Why social workers (and everyone else who cares for life) should oppose a Ukraine no-fly zone

Both political and popular support appears to be growing for the U.S./NATO to declare a “no-fly” zone over Ukraine in response to the Russian invasion. This is madness, representing the most dangerous of escalations.

Shock and horror at the invasion, clearly an egregious violation of international law, and like virtually all war a crime against humanity, is understandable and fully justified. A desire to “do something,” to help the suffering, is the most humane, the most commendable, of responses.

Setting up a no-fly will not, however, reduce the suffering of the Ukrainian people. On the contrary, it is the quickest way to provoke a nuclear war – a horror beyond imagination that would result in the death of hundreds of millions of people immediately, and millions more later from radiation poisoning. If a nuclear war prompts a “nuclear winter” – the result of enormous clouds of dust blocking the sun’s rays, hence killing off plant life – survivors (human and other) will certainly perish from starvation.

Russia has made it clear that it will consider establishing a no-fly zone a decision by NATO to enter the war as a combatant. It will challenge the zone, ensuring an immediate widening of the war, further casualties, and increasing the likelihood of a rapid spiral toward nuclear confrontation. Putin has already put Russia’s nuclear forces on the highest alert; is there any doubt that, facing defeat, he (and the Russian hawks who evidently are in the driver’s seat) will take the next escalatory step toward Armageddon?

Social workers believe in peace for all people, and during war the quest for peace requires negotiation, not escalation. This is not a video game. This is the gravest existential threat humanity has faced since the “mutually assured destruction” madness of the Cold War.

Say NO to the call for a no-fly zone.

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