Douglas Feith and John Hannah want, not so much a no-fly zone over Ukraine, as much an air bridge via which to fly in humanitarian materials—food, meds, etc—and to fly out civilians wishing to evacuate the nation. They actually think such a facility would put useful pressure—or inconvenient choices—on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Vladimir Putin would either consent and facilitate distribution of supplies or provoke more denunciations of Russia for its inhumanity. Even if criticism doesn’t move him, his top lieutenants may worry about their image and their vulnerability to war-crimes trials. This proposal may aggravate whatever divisions exist within Mr Putin’s team and trigger further antiwar sentiment among ordinary Russians.
This is incredibly naive, bordering on disingenuous, which is disappointing in Feith particularly.
Putin cares not a fig about denunciations; criticism won’t move him. Putin’s top lieutenants are in those positions because Putin chose them; they’re not going to fold because foreigners say mean things about them.
Antiwar sentiment among ordinary Russians? Quite possibly. But Feith and Hannah seem to have missed the fact that this is a tsarist Russia, not any sort of democracy or republic, or even enlightened dictatorship. Putin is the Tsar, and the people have no power at all unless and until they take to the streets as a population. They did that in the later days of the collapse of the USSR, but Yeltsin and Gorbachev were much more…civilized…than Putin is today.
And what war crimes trials? Do Feith and Hannah really envision a Western occupation of Russia when its invasion of Ukraine is ended? That’s the only way that there will be any chance at all of rounding up Putin and/or his minions. Of course, they may well be tried and convicted in absentia, but such things are cynically empty gestures; Putin and his lieutenants still will be sitting in their dachas enjoying their little water and their girls.
Do the flights, certainly, but when they’re shot down by Putin’s military—as surely they will be just as the humanitarian ground corridors to which Putin pretends to agree are attacked as soon as those corridors are filled—more concrete responses from the US and NATO will be required than just angry finger-wagging and stern press releases.