A cacophony of Western lawmakers and media figures have called on their leaders to institute a no-fly zone over Ukraine, notwithstanding the risks of sparking a war between NATO and Russia. President Putin stressed last week that Moscow would see any attempt to set up a no-fly zone as “participation of the respective country in an armed conflict.”
Any effort to institute a no-fly zone over Ukraine would require approval from the United Nations Security Council, and the only alternative is war with Russia, European Union military committee chairman Claudio Graziano has said.
“The decision can only be taken by the UN, as was the case in Libya. In the current case, without such a decision from the UN, it would constitute an act of war against Russia,” Graziano told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper on Monday.
The general praised Western sanctions against Russia, calling them a “dutiful, extraordinary and unanimous response” to Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, and emphasizing that “their impact will increase over time.” He admitted that the restrictions will “undoubtedly also have a very high cost for those who applied them – such as Italy, which over the years has not diversified their energy supply.” Graziano promised that the European Union would achieve full rapid deployment capacity of 5,000 troops by 2025, and that a common European defence force of “at least 60,000 troops, usable up to 6,000 km beyond European borders,” was in the offing. The general also called on EU nations to optimize military spending, saying the bloc’s annual 230 billion euros in outlays includes up to 100 billion euros in waste caused by duplication of systems and the loss of economies of scale.
No-Fly Zones: A Brief History
The US and its NATO allies have used no-fly zones three times since the end of the Cold War, targeting Iraq, Bosnia and Libya. The no-fly zone instituted over Iraq between 1991 and 2003 was implemented unilaterally by the US and its allies, and did not receive approval from the UN, which called them “illegal.” The no-fly zone was repeatedly used by coalition forces to attack ground targets, with Baghdad estimating that some 1,400 Iraqi civilians were killed in US and British strikes through the 12 years the zone was implemented. Between 1993 and 1995, NATO aircraft implemented a UN-authorized no-fly zone over Bosnia. The Western alliance used the authorization to carry out airstrikes against hundreds of targets, including Serbian forces, but also civilian infrastructure such as waterworks, bridges, hospitals and television and radio broadcast facilities, killing over 150 civilians and polluting the region with depleted uranium.
In March 2011, the United Nations Security Council approved the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya –with Russia, China, India, Brazil and Germany abstaining from the vote after receiving assurances that the measure would be solely aimed at preventing attacks against civilian targets by the Libyan government. Instead, the resolution was used by the US and its NATO and Gulf allies to bomb Libyan government forces with impunity. Vladimir Putin, who was serving as Russia’s prime minister at the time, called the resolution authorizing the no-fly zone “defective and flawed,” and suggested that “it resembles medieval calls for crusades. ”The campaign of NATO bombings succeeded, Gaddafi was overthrown and tortured to death by rebels, and Libya was turned into a failed state rife with open-air slave markets and terrorist activity.
President Putin commented on the issue of a possible NATO no-fly zone over Ukraine in no uncertain terms last week, warning that “any movement in this direction will be considered by us as participation of the respective country in an armed conflict.” Imposing such a zone would have “colossal and catastrophic consequences not only for Europe but also the whole world,” Putin said.