German MPs call for 70km Nato air defence zone around Ukraine

Russian rockets are launched against Ukraine from the Belgorod region
Russian rockets are launched against Ukraine from the Belgorod region - EVGENIY MALOLETKA/AP

A cross-party group of German MPs has called for a 70km Nato air defence zone to be set up over Ukraine to protect it against Russian missile and drone attacks.

Top members of the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, as well the coalition members Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens, have discussed setting up a safe zone around Ukraine’s borders with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, modelled on the Western alliance which intercepted Iran’s recent assault on Israel.

Roderich Kiesewetter, the CDU’s crisis prevention spokesman, told German newspaper FAZ that the initiative would help free up Ukrainian forces in the east, where a fresh Russian offensive is underway.

“This would ease the burden on Ukrainian air defences and allow it to protect the front,” Mr Kiesewetter told the newspaper.

Marcus Faber, a member of the liberal FDP party, has also backed the plan as “possible”, while the Greens’ deputy leader Agnieszka Brugger has said she is in favour of setting up Nato air defence systems “at the borders of the neighboring states” to defend western Ukraine.

The proposal would reportedly take inspiration from how the West intercepted hundreds of missiles and drones launched by Iran towards Israel last month.

During that crisis, British, French and American air forces, among others, shot down incoming Iranian missiles from Western-allied bases dotted around the region, and from Jordanian airspace.

Their intervention stopped short of a direct confrontation with Iran, something that Germany is extremely anxious to avoid in the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

However, the German proposal was on Monday rejected by a senior figure in the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s ruling party, who said it was “irresponsible” and a “fire hazard”.

“Protecting Ukrainian airspace via a Nato deployment would go against the principle of not becoming actively engaged in the war,” Rolf Mützenich, the head of the SPD’s parliamentary group, said.

If a motion to back the Nato air zone plan were put to a vote in the Bundestag, it would risk falling short without the support of the SPD, which has also rejected similar proposals from cross-party groups on how to best support Ukraine, such as by delivering powerful Taurus missiles.