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The Complexities for Implementing a No-Fly Zone


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General stated that the organisation would not designate the Ukranian airspace as a ‘No Fly Zone’ which he said would lead to a full-fledged war in Europe, involving many more countries and resulting in greater human suffering.


GS II- International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. What is a No-Fly Zone?
  2. What is the feasibility of ‘No fly zone’ over Ukraine?
  3. What are the broad contours in a No-Fly Zone?

What is a No-Fly Zone?

  • No-Fly Zone refers to a particular airspace wherein aircrafts, excluding those permitted by an enforcement agency, are barred from flying.
  • Articles under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter dealing with ‘Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression’ are invoked to authorise a potential no-fly zone.
  • Article 39 dictates the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to determine the probable existence of any threat to peace or an act of aggression.
  • It suggests further measures, if required, are to be carried out in accordance to Article 41 and 42 to restore international peace and security.
  • No fly zones have been implemented without UN mandate too.
    • In 1991 after the first Gulf War, U.S. and its coalition partners imposed two no fly zones over Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussain from attacking ethnic groups.
  • In non-combat situations, No fly zones can be imposed permanently and temporarily over sensitive installations or for high profile events like Olympics.

What is the feasibility of ‘No fly zone’ over Ukraine?

  • The Foreign Policy magazine states that no-fly zone declarations are essentially a compromise in situations demanding a response to ongoing violence, but full military intervention is politically untenable.
  • NATO has previously imposed No-Fly Zones in non-member states like Libya and Bosnia.
  • With Russia it fears a full-fledged war in Europe. It has been demanding that NATO scale back to the pre-1997 arrangements. Both Russia and Ukraine are not members of NATO.
  • Due to this, the idea of imposing a ‘no fly zone’ over Ukraine has been rejected outright.
  • In addition, a ‘No fly zone’ needs to be implemented meaning NATO deploying aircraft and assets which would result in a direct confrontation with Russia as it may require NATO shooting down Russian fighters or taking down its air defence systems. While Russia has an overall superiority over Ukraine air space, it has not demonstrated that so far in its offensive in Ukraine.

What are the broad contours in a No-Fly Zone?

  • The UNSC had banned all flights in the Libyan airspace post adoption of Resolution 1973 in 2011 in response to the Libyan Civil War.
  • Member states were asked to deny permission to any Libyan registered aircraft to use the territory without requisite approval.
  • Further, the member states could bar any entity from flying if they found reasonable grounds to believe the aircraft is ferrying lethal or non-lethal military equipment.
  • Member states were permitted to allow flights whose sole purpose was humanitarian, such as delivery of medical supplies and food, chauffer humanitarian workers and related assistance, or evacuating foreign nationals from the territory.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023