangerous situation given that both NATO and Russia are armed with nuclear weapons.
The creation of a neutral no-fly zone could also deprive the Ukrainian military of its own air capabilities, including MiG-29 fighters and Turkish “Bayraktar” drones. While the Russian Air Force was expected to establish air superiority over Ukraine in the hours following the invasion, it has struggled to do so, giving Ukrainian fighters and drones the opportunity to strike back against Russian ground targets.
While Zelensky acknowledged NATO’s concerns of an escalation, he dismissed them as ill-founded, arguing that the NATO countries “possess weapons many times stronger than we have.”
The president concluded his remarks by saying that the struggle for Ukraine was a smaller part of a struggle for European independence, arguing that European security was dependent on Ukraine’s victory over Russia. “If Ukraine does not survive, the whole of Europe will not survive,” Zelensky said. “If Ukraine falls, the whole of Europe will fall.”
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.