The US defense secretary says there is ‘no such thing as a no-fly zone light’
FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets. © Getty Images / javarman3
Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said a no-fly zone over Ukraine remains off the table, explaining that the move would mean direct confrontation between US and Russian fighter jets and likely a hot war with Moscow.
Asked about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s repeated calls on Western powers to take control of his country’s airspace to repel a Russian attack, Austin said the Joe Biden administration would not take up the request, citing the risk for escalation.
“Enforcing a no-fly zone actually means that you’re in combat, you’re in a fight with Russia. And that’s one of the things that we have said, that our president has said, that we weren’t going to do,” the defense secretary said.
Austin went on to note that while there are some “effective” means of defense against long-range missiles and artillery, a no-fly zone would be of little help against such weapons, namely when they are used from within Russian territory.
“The rockets are actually cruise missiles… that were fired from aerial platforms, I think you know that those were fired from actually inside of Russia, so a no-fly zone would not have prevented that activity,” he continued.
President Biden has been under increasing pressure to step up US aid to Kiev, having already sent hundreds of millions in arms and other military hardware prior to a new $800 million weapons package this week. The latest shipment includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems – a newer addition to Ukraine’s arsenal – as well as thousands of tank-killing Javelin missiles.