- The Washington Times - Friday, March 4, 2022

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday firmly ruled out plans for the Western military alliance to enforce a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine, despite the pleas of the Kyiv government as it tries to hold back a massive invasion from neighboring Russia.

U.S. and allied leaders have opposed the idea despite condemning the decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch the war last week, saying it risks putting Western and Russian forces in direct conflict and could spark a larger war.

“We understand the desperation, but we also believe that if we did that, we would end up with something that could lead to a fully-fledged war in Europe, involving much more countries,” Mr. Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

The NATO chief spoke after an emergency meeting of alliance foreign ministers including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who plans to travel to NATO and allied countries along the border with Russia and Ukraine in the coming days.

NATO is walking a fine line in the conflict, offering material and political support to Ukraine but insisting its troops will not get involved in the war. One of Mr. Putin’s key demands, rejected by the U.S. and its partners, is that NATO pledge never to accept Kyiv as a member.

President Biden has repeatedly said U.S. forces will not join the fight in Ukraine. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in an interview this week that even setting up a no-fly zone over Ukraine would “take this conflict to a whole new level.”

Although Ukraine has put up unexpectedly tough resistance in the first week of fighting, Mr. Stoltenberg offered a pessimistic take on the clash, expressing alarm over Russia’s willingness to bomb cities and civilian targets, and over Thursday’s fighting near Ukraine’s giant Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.

“The days to come are likely to be worse, with more death, more sufferings and more destruction,” he said.

• David R. Sands can be reached at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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