Russia-Ukraine Conflict: As War Continues, Zelensky Pleads for Further American Involvement 

Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently asked American lawmakers over a virtual call to congress to institute a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a move which White House press secretary Jen Psaki said would be “escalatory” and “could prompt a war with Russia.” 

A no-fly zone over Ukraine might entail NATO prohibiting the Russian military from flying its aircraft over the country, under the threat of being shot down.  

If the US and NATO allies agreed to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, it could further implicate the United States into the conflict. American lawmakers of both parties and President Joe Biden himself have expressed the belief that creating a no-fly zone could bring hostilities between NATO and Russia to a boiling point.  

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been one of the largest military mobilizations of the 21st century, and it has proved very costly for both sides. Estimated fatalities from the conflict vary but now likely number over 10,000.  

Putin’s Russia, once the 11th largest economy globally, has seen the value of its currency, the ruble, reduced to the equivalent of less than 1 cent due to global sanctions. 

In response to Russia’s behavior, the countries of the world are now deciding their role and taking sides. America’s allegiance is clear; it has been taking pro-Ukraine action, mainly in the form of economic support. Although the United States has heavily backed Ukraine thus far, its leaders are reluctant to deepen their involvement in supporting Ukraine. Their reluctance applies especially in matters of potential military intervention.  

The response from the Biden administration to calls for more involvement has largely been to draw more attention to the actions already taken to dampen the Russian war effort and regime. In a press briefing on the Mar 15, Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed out the massive financial repercussions for Russia’s invasion, both from the private and public sector. Those repercussions include a task force made specifically to resist the Russian oligarchs, Putin’s wealthy allies.  

The Russian oligarchs have faced personal sanctions and have been barred from much of their property abroad. Psaki referenced the seizure of multiple yachts and a resort from the Russian Oligarchs. She implied further action would be taken, saying such action “is just the beginning.”  

Although America’s response toward Russia has largely consisted of economic repercussions and sanctions, other forms of support such as humanitarian aid and security spending have also played a role. 

 “There is $13.6 billion for Ukraine, humanitarian, security, and economic assistance,” Psaki said. 

In a press briefing on March 16, Psaki was again asked about the possibility of instituting a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Her answer was very clear: a no-fly zone would require military action that the Biden administration opposes.  

“We are not interested in getting into World War Three,” Psaki said. 

Weighing in on the development of the conflict is Jason Keiber, a professor in Baldwin Wallace’s Department of Politics and Global Citizenship. In an interview, Keiber updated The Exponent on the implications of a potential no-fly zone, the effect of sanctions on the Russian war effort, and a broad summary of the main takeaways from the first few weeks of the invasion.  

Keiber expressed the seriousness of a no-fly zone. He mentioned an alternative called a humanitarian no-fly zone, where allies would protect airspace directly over “humanitarian corridors,” which are demilitarized zones used to safely transit aid in and refugees out of an area. 

The supporters of a humanitarian no-fly zone like the idea because it may take responsibility for starting conflict away from the United States. Keiber expressed his skepticism as to whether Putin would view either option as not being escalatory. 

“A no-fly zone would be tantamount to war,” Keiber said. With a humanitarian no-fly zone, he said, “the burden of starting a conflict would be put on Russia.”  

Despite heavy sanctions, Russia’s war effort continues. Keiber notes that the sanctions failed as a deterrence to invasion, but they now serve a new purpose. As to whether sanctions will cause Putin to give up on the war effort, he thinks that the sanctions alone may not be enough.  

“By themselves, [sanctions] will probably not,” Keiber said. “The sanctions plus the war effort going poorly might cause Putin to give up.” 

Keiber listed some of his major takeaways from the first weeks of the conflict. 

“First, Russia’s army was underprepared,” Keiber said. “Second, The Ukrainian resolve is really strong. Third, we are seeing Russian war crimes, and fourth, the humanitarian situation is awful in terms of the refugee crisis.”