War in Ukraine: what is air lockout, a measure requested by Zelensky but refused by NATO?

Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky begs NATO to implement air lockout in his country’s skies. But the transatlantic organization is refusing this offensive act of war for fear of provoking Putin’s anger and causing a definitive point of no return in the conflict.

The measure could have catastrophic consequences, and Vladimir Putin reminded us of that once again. This Saturday, March 5, the Russian president stressed that Russia would consider any country that tries to impose an air lockout in Ukraine as co-belligerent in this war. But what exactly are we talking about?

What is a “no fly zone”?

The air exclusion zone, or “No fly zone” in English, is a measure that consists of prohibiting air flights over an area. Here, the whole Ukrainian sky. This action is provided for in Article 42 of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. In particular, it provides for “any action necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security”.

Specifically, if an NFZ is established, all aircraft that have to fly over the airspace of Ukraine will have to apply for authorization from the authority responsible for the measure. In our case: NATO. If an aircraft has no clearance, it can be shot down on the spot.

Why is Ukraine begging NATO to do this?

Volodimir Zelensky has been calling on the West since the beginning of the conflict to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine. The goal is clear to the Ukrainian president: to prevent Russian planes from flying over the country and thus stop the bombing immediately. Moscow will theoretically no longer be able to exercise its air force in Ukraine.

“Thank you for what you have done, but now it is war and in wartime everything must be done in the name of security in Europe. Don’t let Putin turn Ukraine into Syria. We will keep fighting. But we need partners to help us with concrete, resolute and swift actions,” Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Friday.

Participated in the extraordinary meeting of NATO foreign ministers. My message: act now before it is too late. Don’t let Putin turn Ukraine into Syria. We are ready to fight. We will continue to fight. But we need partners who now help us with concrete, resolute and rapid actions. pic.twitter.com/s4FCaAOjNy

— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 4, 2022

Why does NATO refuse?

But the United States and its NATO allies ruled out this possibility, fearing a direct confrontation with Moscow. Applying Article 42 would amount to the shooting down of Russian aircraft by NATO and thus starting a frontal conflict with Russia. “This would de facto lead to direct clashes between NATO and Russia and inevitably to an escalation of the conflict,” Dominique Trinquand, military expert and former head of the French mission to the UN told the Express.

Muriel Domenach, the French ambassador to NATO, reminds us that exclusion from the air is primarily an offensive measure. And Westerners don’t want them to get militarily involved in the conflict.

I have received a lot of messages about this Contrary to what we intuitively think, a “no fly zone” is an offensive measure. Not defensive. Enforcing it means aligning Allied aircraft against Russian assets in Ukrainian skies https://t.co/OiXoxbwozS

— Muriel Domenach (@MurielDomenach) March 4, 2022

All-out war in Europe

“The fundamental difference is that we risk nuclear war with Russia if we engage in a real confrontation between its forces and those of NATO. This was not the case during previous operations,” explains Mathieu Boulègue, researcher specializing in Eurasia at Chatham House, a London think tank, quoted by L’Express.

A measure that the Elysée also rejects: “The no-fly zone is a very legitimate request from Ukrainians, but also very difficult to comply with. This would require significant resources and would not prevent war on the ground,” a senior French diplomat said as reported by the Huffpost.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg explained after a meeting on the topic that “the only way to impose a no-fly zone is to send NATO warplanes into Ukrainian airspace and then shoot down Russian planes.” to enforce it”. and added: “The Allies have agreed that we should not have NATO aircraft in Ukrainian airspace or NATO troops on the ground because we could end up with an all-out war in Europe”

A view considered “weak” and “confusing” by Volodimir Zelensky: “All these people who will die today will also die because of you. It is a process of self-hypnosis for those who are weak, in inner uncertainty, while they have weapons that are much more powerful than ours,” he said.

The specter of the nuclear threat

On this subject, Vladimir Putin could not have been clearer. “We will regard any development in this direction as joining the armed conflict of any country whose territory would pose a threat to our soldiers,” he said on Saturday, March 5, viewing those countries that support an NFZ as “comrades-in-arms.” “. “in this war.

From the beginning of his offensive, the Russian president has activated his country’s “deterrent forces”. Russia currently has half the world’s stock of nuclear weapons.