Republicans Supporting a No-Fly Zone Are Putting Us at Risk of Nuclear War

As Vladimir Putin’s wretched war against Ukraine grinds on with no definitive end in sight, Republicans have found a way to once again be disruptive and destructive at the worst possible juncture. Numerous GOP senators voted against $13.6 billion of U.S. assistance for Ukraine last Wednesday, and demanded more weapons from the U.S.

“‘We should send more lethal aid to Ukraine which I voted against last week’ is making my brain melt,” tweeted Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz.

Among the more belligerent Republicans — and more than a few Democrats who should damn well know better by now — the idea of establishing a no-fly zoneUkraine has become a rallying call.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine, set a stage for this with an impassioned pleaYou can get such help from Congress on Wednesday.

Noam Chomsky explains it in Truthout last week, a no-fly zone is not simply a rule or guideline: “A no-fly zone means that the U.S. Air Force would not only be attacking Russian planes but would also be bombing Russian ground installations that provide anti-aircraft support for Russian forces, with whatever ‘collateral damage’ ensues. Is it really difficult to comprehend what follows?”

Noah Y. Kim of Mother Jones breaks it down:

A no fly zone is essentially a commitment that no enemy aircraft can access a designated area. The U.S. and NATO must patrol the skies above Ukraine with thousands upon thousands of planes and shoot down any Russian flights that violate the prohibited airspace. Given that Putin has already ignored America’s warnings not to invade Ukraine and not to target Ukrainian civilians, it’s exceptionally unlikely that he would suddenly heed threats to stop sending planes into Ukraine. Also, destroying Russian planes would set off an all-out war between Russia’s and the West.

Additionally, a no fly zone could lead to war even before American aircraft enter Ukrainian airspace. According to the Atlantic Council’s Damir Marusic, America would most likely build up to a no-fly zone by destroying the Russian military’s substantial anti-aircraft batteries in Belarus and Russia so that American pilots could fly without the constant threat of being shot down. Violating Russia’s sovereignty and bombing Russian military bases outside of Ukraine would also result in direct conflict.

It would be like declaring war on Russia by establishing a no-fly zone. There’s virtually no other way to slice it.

Of course, this simple fact won’t preclude Republican wreckers from trying to shove President Biden into a shooting war to make him look weak in an election year, just as hundreds of thousands of deaths did not preclude them from deranging COVID policy to score points with their benighted base.

One might ask, what’s the big deal? Much media coverage has depicted Russia’s vaunted military might as turning out to be a lot of shadows and noise. Russian forces are bogging down all over Ukraine, losing vital supply lines, and its troops — a great many of whom are young conscripts — are beginning to cotton to the notionSomething is out of place. This is how this mighty power looks out at the meat and metal. Let’s go kick Putin’s ass, right? ‘MURICA-STYLE BABY!

Reality, as ever, intrudes. Most of the damage being done by Russia to Ukraine’s civilian population has come by way of artillery barrages fired from within Russian and Belarusian territory. To be “successful,” U.S. warplanes would not only have to attack two sovereign countries Within their bordersTo disable the batteries, you would also need to destroy all surface-to air missile defense emplacements to ensure that their jets are safe. There is nothing “limited” about any aspect of this scenario.

…and the problem with no limits is where you might find yourself without them. Anthony Faiola is my guest, for your entertainment. The Washington Post the most terrifying paragraphI have read for many years:

The advent of tactical nuclear weapons — a term generally applied to lower-yield devices designed for battlefield use, which can have a fraction of the strength of the Hiroshima bomb — reduced their lethality, limiting the extent of absolute destruction and deadly radiation fields. That’s also made their use less unthinkable, raising the specter that the Russians could opt to use a smaller device without leveling an entire city. Detonate a one kiloton weapon on one side of Kyiv’s Zhuliany airport, for instance, and Russian President Vladimir Putin sends a next-level message with a fireball, shock waves and deadly radiation. But the blast radius wouldn’t reach the end of the runway.

Leaving aside the potential doomsday scenario emerging from a U.S./Russia shooting war, there is the fact that a no-fly zone or other aggressive NATO action would play directly into Putin’s hands. He knows that his war is not going according to plan. This propaganda coup would be a great help to him consolidate support back homeHe intensifies his lies about victimhood.

Of course, watching Putin’s monstrous attacks on civilians makes most folks want to Do somethingBy God, and soon. Responding with support for escalating militarism would turn this conflict into a tense confrontation between nuclear power that could quickly spiral out of control. Responding, instead, with support for the courageous antiwar activists who are organizing against Russia’s invasion from within Russia, Ukraine and across the globe, is a far better course of action.