Mar 4, 2022 - World

Furious Zelensky tears into "weak" NATO for ruling out "no-fly" zone

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused NATO leadership of giving the "green light for further bombing of Ukrainian cities" by refusing at Friday's summit to establish a "no-fly" zone over Ukraine, saying those who oppose the move bear responsibility for civilian deaths going forward.

Why it matters: The furious new tone from Zelensky reflects his growing frustration with NATO's refusal to "close the sky" — a step he believes would change the trajectory of the war, but that NATO fears would spark a direct conflict with Russia.

Context: Implementation of a no-fly zone over Ukraine would likely require NATO forces to shoot down Russian aircraft and potentially take out air defense systems located on Russian territory.

  • It would be a major escalation between nuclear powers in order to defend a country — Ukraine — that is not a member of NATO for precisely this reason.
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the topic of a no-fly zone was "mentioned" at Friday's summit, but that the allies once again agreed there should not be NATO aircraft operating over Ukraine's territory.

What they're saying: Zelensky began his latest video praising the Ukrainian people for their incredible resistance on the ninth day of Russia's brutal assault, saying "the history of Europe will remember it forever."

  • His tone turning darker, he paused and said: "Unfortunately, today there is a complete impression that it is time to give a funeral repast for something else: security guarantees and promises, determination of alliances, values that seem to be dead for someone."
  • "The NATO summit took place today — weak summit, confused summit, summit which shows that not everyone considers the struggle for freedom to be Europe's No. 1 goal."

Accusing NATO countries of turning a blind eye to atrocities while having intelligence on Russia's intent to destroy Ukraine, Zelensky called the "narrative" that a no-fly zone would provoke Russia's direct aggression "self-hypnosis of those who are weak, under-confident inside."

  • "All the people who will die starting from this day will also die because of you. Because of your weakness, because of your disunity," a furious Zelensky said.
  • "Is this the NATO we wanted? Is this the alliance you were building? ... You will not be able to buy us off with liters of fuel for liters of our blood, shed for our common Europe, for our common freedom, for our common future," he added, referring to supplies NATO has delivered to Ukraine.

Between the lines: Zelensky ended the video by thanking the countries who have provided military aid and support to Ukraine, well aware that the U.S. and NATO remain the closest and most important allies Ukraine has at this critical moment.

  • "There are many countries ... who help our state no matter what, from the first day of the invasion and — I'm sure — until the victory. And that's why we do NOT feel alone," Zelensky stressed.

What to watch: Zelensky will meet with U.S. senators via Zoom on Saturday morning.

  • His emotional appeal to EU leaders in a Zoom session last week helped contribute to their decision to impose unprecedented on sanctions, and he'll hope to have the same effect on senators with regards to a no-fly zone.

Go deeper: Why Ukraine wants a no-fly zone — but is unlikely to get one

Go deeper