NATO Unity Faltering as Calls Grow for a No-Fly Zone Over Ukraine

Agreement among NATO allies appears to be faltering as more nations call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

NATO's secretary-general said Wednesday the alliance's members were united in the decision not to deploy forces on the ground or in the airspace of Ukraine as Russia's invasion of the eastern European nation intensifies. Jens Stoltenberg warned that doing so would be a pretext for a "full-fledged war" between NATO and Russia.

But on Thursday, the Associated Press reported that Lithuania's parliament unanimously approved a resolution calling for a no-fly zone over Ukraine—joining other NATO members Estonia and Slovenia in the appeal. Rihards Kols, chairman of the Latvian parliament's foreign affairs committee, also announced Thursday his country is calling for such a zone. "The mass deaths of civilians must be prevented immediately," he tweeted.

The growing calls for a no-fly zone come after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with Congress and Canada's Parliament to enact the measure in back-to-back addresses this week. "How many more of those missiles have to fall on our cities until you make this happen?" Zelensky asked Canadian lawmakers.

Speaking to U.S. lawmakers, Zelensky said Russian President Vladimir Putin's troops have turned the Ukrainian skies into "a source of death for thousands of people" by firing nearly 1,000 missiles and bombs. "I can say I have a need," he said. "I need to protect our sky."

Zelensky did offer an alternative, telling lawmakers that if a no-fly zone is too much to ask for, supplying military aircraft and defense systems would be the next best thing. "You know how much depends on the battlefield on the ability to use aircraft," the Ukrainian leader said.

Calls Grow For No-Fly Zone Over Ukraine
Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia and Estonia have called for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Above, an Aero L-39C Albatros aircraft from the Ukraine air force flies over Lviv on March 4. Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images

Lithuania's resolution, the AP reported, would allow peacekeepers from the United Nations to ensure the security of humanitarian corridors and nuclear facilities.

While members of the U.S. House and Senate gave Zelensky a standing ovation and praised his leadership, his 16-minute address did little to change their minds on a no-fly zone.

Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, a retired U.S. Navy captain and NASA astronaut, said that avoiding direct combat action with Russia is in everybody's best interest. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested providing more military plans to Ukraine so the country could create its own no-fly zone.

Hours after Zelensky's rousing speech to Congress, President Joe Biden announced an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine. The aid package includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 2,000 Javelin anti-armor missiles, 6,000 AT4 anti-armor systems, 100 armed drones and more.

"The American people are answering Zelensky's call for more help, more weapons for Ukraine to defend itself, more tools to fight Russian aggression," Biden said Wednesday. "And that's what we're doing."

Since Russia launched its full-scale attack on Ukraine on February 24, more than 3 million people have fled the nation.

Oleksandr Merezhko, chair of the Ukrainian parliament's foreign affairs committee, celebrated on Twitter Latvia's decision to call for a no-fly zone.

"There are already four European Parliaments which in their resolutions mention no fly zone over Ukraine to protect civilians. Bravo Latvia! You give good example of courage to other European countries, such as Germany and France," Merezhko tweeted.

Lithuania's resolution, the AP reported, would allow peacekeepers from the United Nations to ensure the security of humanitarian corridors and nuclear facilities.

NATO told Newsweek it had no comment on the growing calls for a no-fly zone.