Mar 9, 2022 - World

U.S. and NATO condemn Russia for bombing children’s hospital but rule out no-fly zone


Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Top U.S. and NATO officials reiterated on Wednesday that they would not impose a "no-fly" zone over Ukraine, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the West "an accomplice ignoring terror."

Why it matters: Enforcing a no-fly zone would require US. or NATO forces to destroy Russian air defenses and shoot down Russian aircraft, dramatically raising the risk of a broader war between nuclear powers. NATO countries are considering alternative steps, like providing anti-aircraft missile systems or potentially fighter jets.

Driving the news: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the allies had made the "painful decision" not to impose a no-fly zone because the potential fallout would be "even more dangerous, destructive and deadly for Ukraine and for all of us."

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed that sentiment at a press conference with U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, stressing that "our goal is to end the war, not to expand it."
  • "If I were in President Zelensky's position, I'm sure I would be asking for everything possible, in his mind, to help the Ukrainian people," Blinken added, noting his "tremendous admiration" for Zelensky and his team.

Between the lines: Zelensky has previously said that if the U.S. and NATO will not establish a no-fly zone, they should provide him with the warplanes to do it himself.

  • That plan appeared to be set in motion Tuesday when the Polish government said it would transfer Soviet-era MiG-29s to U.S. custody at an air base in Germany, to then be sent on to Ukraine.
  • Hours later, the Pentagon shot down the proposal, noting the risk of sending planes from a NATO base directly into heavily contested Ukrainian airspace.
  • A senior U.S. defense official told reporters that Poland's sudden announcement "was not coordinated" with the Pentagon, but that the allies are now consulting over whether there's a way to overcome the logistical and political hurdles.

What to watch: The U.K. announced Wednesday that it would provide Ukraine with anti-aircraft missile systems, which Truss called "the best way of tackling" the aerial threat that Russia poses to Ukraine.

  • The senior U.S. defense official said the U.S. is "actively" in discussions with European partners who could potentially provide similar air defense systems to Ukraine, but did not provide specific details.

The big picture: Blinken said in his press conference that he is "absolutely convinced" that Vladimir Putin will fail in Ukraine, given the ferocity of Ukraine's resistance and the unity of the Western response.

  • "You can win a battle. That doesn't mean you win the war. On the contrary, you can take a city but you can't take the hearts and minds of its people, and Ukrainians are demonstrating that every single day," Blinken said.
  • "I am convinced that we will see a strategic defeat of President Putin and the propositions that he's put forward."
Go deeper