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Biden Stands Firm Against No-Fly Zone as Zelenskyy Prepares to Address Congress

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 3/15/2022 Susan Milligan
The Associated Press © The Associated Press The Associated Press

President Joe Biden will head to Brussels next week to meet with European allies to discuss what the White House called Russia's "unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine" and how to stop a Russian autocrat whose attacks have caused death, destruction and a humanitarian crisis even as he remains thwarted in his effort to take over his smaller western neighbor.

In addition to the March 24 NATO Summit, Biden will also join a scheduled European Council summit to discuss shared concerns about Ukraine, "including transatlantic efforts to impose economic costs on Russia, provide humanitarian support to those affected by the violence, and address other challenges related to the conflict" started by Russian President Vladimir Putin when he invaded Ukraine nearly three weeks ago, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

The announcement comes the day before Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to make a virtual speech before Congress. The defiant leader who has managed to keep his country from being completely overtaken by Russia despite being far outgunned – is expected to make an emotional plea similar to the case he made Tuesday to the Canadian Parliament.

Zelenskyy asked Canadians to imagine what it would be like if their airports were being bombed and their children were asking "what happened" while cruise missiles were falling around them.

“Please close the sky, close the airspace,” the Ukrainian leader, wearing a green military T-shirt and sweater, said by video. “Please stop the bombing. How many more cruise missiles have to fall on our cities until you make this happen?"

Zelenskyy said that, “When we talk to our partners, they say, ‘Please hold on. Hold on a little longer.’” But he needed more help.

There have been bipartisan calls for a "no-fly" zone over Ukraine, something Zelenskyy says he needs to stop the air attack on his country. But Biden has been clear that while the United States will defend "every inch" of NATO territory, as alliance rules dictate, he will not send soldiers to Ukraine.

Psaki reiterated that Tuesday, saying a "no-fly" zone could lead to a broader, even more deadly, conflict.

"A no-fly zone, which people often shorthand, essentially means us shooting down Russian planes and them potentially shooting us," Psaki said at her daily briefing.


Video: Zelenskyy: Quicker sanctions and no-fly zone could have stopped invasion (NBC News)

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The president "continues to believe that a no-fly zone would be escalatory," Psaki said.

"What we have the responsibility to do here is to assess what the impact is on the United States and our own national security," Psaki said. "A no-fly zone is escalatory and could promote a war with Russia, a major nuclear power."

Biden was more blunt last week, saying a no-fly zone could lead to "World War III."

The extended conflict, along with the wrenching video of Ukrianians being bombed or fleeing their home country, has been a source of frustration for members of Congress and others who want to do something – anything – more to stop Putin.

A Pew Research Center report released Tuesday showed that a plurality of Americans – 42% – believe the United States is not doing enough to help Ukraine. That poll found that 32% thought what was being done was "about right," 7% said "too much" and 19% weren’t sure.

But asked specifics, strong majorities largely agreed with what is being done now. The Pew poll found that 85% of people support keeping strict economic sanctions on Russia and 75% support keeping large numbers of U.S. military forces in NATO countries near Ukraine.

Meanwhile, just 35% support "taking military action even if it risks a nuclear conflict with Russia, while 62% oppose it.

No-fly zones are more popular with the public until they learn what the implications are for American troops, a Yahoo!/YouGov poll released Tuesday found.

Asked the question, "Would you support or oppose the U.S. enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine?" 40% said yes and 25% said no, with 35% unsure.

But when presented with the question in context – including the phrase, "which would mean the U.S. military would shoot down Russian military planes flying over Ukraine, possibly triggering a war between the U.S. and Russia," the numbers flipped.

In that case, 23% of Americans support a no-fly zone, 43% oppose it and 34% aren't sure, the survey found.

The Biden administration has noted its financial assistance to Ukraine in the past year. On Tuesday, Biden signed a sweeping appropriations bill that includes another $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid to the embattled nation.

Copyright 2022 U.S. News & World Report

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