Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is willing to support the Biden administration if it seeks to implement a no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace if the Russian military deploys chemical weapons in its ongoing war against Kyiv.
“I don’t want a no-fly zone, but if there’s the use of chemical weapons by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin against the Ukrainian people, I would support a no-fly zone because that would be breaking every war crime rule in the book,” Graham said in an interview with Fox News. “And the ban on chemical weapons would be nothing if we didn’t act with a no-fly zone. But right now, no boots on the ground, no-fly zone.”
A no-fly zone is intended to safeguard a vulnerable country from enemy surveillance and attacks by prohibiting the entry of enemy aircraft into the nation’s airspace. To actually enforce the rule would mean shooting down any enemy airborne vehicle that enters the airspace of the protected country.
In the current scenario, this would involve sending “NATO planes into Ukrainian airspace and to shoot down Russian planes,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a news conference in early March. This could lead to a “full-fledged war in Europe,” he warned while adding that President Joe Biden has been clear that Washington is not going to be involved in a war with Russia.
U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, has also dismissed the possibility of a no-fly zone. Washington does not want to “expand this conflict beyond Ukraine,” Smith said to CNN.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been requesting the West to institute a no-fly zone to counter Russia, reiterating the demand even during his recent video address to Canadian lawmakers. However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has shrugged off any possibilities of the alliance instituting a no-fly zone in Ukraine, arguing that such a move will trigger a wider conflict, pulling Europe into war.
Estonia recently became the first NATO member to call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, with the country’s parliament passing a related resolution on March 15. It called on U.N. members and the European Union to follow suit.
Bartosz Cichocki, Polish ambassador to Kyiv, said to a local Ukrainian broadcaster that a no-fly zone will bring a faster end to the conflict. “Every day of delay costs hundreds of human lives,” Bartosz said. “This is an extension of the conflict that could be ended much faster precisely thanks to the closure of the airspace.”
Meanwhile, both Ukraine and Russia might be inching closer to a peace deal as per recent reports. Zelensky says talks with Moscow were becoming “more realistic,” according to Sky News. Talks are expected to continue for the third straight day on Wednesday.