On March 7, the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan was filled with protestors throwing hundreds of paper airplanes off the museum’s spiral inner rampway in support of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. A hollow, bizarre gesture, albeit backed by popular demand, would prove far too disastrous than any of us can handle, and it’s naïve to assume otherwise.
A CBS News/YouGov poll conducted between March 8 and 11 showed that 59% of people said they would support a no-fly zone. But according to research by the TRIP Project, only 7% of polled international relations experts advocated for imposing a no-fly zone, the most unified response from their experts.
Why are experts so opposed to a no-fly zone? First, having to shoot down Russian planes is a high-stakes move for NATO to make, undoubtedly dragging us into World War III. Also, some supporters of this no-fly zone argue Russian President Vladimir Putin’s history which includes the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, alludes to a greater vision of reestablishing the USSR, which would involve eventually invading a NATO territory.
As Article 5 of NATO highlights, an attack on one is an attack on all, and so any invasion of a NATO territory by Russia will also undoubtedly trigger World War III. The logic is essentially this: it’s going to happen eventually, so why not handle it now?
But Putin’s initial strategy has so far been unsuccessful. The West couldn’t have guessed the strength of the Ukrainian resistance and Russia has suffered unforeseen consequences. On March 11, The Washington Post reported that Russia has yet to achieve air superiority, which would be decisive in their victory, and the Ukrainian military released a statement via Facebook listing Russian military losses.
In other words, the Russians were unprepared for the resilience of the Ukrainian people. This doesn’t mean that Ukraine will decisively win the war, but the initial strategy of invasion is failing. This is also why Putin is threatening the nuclear option in Ukraine which would force American and NATO allies to become more involved than they’re currently willing to be.
Although it’s unclear if Ukraine will win, Ukrainian officials have announced they’re inching closer to peace talks with Russia, hinting that Putin must be way over his head to now turn to diplomacy. Since the Ukrainians are putting up a brave and sustained fight and have also received immense support from NATO, they are not going to give up any time soon.
If diplomacy and negotiations are becoming more feasible, then why are still so many in support of an escalating no-fly zone?
For starters, Putin’s war crimes are indefensible; his military has bombed a maternity hospital, schools and countless apartment complexes, killing thousands of civilians and even children. For Americans, especially those who purport our nation to be the universal standard of freedom, it feels wrong to sit back and watch Putin destroy a country, deny it of its sovereignty and kill its peaceful civilians in the process.
People also doubt if Russia will uphold these negotiations, but now is not the time to allow emotion to override safety.
As Putin’s army suffers heavy losses, he’s learning a lesson in what will happen if he continues this war. If he eventually planned to invade a NATO country, then the resistance from Ukraine is only a taste of what’s to come, where the consequences from NATO will be even more disastrous for him and for everyone.
The threat of World War III or nuclear war is and should be enough to reject a no-fly zone. Perhaps Americans don’t realize just how infeasible nuclear war really is. With the strategy of mutually assured destruction, a nuclear war could mean the destruction of the U.S. and Europe, including Russia which could then trigger a mass extinction of all humanity.
One war in Ukraine is significantly less disastrous than either World War III or a nuclear war that affects the entire planet and we should never underestimate Putin’s ability to pursue the nuclear option even though it may feel like he’s holding us all hostage with his threats.
So perhaps what these paper airplane throwers at the Guggenheim fail to realize is that a no-fly zone involves shooting down Russian planes, and a no-fly zone undoubtedly leads to World War III which pushes us even closer to nuclear war.
To quote Twitter user @yurirando, “I cannot think of a more [American] thing than bourgeois freaks demanding nuclear war by throwing children’s toys on the ground for someone else to pick up.”