The Perils of Emotional Arguments for Intervention in Ukraine

Written by Sumantra Maitra

Ikrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy told a special session of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday that “Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people.” “This is a terror Europe has not seen for eighty years and we are asking for an answer to this terror from the world,” he said. “Is that a lot to ask? To create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people. Is this too much to ask?”

Zelenskyy’s request was expected. Ukrainians and pro-Ukraine think tanks and activists have been relentless in their calls for a no-fly zone over the Ukrainian skies. One can sympathize with the Ukrainians. For some reason, they expected NATO cavalry to arrive over the gray hills. Ukrainians have also been misled for decades about their chances of joining NATO. Zelenskyy has been exemplary and brave in his stoic leadership, heralding a return to the Great Man Theory of history and drawing comparisons to Winston Churchill.

If there is one glaring similarity between Zelenskyy and Churchill, it is that Zelenskyy understands as much as Churchill that dragging the United States into a potential world war—even a nuclear war—is in the interest of his country. Whether it is in the interest of the United States is a different question altogether.

A new poll showed that American support for a no-fly zone plummets when respondents are told that a no-fly zone means “the U.S. military would shoot down Russian military planes flying over Ukraine, possibly triggering a war between the U.S. and Russia.” That should have been expected. Earlier in March, seventy-eight experts, including myself, signed an open letter opposing a no-fly zone in Ukraine, adding heft to the argument against putting U.S. troops in direct engagement with Russians. That came after a group of twenty-seven experts used their own open letter to advocate for a “limited no-fly zone” over Ukraine.

Read more at National Interest

About the author

Sumantra Maitra

Sumantra Maitra is a national-security fellow at the Center for the National Interest and an elected, early career historian member at the Royal Historical Society.