Opinion

Are NATO Members Testing the Waters for No-Fly Zone Over Ukraine?

U.S. troops from 5th Battalion of the 7th Air Defense Regiment are seen at a test range in Sochaczew, Poland, on Saturday, March 21, 2015, to demonstrate the U.S. Army’s capacity to deploy Patriot systems rapidly within NATO territory.

German lawmakers have discussed the possibility of creating a no-fly zone over portions of western Ukraine, marking a new escalation in its rhetoric amid the conflict.Members of Germany’s ruling coalition, including the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens, have proposed creating a no-fly zone extending up to 70 kilometers into Ukrainian territory by using air defense systems deployed in Poland and Romania. The proposal was aimed to help shoulder Ukraine’s air defense burden, allowing them to focus on protecting frontline areas. The lawmakers cited NATO’s downing of Iranian missiles targeting Israel last month as a precedent.The German government spokesperson, nonetheless, stated on May 13 day that NATO would not enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine, citing the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s decision from March 2022.However, the discussion surrounding the potential establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine amid the Ukrainian army’s retreat suggests that Western leaders are exploring options for potential engagement in the conflict, according to Russian political analyst Sergey Poletaev.”To date, the conflict has been reliably limited to Ukraine’s territory,” Poletaev said. “On the one hand, they are making efforts to keep it that way, because it is in the interests of everyone [in the West]. (…) On the other hand, they are using all tools in their possession to inflict maximum damage [to Russia] while trying to navigate a delicate balance to avoid escalating tensions further.”MilitaryNo Game Changer for Ukraine: Patriot Systems Fail Against Russian Ballistic Missiles12 May, 17:03 GMTThe expert noted that it’s not a coincidence that Poland and Romania were picked as possible sites to enforce any no-fly zone. First, the two aren’t seen as independent players, according to Sputnik’s interlocutor. Second, Western politicians appear to be ready to sacrifice them in the event of a potential conflict with Russia. The question is whether NATO would come to their rescue under Article 5, stipulating the military bloc’s collective defense, if a conflict with Russia were to erupt, Poletaev said.”All the European military equipment is perceived [by NATO] as something common, as a common stockpile. Is the Romanian Army independent? Of course, it’s not. Like the Polish Army, like the German Army, it cannot act independently. They exist only in the context of NATO’s military structure,” Poletaev explained.MilitaryPoland Not Preparing, Will Not Send Troops to Ukraine — Defense Minister6 May, 14:53 GMT

Are Romania and Poland Ready to Protect Ukraine?

While German lawmakers did not bother to ask what Romanians and Poles think about the proposed no-fly zone, the plan appears to contradict Romania’s law and Poland’s actual capabilities.Romanian Chief of Defense Staff Gheorghita Vlad told US press on February 1 that the Romanian Army cannot conduct military operations in peacetime. To shoot down Russian drones or other aerial targets, Bucharest would have to introduce a state of emergency, siege or martial law, Vlad explained.Poland doesn’t seem strained by the law to the same extent as Romania, but it needs full NATO backing and political will to extend its air defense umbrella to Ukraine. Poland’s former Minister of National Defense Janusz Onyszkiewicz told a Ukrainian broadcaster last month that the Polish air defense system now has the ability to respond to Russian missile threats at the eleventh hour, when it may be too late to shoot them down. To empower Polish air defense systems to shield Western Ukraine, political decisions should be made at the level of NATO and Kiev, he said, adding that the Polish military should also be provided with full access to Ukrainian airspace information. Apparently, Poland wants to shift the responsibility to NATO to get guarantees that it would be protected if a hypothetical no-fly zone is implemented.Russia’s Special Operation in UkraineRussian Air Defense Destroys Dozens of Ukraine’s Drones, Storm Shadow MissilesYesterday, 04:57 GMT

NATO Downing Iran’s Missiles Not a Precedent for Ukraine

German politicians’ reference to NATO shooting down Iranian missiles and drones targeting Israel as a precedent for creating a no-fly zone over western Ukraine doesn’t hold water, Poletaev continued.”In the case of Israel, it is a completely different story, because Iran is not Russia,” the expert said, drawing attention to Russia’s nuclear arsenal and military capabilities.He went on to say that NATO member states intercepted Iranian missiles and drones over the territories of third countries with their approval.”By and large, Iran’s attack was more of a media attack,” the expert said. Tehran’s warning about its retaliation strike, following Israel’s attack on the Iranian embassy in Syria, appeared to be a significant factor allowing Iran to avenge the death of its generals while evading further escalation.When it comes to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, stakes are much higher, and hitting Russia’s missiles and aircraft is fraught with a risk of a nuclear conflict, Poletaev noted.”Media speculations and verbal attacks are circulated in order to avoid or delay real attacks. But the logic of the conflict in Ukraine inexorably leads to the possibility of a Western intervention in one form or another,” the expert concluded.Russia’s Special Operation in UkraineNATO Soldiers Present in Ukraine – Polish Prime Minister9 May, 15:50 GMT

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