No-fly zone in Ukraine worth the risks; Putin may attack Western nations anyway, GOP rep says
U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., says he supports imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, despite the risks involved with the U.S. shooting down Russian aircraft and escalating the conflict.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded for NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over his country, but the U.S. and European nations have opposed the move.
"I absolutely do support a no-fly zone over the Ukraine," Mast told Fox News. He clarified that he doesn’t think anyone "wants to be in a ground conflict in the Ukraine."
Such an order could lead to a war between the Kremlin and Western nations, since it would mean NATO forces, including the U.S. military, shooting down Russian jets violating the ban. It would effectively pit superpowers with nuclear capability against each other.
A view of a Polish Air Forces MIG-29 at 22nd Air Base Command in Malbork, Poland. (Cuneyt Karadag/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
"One-hundred percent, there is risk if the United States or NATO or the [European Union] or anybody starts to enforce a no-fly zone," the Florida Republican said. "Nobody should have that kind of illusion that it's not."
Numerous U.S. leaders and politicians have said enforcing a no-fly zone could lead to World War III.
But Mast, an Army veteran, said the risk is necessary, given Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unpredictability.
"As much as none of us want to be in the Ukraine, if we do nothing, ultimately, everybody will be forced to be in the Ukraine as a result," Mast, who lost both his legs in Afghanistan, told Fox News.
Mast said Putin may ultimately drag NATO and the U.S. into military conflict, even without a no-fly zone.
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Sergei Guneyev/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
"None of us should be under this illusion that Putin is a rational actor or operates in a proportional way," Mast told Fox News. "This guy invaded the sovereignty of the Ukraine."
"Just because we don't do something doesn't mean that Putin doesn't still react to NATO or to the European Union or any other countries throughout Europe in some other kind of way," he continued.
Mast warned that Putin could respond to sanctions through military force against the West.
"Let's not forget that economic warfare is a type of warfare, just like cyber warfare, just like kinetic warfare," Mast told Fox News.
Soon after Mast's interview with Fox News, the Kremlin accused the U.S. of waging "economic war" against Russia, and warned America to expect a response.
Mast also said that Ukrainians’ tenacity and ferocity should be considered when weighing the cost and benefits of a no-fly zone.
"One of the things that also changes the calculus of things is the Ukrainian people have showed us that they are lions and not lambs," he told Fox News, calling Zelenskyy "inspiring."
Mast said that "at minimum," the U.S. should provide Ukraine with "tools to go wage this war," including aircraft, another item Zelenskyy has requested. Poland offered to provide fighter jets, but the Pentagon rejected the move.
Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla. (Fox News)
Additionally, the Florida Republican doesn’t expect the war to end through diplomacy.
"Look at the demands of Vladimir Putin and Russia saying that he wants Crimea to be recognized as part of Russia," Mast said. "He wants to get rid of their elected government and get rid of their constitution, make sure that they're never a part of NATO, and the list goes on.
"The fact of the matter is those are all things that Putin is demanding that we as the West and the EU and NATO should all be demanding of Vladimir Putin. Those are things that there is such an impasse on what we need to demand and what Putin is demanding that there is not at this juncture, in my opinion, a diplomatic solution."