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What is a no-fly zone and why does the Ukrainian president keep pushing for it

"There’s a reason nuclear-armed countries don’t tend to go to war with one another," said U of M Political Science Professor Mark Bell.

MINNEAPOLIS — You've likely heard about something Ukraine's president keeps pushing for - a no-fly zone.

But the Biden administration maintains that the option is completely off the table. 

University of Minnesota Political Science Professor Mark Bell says the tactic would dramatically escalate the war.

"Setting up a no-fly zone establishes air supremacy over a given territory, so in this case, that would be Ukraine," said Bell. "It would essentially bring U.S. military capability into direct contact, and direct conflict, with Russian forces."

Bell says the U.S. has imposed no-fly zones before over places like Iraq and Libya - adversaries Bell called the weaker opponent. Those are countries not armed with nuclear weapons like Russia is. 

"There’s a reason nuclear-armed countries don’t tend to go to war with one another and it’s because when they do, there are significant risks that might escalate to the use of nuclear weapons," said Bell. "This would be the U.S. and Russia in a war directly with each other, which is not something we've seen before."

The U.S. has levied several sanctions against Russia and now it's considering banning Russian oil imports, despite not receiving half as much from other countries like Canada and Saudi Arabi. 

In a recent CNN article, it was noted that "Russia represented less than 2% of all US oil imports in December, according to the US Energy Information Administration."

The ban, albeit more symbolic, would still hike up gas prices, according to Bell, which are now at record highs nationwide. AAA says the average price for a gallon of unleaded around the Twin Cities is hovering at about $3.80.

"I think what you've seen from the United States is a fairly steady, measured, capable set of responses that have escalated as the situation has escalated," said Bell. "You want to leave a certain amount of threat capabilities in reserve in order to try and deter Russia from taking additional steps."

Bell said the type of urban warfare happening in Ukraine is brutal and can last a long time. He said the plans and policies set forth by the U.S. and other allies should be for the long-term.

"This is not a conflict that seems likely to be resolved in a quick or decisive victory by either side, any time soon," said Bell.

American officials have also said they could take action soon on two points including a declaration of war crimes against Russia and helping deliver Polish fighter jets to Ukraine.  

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