NATO rejects no-fly zone for Ukraine, saying it is “not part of this war”.

NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels
National flags of NATO members are seen on the day of a foreign ministers meeting amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 4, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman

March 4, 2022

By Simon Lewis and Sabine Siebold

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO allies on Friday rejected Ukraine’s call for no-fly zones, saying they would increase support but direct intervention would lead to a broader, even more brutal European war that has so far matched Russia’s attack on its neighbor was limited.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that wants to join the European Union and the western military alliance NATO, is currently not a member of either. Support so far has mainly come in the form of sweeping sanctions against Russia, with EU members saying on Friday more financial sanctions are yet to come.

“We are not part of this conflict,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference.

“We as NATO allies have a responsibility to prevent this war from escalating beyond Ukraine because that would be more dangerous, more devastating and cause more human suffering.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged western powers to enforce a no-fly zone since Moscow’s invasion began nine days ago, with Russia shelling cities and battling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

In a video message on Friday, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said NATO foreign ministers should not allow Putin to “turn Ukraine into Syria” in reference to the devastating Russian-backed campaign against rebel cities in that country.

“Act now before it’s too late,” he said in the message posted on Twitter.

Stoltenberg said NATO understands Ukraine’s desperation, called Russia’s war in Ukraine “terrible” and warned the worst is yet to come as Russia will deploy more heavy weapons.

“But we also believe that if we did that (a no-fly zone), we would end up with something that could lead to a full-fledged war in Europe,” involving many more countries, he said.

NATO members have sent arms to Ukraine but have shied away from military action. Russia and NATO members the US, UK and France are all nuclear powers.

The only way for NATO to establish a no-fly zone would be to send NATO planes to shoot down Russian planes, Stoltenberg said, adding that the risk of escalation was too great.

“Allies agree that we should not allow NATO aircraft to operate over Ukrainian airspace or NATO troops to operate on Ukrainian territory,” he said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the alliance will protect “every inch” of NATO territory from attack. “We are a defensive alliance. We do not seek conflict. But when conflict comes to us, we are ready,” said Blinken.


Instead of a military presence in Ukraine, European Union countries – most of them also NATO members – said they are considering further economic sanctions to complement the coordinated restrictions already targeting Russia’s financial system and elites.

EU officials are investigating restrictions on Russian influence and access to funding at the International Monetary Fund following its invasion of Ukraine, six officials told Reuters.

The bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said all options remained on the table in terms of new sanctions.

However, it was not immediately clear when the 27-nation EU would be able to agree on precise measures amid member states’ disagreements over deals with Moscow and some countries’ heavy reliance on Russian energy supplies.

“We will consider everything,” Borrell told reporters when asked about the potential suspension of EU gas imports from Russia, which think tank Eurointelligence says are $700 million a day even during the war.

Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said no new sanctions would be announced on Friday but that a fourth round could affect more Russian banks’ access to the international SWIFT remittance system, ban Russian ships from European ports and restrict imports such as steel, timber, aluminum or coal .

Putin launched his “military special operation” to get rid of Ukraine’s fascist government and demilitarize the country. Zelenskyj says Moscow is trying to prevent a liberal democracy from flourishing on the border with Russia.

Russian invading forces seized Europe’s largest nuclear power plant amid fierce fighting in south-east Ukraine on Friday, triggering alarms around the world, but a huge fire at a training building has been extinguished and officials said the plant is now safe.

“This isn’t just about Ukraine and Russia,” Ireland’s Coveney said. “It is about all of us who live on the European continent who could potentially be affected by an accident or injury to this facility.”

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Bart Meijer, Francesco Guarascio, Philip Blenkinsop, John Irish, Simon Lewis, Marine Strauss, writing by Gabriela Baczynska and Ingrid Melander; editing by Frank Jack Daniel) NATO rejects no-fly zone for Ukraine, saying it is “not part of this war”.

Bobby Allyn

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