How to implement a #NoFlyZone in Ukraine without direct NATO involvement?
The world supports a No-Fly-Zone in Ukraine. In a recent survey, 74% of Americans say that the United States and its NATO allies should impose a No-Fly Zone in Ukraine. The problem is that NATO does not want a direct confrontation (“no boots on the ground”) with Russia. So, what is a practical solution?
1. Increase the supply of Stinger surface-to-air missiles. The Ukrainian army knows how to use them, and they have already been very effective, shooting almost 100 Russian aircrafts. In terms of cost, a Stinger missile costs $120,000. Russia has approximately 4,000 military aircrafts. So, by sending 20,000 Stingers (5 per aircraft), which would cost a couple billion dollars (calculations by economics colleague David Clingingsmith), the US can help the Ukrainian army to destroy the entire Russian aircraft fleet without direct American involvement and no boots on the ground.
2 Besides low altitude air defense, the US and other Ukrainian allies should also supply medium- and high-altitude air defense systems. The west (Israel, Korea, America) has developed very effective modern anti-aircraft systems that can be deployed in western Ukraine. Even if we do not have enough Ukrainian military personal to use them, I am sure we will find enough volunteers, retired military officers, and veterans around the world who know how to use these systems and who would gladly come to help Ukraine fight against Russia.
3. Provide Ukraine with decommissioned Western aircraft fighters. The EU is already discussing donating Mig-29 and Su-35 fighters to Ukraine. Ukrainian pilots know how to fly them. In addition, the US could provide US A-10 ground-attack aircrafts (currently scheduled to be decommissioned) to Ukraine as Excess Defense Articles (advice from ambassador Kurt Volker). Thanks to prior military exchange programs, Ukraine already has a small number of pilots trained to fly the A-10. In addition, there is a significant number of decommissioned F-14, F-15, F-16, F-18 planes that could be donated to Ukraine and painted blue and yellow. Since most Ukrainian pilots don’t know how to operate them, we could find a few dozen Western Air Force volunteer veterans and give them Ukrainian citizenship. (If John McCain was alive, I am sure he would be one of them).
4. Finally, since there is a humanitarian crisis in many parts of Ukraine, the US and NATO could implement a No-Fly-Zone themselves as a humanitarian action, to ensure protection of the civilian population against Russian aerial bombardment. The No-Fly-Zone could cover Kyiv and western Ukraine — but not extend further east to avoid coming close to Russian borders (advice from ambassador Kurt Volker). The No-Fly-Zone would serve humanitarian purposes only, and no US or NATO aircraft or drones would engage in any hostilities against Russian ground forces, except in self-defense if fired upon.