In Douglas Adams’ book “Life, the Universe and Everything,” a supercomputer known as Hectar creates a “very, very small bomb that, when activated, would connect every star to every other star, cause them to all go supernova simultaneously and, thus, destroy the universe.” Some particularly fanatical denizens of the otherwise peaceful planet Krikkit think that detonating the bomb would be a good idea. As a deterrent, you see.
A number of observers of the dreadful invasion of Ukraine think that creating a no-fly zone in Ukrainian airspace would also be a good idea. Like the people of the planet Krikkit, they know not what they do. No-fly advocates need to give that proposition some serious thought.
Perhaps the problem lies with the words “no-fly zone.” Like the “very, very small bomb” of the planet Krikkit it sounds too harmless. Another way of saying it might be, “we are going to shoot down any Russian plane or helicopter that dares to fly over Ukraine.” In other words, we’re going to get into a shooting war with Russia. In other words, we’re not only going to start World War III, we can even name the date.
Putin has already issued a not-too-veiled threat that he will employ nukes in such a situation. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, Putin has already shown us who he is. I think it would be a very good idea for us to believe him.
For those of us on the planet who want to keep the last time anyone fired a nuclear weapon in anger firmly back on August 9, 1945, NATO and its allies emphatically need to avoid any act of war, or any appearance of an act of war, with Russia. One way to commit an act of war, in the twisted mind of Vladimir Putin, would be for the United States or any of its allies to intervene in Ukraine and start shooting down Russian planes. If anyone can’t see why this is the same as boots on the ground — only arguably worse — I suggest you keep your day job and stay away from military tactics as a career.
It is therefore baffling why the otherwise sensible Volodymyr Zelenskyy cannot see this. He has repeatedly called on NATO to declare Ukraine a no-fly zone. That isn’t just dangerous for any nation doing such a thing, it’s deadly dangerous for Ukraine. Putin is already full of impatient fury at his inability to take the city of Kyiv. One could imagine him saying to hell with it and lobbing one or two tactical nukes into the city centre and being done with it. He’s that kind of psycho, and we have known just how bad a psycho he is for a very long time.
All of which is to say, I think declaring Ukraine a no-fly zone is an extremely bad idea. And I hope anyone who wonders why America and NATO have refused to do so will wonder no more. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.