Zelensky’s Appeal to Congress Unlikely to Budge Lawmakers on Idea of No-Fly Zone in Ukraine: Report

CC0 / / UK F-35B Lightning II
  UK F-35B Lightning II - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.03.2022
Ukrainian officials have spent over two weeks now calling on the US and NATO to institute a no-fly zone amid Russia’s ongoing military operation. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned in no uncertain terms that “any movement in this direction” would be viewed by Moscow “as participation…in an armed conflict” with Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s planned virtual address before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday will be certain to include another appeal urging Washington to institute a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but his chances of convincing US lawmakers on the measure are slim, senior former Republican and Democratic officials have told The Hill.
“We do not want to participate in World War III,” former Obama deputy assistant secretary of state Joel Rubin told the outlet. “On the politics, there really isn’t political support for a no-fly zone in any meaningful way yet. [President Biden] scores very well, time and time again, on how he is threading the needle with strong support for Ukraine but not getting into a war with Russia,” the former official added.
“He is going to be pleading with the Congress of the United States, with both Houses, with Democrats and Republicans, for more help to Ukraine. He will be making what is fundamentally a moral case,” former Trump-era Ukraine negotiator Kurt Volker said.
Republicans have expressed more hawkish appetites toward Russia amid the Ukraine crisis, with a group of forty GOP senators penning a letter to Biden urging him to assist Poland with the delivery of over two dozen of its aging MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine. The administration initially greenlit the idea when Poland first proposed it, but its eagerness cooled after Warsaw specified that the jets should be sent via a US airbase in Germany – something that may have risked open conflict with Russia.
US Air Force F-16C and F-16D fighters assigned with the 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, arrive in Kallax, Sweden for drills. File photo. - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.03.2022
US Senators Fear Setting Up No-Fly Zone Over Ukraine Could Spark ‘World War III’
President Zelensky offered a preview of his US address to the Americans on Tuesday morning when he addressed Canada’s House of Commons.
“Can you imagine when you call your [allies], and ask, ‘please close the sky, close the airspace, please stop the bombings, how many more cruise missiles have to fall on our cities until you make this happen?’ And in return, they express their deep concerns about the situation? Please understand how important it is for us to close our airspace from Russian missiles and Russian aircraft. I hope you can understand,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky’s address to US lawmakers will begin at 9:00 am Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, with the speech expected to be simultaneously broadcast live on C-SPAN and other media outlets.
The Ukrainian president spoke to US lawmakers virtually on 5 March, but that address was closed to the media. In that call, Zelensky reportedly made the same urgent appeal about a no-fly zone.
Claudio Graziano, the European Union’s top general, told an Italian newspaper Monday that a decision on a no-fly zone over Ukraine could only be taken at the United Nations, where Russia has veto power. “In the current case, without such a decision from the UN, [a no-fly zone] would constitute an act of war against Russia,” Graziano stressed.
President Putin warned against a no-fly zone last week, saying that a decision to impose such a zone would have “colossal and catastrophic consequences not only for Europe but also the whole world.”
The US and its NATO allies have implemented no-fly zones over mostly poor and militarily weak countries three times since the end of the Cold War, targeting Iraq, Bosnia and Libya with such air policing missions. In each instance, the US and its allies used the no-fly zones not only to prevent the operation of aircraft over designated areas, but to bomb ground targets. The Iraqi government estimates that up to 1,400 civilians were killed in the US and British-policed no-fly zone over the Middle Eastern country between 1991 and 2003. Between 1993 and 1995 in Bosnia, NATO reportedly struck Serb forces, but also waterworks, bridges and hospitals, killing over 150 civilians and irradiating the region with depleted uranium shells. The no-fly zone put in place over Libya in 2011 saw NATO jets attacking forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, with rebels successfully overthrowing the longtime Libyan leader and turning the North African nation into a failed state.
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