Today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy live-streamed into Congress to plead with the U.S. for help.
No-fly zone: Zelenskyy doubled down on Ukraine’s recent pleas for a NATO-backed no-fly zone. He portrayed a no-fly zone as a necessary humanitarian move to save the Ukrainian people. He also reminded Americans of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor and quoted MLK’s “I have a dream” speech.
- Consequences: A no-fly zone would require NATO and American forces to shoot down Russian aircraft and anti-aircraft equipment located on Russian territory. According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, this would be a drastic escalation and could lead to nuclear war.
“This is a terror that Europe has not seen, has not seen for 80 years, and we are asking for a reply to this terror from the whole world. Is this a lot to ask for — to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people? Is this too much to ask humanitarian — a no-fly zone.” - Zelenskyy
Second best option: Zelenskyy said that giving aircraft to Ukrainians would be the second-best option. Over the past week, NATO allies debated providing Ukraine with fighter jets.
- Poland wanted to help Ukraine but didn’t want to be dragged into the war. It, therefore, proposed providing the United States with the jets that would be transferred to Ukraine.
- Consequences: Some argue that the move would escalate the situation, but less than a potential no-fly zone. NATO countries are already arming Ukrainians with other lethal defensive weapons.
From Zelenskyy’s perspective, urging other countries to help Ukraine is necessary to stop the invasion and keep Ukraine independent. For the rest of the world, Zelenskyy’s pleas risk escalating the situation into a world war.
Big picture: NATO countries are unsure of where Putin’s line is. While they send lethal defense weapons and train troops, they hesitate to send jets and act in ways that could escalate the war.