NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that the 30-country alliance will not impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, warning that such a step would draw NATO forces into direct conflict with Russia and potentially spark "a full-fledged war in Europe."
"We are not part of this conflict, and we have a responsibility to ensure it does not escalate and spread beyond Ukraine because that would be even more devastating and more dangerous, with even more human suffering," Stoltenberg said during a press conference following a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.
Stoltenberg told reporters that while the Ukrainian leadership's call for a no-fly zone was mentioned during Friday's meeting, NATO members ultimately agreed that the alliance shouldn't have "planes operating over Ukrainian airspace or NATO troops on Ukrainian territory."
"NATO is not seeking a war with Russia," said Stoltenberg, who condemned Russia's assault on Ukraine as an unlawful act of aggression and demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin order the immediate withdrawal of all troops.
Watch Stoltenberg's press conference:
NATO's rejection of a no-fly zone came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy renewed his push for a no-fly zone over the besieged country.
"I hope the sky will be shut down," Zelenskyy said during a press conference on Thursday.
But many world leaders, progressive lawmakers, and anti-war campaigners have warned that because a no-fly zone must be enforced militarily, the imposition of such an airspace ban would dramatically increase the risk of broadening the deadly conflict in Ukraine.
Last week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said U.S. President Joe Biden has no intention of supporting a no-fly zone, warning that it could bring the United States into "a war with Russia, which is something we are not planning to be a part of."
The prime minister of Lithuania, a NATO member, similarly rejected calls for a no-fly zone during a news conference on Friday.
"I believe that all encouragements for NATO to get involved in the military conflict now are irresponsible," said Ingrida Simonyte.