Imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine could be necessary as the West faces the choice of fighting President Putin either now or later, a former senior British military chief has told The Times.
General Sir Chris Deverell, who until his retirement from the army in 2019 was in charge of military intelligence, cyber and special forces as commander of the Joint Forces Command, suggested he had shifted his thinking on whether NATO should close the skies over Ukraine, saying Putin was determined to extend the conflict anyway.
He said: “I have been against the imposition of a no-fly zone by NATO in Ukraine, believing that it would surely escalate the conflict. But Putin seems hell-bent on escalation. So the question is becoming: does Nato fight him now or fight him later?”
He said a no-fly zone could only be imposed if the West was willing to back it up with ground troops, if necessary. In comments on Twitter, Deverell said Putin would probably respond with nuclear threats but the logic has to be that his threats are “meaningless”.
“Whatever he can do to us, we can do to him,” he said.
Russia has been accused of an intense bombardment of Ukrainian cities and indiscriminately targeting civilians from the air – something the Ukrainian government has said could be stopped if the West imposed a no-fly zone.
NATO has ruled that out, however, warning it would lead to direct confrontation with Russia, as the West would have to be prepared to enforce it by shooting Russian planes out of the sky.
Yet some British ministers also believe Putin is determined to take the whole of Ukraine, and could then push into other territory, such as the Baltic States, which would spark confrontation with the West regardless.