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Why a NATO No-Fly Zone is Significant in Ukraine-Russia Conflict


Aeroflot aircraft tails. (Photo: aeroprints.com [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

The current war in Eastern Europe, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, is the focus of worldwide attention as it is the cause of numerous sanctions against Russia by Western NATO countries. These sanctions include a ban on overflying European airspace, suspension of logistical support to Russian carriers by Airbus and Boeing, and an obligation on Aeroflot to return aircraft to leasing companies such as AerCap.

Bipolarity between the West and the Soviet Union has its origins shortly after the end of World War II. In 1949 the Western world (United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy and other Western European countries), was beginning to feel tensions towards the Soviet Union, which was the other winner of WWII.

So NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was created, as an international organization for collaboration in the defense sector. To oppose NATO, the Warsaw Pact had been signed in 1955 between the USSR and the closest states of Eastern Europe, dissolved in 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Between the 1990s and 2000s, most of the former Warsaw Pact members joined NATO and the European Union.

One of these “satellite” countries that wanted to join the European Union and NATO for many years now is Ukraine, which in recent days has been clamoring for the activation of a NATO no-fly zone on Ukrainian territory to end Russian bombing raids. A no-fly zone is a part of the sky where any aircraft is forbidden to enter and it is considered a “demilitarized zone” of the sky. This means that if any aircraft, not authorized to fly over, would enter the no-fly zone it would be immediately shot down. In the current case of the war in Ukraine, it would mean to impose a no-fly zone on all Russian military aircraft.

The imposition of an overflight ban on Russian aircraft by NATO would effectively mean going to war. To enforce this imposition NATO would have to send its air force to Ukraine (which is not yet part of the alliance) contravening the regulation that states that the defense pact can only be activated militarily when one of the 30 signatory countries is threatened or attacked.

Establishing a NATO no-fly zone over Ukraine would imply the possibility of shooting down Russian military aircraft, i.e. a declaration of war against Russia.

Therefore, to avoid a global nuclear conflict, the NATO alliance has decided that there will be no no-fly zone over Ukraine. The allies agree that NATO aircraft should not operate in Ukrainian airspace as already stated by the Secretary-General of the Atlantic Alliance Jens Stoltenberg, reiterating that the support for the Ukrainian army should be limited to providing training and equipment to be able to repel the Russian attack.

Therefore, strict sanctions are currently the only way to stop the war in Eastern Europe and more importantly are the only way to prevent escalation beyond Ukraine. There is a fear that the conflict could also expand into Ukraine’s neighboring nations, such as Romania and Moldova or even further north to the Baltic countries.

Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo
Latest posts by Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo (see all)


  • Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo

    Vincenzo graduated in 2019 in Mechanical Engineering with an aeronautical curriculum, focusing his thesis on Human Factors in aircraft maintenance. In 2022 he pursued his master's degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Palermo, Italy. He combines his journalistic activities with his work as a Reliability Engineer at Zetalab.

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