The need to create humanitarian corridors across Ukraine which would both enable those fleeing the conflict to leave major cities and bring vital supplies inwards for those that remain is now urgent, Merle Maigre, former NATO deputy chief of mission to Ukraine, says.
Appearing on ETV morning show "Terevisioon", Maigre also said that establishing a no-fly zone around Ukraine would be more complicated than those installed by NATO in recent decades, mainly due to the fact that the Russian Federation is a permanent UN Security Council (UNSC) member, and is also a nuclear power – rationale also presented by the U.K.'s defense minister, Ben Wallace, at a press conference in Tallinn Thursday morning.
The alliance has now coordinated the provision of weapons assistance to Ukraine, and is focusing its activities on the protection of the alliance's eastern wing, including Estonia.
However, Maigre said, the first objective should be creating humanitarian corridors connecting to Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Mariupol and other major cities.
"If we take a look at history, the last no-fly zone , or situation where NATO imposed a no-fly zone, took place in Libya in 2011. This was not just a resolution, but a military decision. However, it was the result of a decision by the UNSC," Maigre said.
"However, a current [no-fly] decision will not be forthcoming from their because Russia is at the table there. It remains to be seen what the chances are of bypassing the UNSC and demanding humanitarian corridors at the UN General Assembly level," she continued.
Whether no-fly zones should be involved is an issue that should at least be discussed, she added.
As to whether NATO could intervene in Ukraine at all, Maigre said this was a political debate, with clear military implications.
"Any NATO intervention would already mean a conflict between the alliance and Russia. But discussing what NATO, the UN and the European Union can do to avert a humanitarian catastrophe is, of course, something that must be done.
The difference between Russia's invasion of Ukraine starting a week ago, and the NATO air strikes in Kosovo starting in March 1999 included the fact that the former Yugoslavia was not a nuclear power, Maigre noted, while the sending of weapons by NATO member states to Ukraine does not constitute a military intervention as the weapons are used by Ukraine's defense forces themselves.
On Wednesday, 141 states at the 193-state UN General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution condemning Russia's recent action in Ukraine.
Russia is a permanent member of the UNSC, a post it inherited from its predecessor state, the Soviet Union, along with China, France, the U.S. and the U.K.
Editor: Andrew Whyte