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March 18, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

Two Polish Air Force MIG-29's are seen at the 22nd Air Base Command in Malbork, Poland on August 27, 2021.
Two Polish Air Force MIG-29’s are seen at the 22nd Air Base Command in Malbork, Poland on August 27, 2021. (Cuneyt Karadag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

While the United States and other NATO member nations have fulfilled a number of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s requests to help hinder Russian forces, they have stopped short of certain measures they say could risk an escalation in the war.

These are some of Zelensky’s asks left unfulfilled:

No-fly zone: Zelensky has repeatedly called on Ukraine’s allies to establish a no-fly zone over the country. A no-fly zone is an area where certain aircraft cannot fly for any number of reasons. In the context of a conflict such as the one in Ukraine, it would probably mean a zone in which Russian planes were not allowed to fly, to prevent them from carrying out airstrikes against Ukraine.

The problem with military no-fly zones is that they have to be enforced by a military power. If a Russian aircraft flew into a NATO no-fly zone, then NATO forces would have to take action against that aircraft. Those measures could include shooting the plane from the sky. That would, in Russia’s eyes, be an act of war by NATO and would likely escalate the conflict.

S-300 missile defense systems: This surface-to-air missile system can strike targets that are both higher in altitude and farther away than Stinger missiles are designed for.

Slovakia has preliminarily agreed to provide Ukraine with a key Soviet-era air defense system to help defend against Russian airstrikes, according to three sources familiar with the matter. But the US and NATO are still grappling with how to backfill that country’s own defensive capabilities, and the transfer is not yet assured.

MiG fighter jets: Earlier this month, the US dismissed a proposal from Poland to transfer its MiG-29 fighter jets to the United States for delivery to Ukraine.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement that the US did not believe Poland’s proposal was “tenable” and that it was too risky.

“The prospect of fighter jets ‘at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America’ departing from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance,” Kirby said.

Read more about the aid that Western allies have provided so far here.

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