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As War Rages in Ukraine, New Yorkers Debate the Merits of a No-Fly Zone

NYCers torn between a desire to alleviate Ukrainian suffering and wariness about initiating a direct military conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.

Jenna Gaudino Apr 17

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the United States and NATO to enforce a no-fly zone prohibiting Russian planes and missiles from flying over Ukraine. In a virtual meeting with Congress on March 16, Zelensky said, “We need you right now. I call on you to do more.” He also referenced devastating events like the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the attack on The World Trade Center in 2001, stating, “Remember Pearl Harbor? Remember September 11th? Our country experiences the same every day, right now.” 

President Biden and NATO have denied President Zelensky’s no-fly zone request out of concern that enforcing such a policy would bring the United States and Russia into direct military conflict. Since then, economic sanctions have been put in place and Biden has allocated more than $1 billion dollars in aid for Ukraine and delivered a steady flow of weapons and other forms of assistance. 

Below New Yorkers share their perspective on the no-fly zone topic. 

Megan Farley 

I think that there’s a very short time period on economic sanctions. If they’re not going to work, then I think we have to accept that military action might be necessary. I think the chances of nuclear war are fairly small but my personal fear is that, and I studied political science in school, if we impose a no-fly zone, China will feel more compelled to provide military aid and it will continue to escalate. I think that we are a very long way away from worrying about nuclear conflict, but I think a land war is terrifying enough. We hoped that the economic sanctions would do more, but all they have done is raise the prices of everything for everyone. If Russia is not going to comply with the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and everybody else, then I think a no-fly zone is the next way to hit them where it hurts, which is still financially but it will also prevent them from mobilizing. But how we enforce it is the question. So if we’re going to enforce it with American military might, then that’s a declaration of war. 

Nick Patterson 

I absolutely think that the U.S. should impose the no-fly zone. I was actually adopted from Ukraine. I was about a year old. I have family over there. I’ve never met them, but I was planning to go there to meet them this summer. Now, I can’t do that anymore. I’m not a big fan of Putin right now. Not at all. It’s really awful, what he’s doing. He’s bombing the Ukrainian people just because he wants more land and power. And he’s got all this power already. I don’t think a nuclear war would occur because I don’t think Putin wants to destroy humanity but if it did, the whole world would be gone. And again, the U.S. should absolutely impose a no-fly zone. And I do think we should intervene, but it’s foreign affairs and the founding fathers said we should not get involved in foreign affairs. But innocent people are being killed and the whole world is watching. 

Frank M. 

I’ve read a lot about both sides. A part of me says god , yes of course, go in. Get involved. But I just don’t know. Imagine New York City getting nuked. Imagine Milan. Paris. Ukraine. I really don’t know. I’m terrified about the thought of us getting nuked. I think, ultimately, the reason the U.S. is avoiding all this is because it would be an escalation. You don’t want Putin’s finger on the nuclear trigger. And it might come to that. But the thing that’s scary is that it really comes down to the mental state of one guy. And if we’re talking about mental states, look at New Yorkers. You encounter all sorts of people with different mental states. You can’t trust a human being to be rational. You can’t trust Putin to be rational. He seems like he wants to be on the Russian Mount Rushmore with Stalin and Lenin. 

Amanda Matles 

I’m not an analyst but I do worry about the U.S. getting involved because that will escalate everything. There’s so many unknowns at the moment and that’s scary. I don’t think the U.S. should get involved right now. Despite everything that is going on, like the destruction of human beings, I don’t think that we should get involved just yet. I feel like there are other ways to get around it so that we don’t have to impose the no-fly zone. My deep fear is going to war with Russia. Putin is so autocratic. He’s acting like a psychopath. It’s terrifying. I also don’t want to see him punishing other countries for getting involved. It’s a total quagmire. Even if we did help the Ukrainian people by imposing the no-fly zone, I don’t know if the U.S. would follow through on that. We’re already shipping tons and tons of weapons there. I feel like there’s many things that are going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about. 

Adrien Huisman 

Getting involved is the right thing to do. But the consequences would be terrible. It would be quite dangerous. It would be like starting a war with Russia. I understand that the Ukrainian people need the no-fly zone, but right now it is not a good idea. The only thing we should do right now is to impose sanctions on Russia. We need to keep going with the economic sanctions. I’m really concerned about Ukraine, because Ukraine and France are kind of neighbors and I’m from France. 

Ezekial Washington 

How many people know the definition of the no-fly zone? Do they think that planes just can’t fly over? No. If a Russian plane flys over, and the no-fly zone is established, we have the right to blow it out of the air. So what do you think Putin is going to do? He’s going to go all-out. 

We’ve got to get involved because right now, we’re looking at something that I can’t even believe. I was born in 1962 so I know about World War II and I can’t believe I’m seeing this in 2022. It’s not impossible, I just can’t believe it. It makes no sense to me, to think that one day a person’s whole life has been changed. They’re homeless, their loved ones are being killed and they’re refugees. All in one day.

You can’t sit by idly. And anyone who says otherwise, doesn’t understand that this situation could go from there to here. That’s just the way it is. So if Putin is allowed to do what he’s doing, and we just sit by, and we’re the leader of the NATO forces, it’s going to be a big problem. It’s all a play. Everything is a play. Russians don’t even know what’s going on because they are watching state-controlled TV. It’s insane that this is even happening. 

Whatever happens, we have to adjust. You can’t be naive. You’ve got to really pay attention to what’s going on. I watch the news a lot. I’m seeing all these YouTube videos and the propaganda, but you’ve got to read between the lines. It’s serious. It’s very serious. 

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