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.
I agree with what Deverell says about the Russian President’s nuclear scaremongering. Putin is still a “rational player” – tabloid nonsense about his health notwithstanding. He doesn’t crave conquest enough to risk being incinerated himself, along with all of his countrymen.
On the other hand, an assumption that his goal is to take the whole of Ukraine as stepping stone to the Baltic States – supposedly the firming view of “some British ministers” – and that this justifies a kinetic NATO response is ironic: it is exactly the preemption of merely feared encroachment that actuated President Putin’s invasion in the first place. A no-fly zone would be a moral vindication of the latter’s rationale. Forget the World War II analogies. I’m reminded of the vainglorious yearning for a reckoning that made war in Europe impervious to reason leading up to 1914.