President Biden maintains that creating a no-fly zone over Ukraine “could prompt a war with Russia,” the White House said Tuesday, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy insists that NATO order Russian planes not to fly over his country.
Zelenskyy is expected to repeat his plea when he addresses Congress virtually Wednesday morning. Members of Congress have stopped short of calling for a no-fly zone, with many echoing Biden’s concerns that the move could be escalatory.
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“It is also true that the president has to look at decisions that are made through the prism of what is in our national security interest and global security interest,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
“He continues to believe that a no-fly zone would be escalatory, could prompt a war with Russia,” she continued. “I don’t believe there is a lot of advocates calling for that at this point in time from Capitol Hill, but we certainly understand and recognize that is still a call from President Zelenskyy.”
But a growing number of bipartisan lawmakers have been urging the Biden administration to facilitate a deal with Poland to send MiG-29 planes to Ukraine for additional air support as Russia continues its multi-front war on the country.
The Pentagon, last week, rejected Poland’s proposal for the U.S. and NATO to deliver MiG-29 planes to the Ukrainian military, also arguing that the move could be mistaken as “escalatory” and could result in “significant Russian reaction” that could increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO. The Biden administration has already provided $1.2 billion in military assistance to Ukraine this year amid Russia’s invasion.
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“We recognize there are a range of bipartisan calls, but 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.
“Providing the planes are – the military did an assessment that’s based not just on the risk, but whether it would have a huge benefit to [Ukraine],” Psaki explained. “They assessed it would not because they have their own squadron of planes and because the type of military assistance that is working to fight this war effectively is the type of assistance we’re already providing.”
Biden and NATO have ruled out a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying that enforcing it would put the U.S. and NATO in direct confrontation with Russia and would expand the conflict.
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Ukraine is not a member of NATO, so it is not subject to the Article V provision of the NATO alliance that says when one member country is attacked, all member countries will take action to assist.
On Monday, the parliament of Estonia called for U.N. member states to “take immediate steps to establish a no-fly zone” over Ukraine to prevent further civilian casualties as war rages on.
Estonia is the first NATO member nation to have a body formally call for the implementation of a no-fly zone amid Russia’s ongoing invasion.
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Psaki said the White House disagrees with Estonia’s argument that a no-fly zone “would be an effective step because a no-fly zone, which often people shorthand, essentially means, shooting down Russian planes and then potentially shooting back at us.”
Over on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the United States needs to do “anything we can to help our Ukrainian allies, short of putting our troops across the NATO line.”
As for Zelenskyy’s requests for a no-fly zone, McConnell said: “He knows we are not going to enforce a no-fly zone in Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, the president is set to travel to Brussels, Belgium, for a NATO summit on March 24 where he will discuss the “ongoing deterrence and defense efforts in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine as well as to reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our NATO allies.”
Biden is also set to 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 effected by the violence, and to address other challenges related to the conflict.”
Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.