New York Daily News: Support for Ukraine is crucial, but a no-fly zone is still an unwise escalation

In arguing forcefully before Congress for NATO to institute a no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy did what any besieged head of state would do: He advocated for what he believes will safeguard his people. His dedication to his country’s unyielding resistance to Russian aggression is admirable.

Yet President Joe Biden is not the president of Ukraine, and neither are the leaders of the NATO alliance, and they must make decisions that will best punish Putin and his forces without provoking a far wider and bloodier conflagration. Engaging in direct combat with the Russian military, likely sparking a hot war between nuclear-armed powers, from where we sit remains a too-risky proposition.

It is in America’s interest for the Russian president’s demented campaign to be countered and turned back, as it’s clear that allowing him to act on his expansionist designs has only encouraged him, and will do the same to other strongmen with territorial ambitions. The best way forward now is to continue with the two-pronged strategy of providing support for Ukraine’s army and territorial defenders, and punishing Putin at home.

Biden’s announcement of more than $1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine might not be as flashy or cathartic as U.S. troops taking down the autocrat’s warplanes, but it is crucial to preserving Ukraine’s momentum. By all accounts, American anti-aircraft systems, anti-tank weapons and other advanced weapons have been vital in preventing the quick victory Putin had expected. With them, Ukrainian fighters can themselves combat Russian air power.

Continued sanctions and the cutting off of Russia from world markets and financial systems is a longer game, and while it’s hard to see the nexus between that and the bombs falling on civilian buildings in Ukraine, the truth is that the economic measures are already weakening Russia’s economy, and with it, Putin’s ability to prolong an increasingly unpopular war.

Cooler allied heads might not keep Putin from battering Ukraine, but for now, they can box him in and head off a world war.

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