The 7 stages of Western "concern"
1 We are concerned
2 We are very concerned
3 We are gravely concerned
4 There must be answers
5 There will be consequences
6 It is important to engage
7 We should separate this from commerical issues
Rinse. Repeat https://t.co/37Cvkq0e1X
— Darth Putin (@DarthPutinKGB) May 23, 2021
So far the responses to Belarus’s abuse of the air traffic control system; the declaration of an emergency on a flight not scheduled to land in Belarus, but flying over Belarusan airspace; and the act of war that is forcing an air plane from an air carrier from Ireland to make a forced, emergency landing in order to seize a Belarusan activist and journalist that the Belarusan dictator is mad at, have been insufficient.
Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, did a bit better:
Closely monitoring forcible landing in #Belarus of flight to Vilnius & reported detention of opposition figure Roman Protasevich. This is a serious & dangerous incident which requires international investigation. Belarus must ensure safe return of crew & all passengers.
The forced landing of the Ryanair aircraft in Minsk is a grave violation of international law, which must be investigated. The European reaction must be clear and firm.
And Gitanas Nausėda, the President of Lithuania, which is where the Ryan Air flight was bound when Belarus forced it down:
Unprecedented event! A civilian passenger plane flying to Vilnius was forcibly landed in #Minsk. Belarusian political activist & founder of @NEXTA_EN was on the plane. He is arrested. regime is behind the abhorrent action. I demand to free Roman Protasevič urgently!
leaders will discuss a state-sponsored terror act in #Minsk tomorrow at #EUCO. My suggestions: airspace over shall be recognized unsafe, aircrafts shall not be accepted in airports, immediate investigation by @icao & serious sanctions against the regime.
While the debate will now rage about how much of this was done by Lukashenko versus how much of this was known or approved or even planned by Putin, the simple reality, which we have seen demonstrated over and over and over and over again since 2011, is that leveling sanctions, issuing demarches, and tweeting about it are not going to make a damn bit of difference with Lukashenko or his patron Putin. Especially because Belarus’s air defense are fully integrated into Russia’s:
🇧🇾 Air Defenses, including this 🇧🇾 MiG29 “escort” are fully integrated, with 🇷🇺 Air Defenses, meaning Kremlin Command&Control. Besides EU action, this illegal act is among many Indications/Warnings about why NATO must upgrade its #BalticAirPolicing mission to #BalticAirDefense https://t.co/1UlXDQfs9a
— Ray Wojcik (@wojcikrp) May 23, 2021
The only discussion that should be going on at the EU right now is one of who, among the EU’s members will join a coalition of EU members under NATO to conduct denial of flight operations against Belarus until Protasevich is released.
The DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms defines area denial as:
An action to hinder or deny the enemy use of territory, personnel, or facilities to include destruction, removal, contamination, or erection of obstructions.
JP 3-52: Joint Airspace Control defines No Fly Zone Area as:
Airspace of specific dimensions set aside for a specific purpose in which no aircraft operations are permitted, except as authorized by the appropriate commander and controlling agency.
The EU and NATO response needs to be that nothing takes off or lands in Belarus. Nothing flies over Belarus. Anything flying near Belarus is escorted by a combat air patrol (CAP). Nothing flies into or out of Belarus until it is interdicted by coalition air assets, escorted to the nearest coalition forces air base, inspected, and determined to not being carrying anything illegal or contraband. If Belarus activates its air defense system, coalition air destroys it and, if necessary, bounces the rubble. If Putin doesn’t like it than his air force assets can be escorted back to Russia’s borders and can then do figure eights till they have to go and refuel.
This cannot be business as usual. It can’t be nice sounding diplomatic language that achieves nothing. What Putin has learned for the past decade is that no matter what he does, no matter who he does it to, no one – not the US, not NATO, not the EU – will actually do anything to stop him that could actually stop him. And it is what his clients like Lukashenko and Orban have learned as well.
The US and our EU and NATO allies and partners decided it wasn’t risking a larger war when Putin scarfed up Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine using his special operations forces and Wagner mercenaries – the little green men – back in 2014. All this did is embolden Putin because it taught him that short of formally and openly invading another nation-state with Russian forces, that he could do whatever he wanted because no one would do anything to stop him.
It is well past time to teach Putin and his clients like Lukashenko and Orban a new lesson. Or you can resign yourself to more commercial, passenger air planes, as well as private jets and planes, being forced down if they stray anywhere close to Belarusan or Russian airspace, including Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.