The action he proposes would see Western aircraft go into direct combat with Russia’s air force — and probably lead to nuclear war
The president of Ukraine has criticized the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for refusing to impose a no-fly-zone over the Eastern European country’s airspace in response to the Russian invasion that began on Feb. 24.
Talking to members of the U.S. House and Senate on Saturday, March 5 via Zoom, Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the U.S. and its allies for supporting Ukraine with weapons shipments and sanctions against the Kremlin. However, he also asked for NATO to take direct action against Russia by enforcing a no-fly-zone over Ukrainian airspace.
He also asked for heavier weapons, including fighter jets, drones, and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.
NATO refused to consider a no-fly-zone to stop operations by the Russian air force, with the alliance’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg reiterating on March 4 that “we should not have NATO planes operating over Ukrainian airspace or NATO troops on Ukrainian territory.”
U.S. officials have expressed similar opinions, with President Joe Biden recently saying that he had the choice of either imposing sanctions on Russia, or starting World War III.
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Russia has since the start of the conflict stressed that it would use its massive nuclear arsenal — the world’s largest — in response to NATO or other third-party intervention in its invasion of Ukraine.
Zelensky dismissed concerns about nuclear war after the meeting, saying in a video statement that “NATO countries have themselves created a narrative that the closure of the sky over Ukraine would provoke Russia’s direct aggression against NATO.”
The president, who was elected in 2019, added that the refusal to create a no-fly-zone betrayed a weakness and lack of confidence on NATO’s part, which he called “self-hypnosis” in spite of the fact that the alliance possesses “weapons many times more powerful than ours.”
“All the people who will die starting from this day will die because of you,” he said.
On Feb. 27, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin said that Russia’s nuclear weapons had been moved to a state of “high alert” due to what he said were aggressive statements and actions taken by NATO. He repeated the warning on March 4.
Prior to the invasion, Putin stated that if Ukraine joins NATO and attempts to reclaim the territories Russia annexed in 2014, Russia would be compelled to use nuclear weapons in a war with “no winners.”
“Do you understand it or not, that if Ukraine joins Nato and attempts to bring Crimea back by military means, the European countries will be automatically pulled into a war conflict with Russia?” he asked French President Emmanuel Macron while meeting with him in the Kremlin on Feb. 7.
The Russian president admitted that his country was unable to compete with NATO in terms of overall military strength, but noted that Russia remains “one of the world’s leading nuclear states.”
“‘You won’t even have time to blink your eye when you execute Article 5,” Putin said, referring to the NATO article that requires the entire alliance to join its members should they go to war or have their territory violated.
“There will be no winners.”