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ICYMI: Rubio Joins The Hugh Hewitt Show
Miami, FL — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined The Hugh Hewitt Show to discuss the latest on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Iran Nuclear Deal, and more. See below for highlights and listen to the full interview here.
On Russia’s involvement in the negotiation of the Iran nuclear deal:
“That [involvement] is a big part of [why the Biden Administration won’t sanction Russian oil.] The Administration is still trying to figure out, ‘What can we do to sanction Russian oil without adding to the increase in gas prices to Americans?’
“And by the way, there’s a collateral, an ancillary to the … the deal with Iran, and that is that if you lift sanctions [on Iran], that means there’ll be Iranian oil entering the marketplace…. The Russians have an economic incentive at this moment to delay that deal, because Russian oil’s already being sold at a discount in the market, given how difficult it is to transact business and payment to them right now. So the last thing they want is to see oil prices go down, because suddenly there’s a new supplier in the marketplace.
“That new supplier should be us. If someone is going to be selling more oil into the marketplace, it should be America, which has the capacity to do it. We don’t need the Russian oil. It’s 4% of what we invest [in] every day. It’s a lot of money to Putin. We could easily replace it with our own domestic supply if the President would allow it.”
On how Russian diplomats are making it to the Iran nuclear deal negotiations in Vienna:
“Probably what’s happening is that exceptions [to sanctions] are being made for diplomatic travel…. Although it’s interesting, Lavrov, the other day, I think it was in Geneva, could not attend the fake UN Human Rights hearing…. He had to do it by videoconference. He couldn’t get there. But my sense is … that [the international authorities] are probably creating an exemption for what they would term diplomatic travel.”
On how Russia will fulfill its role in the Iran nuclear deal:
“It’s possible [the Russians are] going to pay [for spent fuel] with oil, in … a barter-type deal, and/or use Iran as a way to access the market, … sell it through them…. Russia is probably working overtime right now to establish an alternative to SWIFT and other payment systems. Given enough time, governments figure out loopholes and ways around restrictions.
“It still doesn’t solve their problem of … close to half of Russia’s national reserves [being] frozen in foreign bank accounts, which is a big problem. Russia’s … whole economy is in a complete death spiral.”
On the possibility of a oligarch-led regime change in Russia:
“We wouldn’t have a lot of insight into that, to be honest with you. When there is some sort of an insider move on a guy, you don’t know it until after it’s happened, if it’s successful. If we know about it, then it’s not going to be successful, [because that means] Putin knows about it….
“It’s not like these people are buddies. Putin generally has disdain for these oligarchs and so forth. But they’re like the feudal lords that prop up a monarch. They’re like these princes that he allows to exist in exchange for their help or loyalty. So if he tells them, ‘I need your company to do this for me as an element of statecraft,’ they have to comply with his orders, because without that, they’ll be charged with some corruption charges, and they’ll be in jail the rest of their lives. So they’re tools that he uses for statecraft. But you know, he’ll easily replace an oligarch if need be. That’s been the history of it.”
On the dangers of reviving the Iran nuclear deal:
“It is a legacy issue from the Obama Administration. A lot of the people involved in this were involved in that, and it was one of the big things that the Obama Administration bragged about. But there’s a lot of danger embedded in it. One of the things that’s really damaged the U.S.-Saudi relationship has been how aggressively [the Democrats have] pursued this. I think that’s going to get even worse now.
“I think there’s another element we haven’t talked about here. There are a lot of countries around the world … watching what’s being done to Ukraine and saying to themselves, ‘If they wouldn’t have gotten rid of their nuclear weapons, or if they had just kept a few, this would not be happening.’
“If we pull back from all of this and just look at it, not the trees, but the entire forest, we are entering an era now where there are three countries that are arguing that they should be the dominant regional powers, and those around them need to be tributary vassal states: Iran in the Muslim world…, Russia in Eastern Europe, and then China in the Asia-Pacific region. And their fundamental argument is, powerful countries should be allowed to dominate their neighbors and direct what happens in their region.
“In the case of Iran, there are not just ethnic differences between Arab countries coming under the rule of a Persian country, but sectarian ones as well. These are predominantly Sunni countries, and then you have a Shia hegemon, or attempted hegemon, who’s trying to impose on them. And so these countries in the region are going to push back.
“There is no doubt in my mind that if there’s a Shia bomb, there will be a Sunni bomb at some point, and it won’t be hard to get to that point.”
On the three alleged assassination attepts on Ukrainian president Zelenskyy:
“I don’t know if it’s [been] three [attempts] or five or one or none, but I can tell you that the Russians, for a long time now, have had deep penetrations into the Ukrainian defense systems and security. Obviously, that’s concerning. A lot of people think they could shoot [Zelenskyy]. They could also poison him. There’s all kinds of things they can do. So obviously, there’s always concern about that, because the Russians have invested many, many years into penetrating the Ukrainian government and having assets in there.
“I don’t know how many attempts there have been made or so forth, but I can certainly tell you that if the Russians want to kill him, and if they have a chance to do so, they will, and that they’ll keep trying to, because eliminating Zelenskyy, from a strategic standpoint, is probably, in Putin’s mind, one of the most effective things he can do right now.”
On whether the U.S. is withholding real time intelligence from Ukraine for fear of being considered a co-belligerent:
“It’s a complicated question. And I struggle to talk about it publicly, because I’m not quite sure how to structure it in a way that [respects intelligence clearance]. I also don’t think we should be telegraphing what we’re doing publicly in that regard to the Russians. That said, I saw what Jen Psaki said yesterday. It is a ‘truth-y’ answer, meaning there are elements of truth to it, but it doesn’t capture the full complexity….
“There are both Republicans and Democrats who are actively working and pushing now, because we think the Administration can do more and be more effective in that regard than what it’s doing right now. And there’s some confusion as well about what they’re doing right now, and we’re trying to get to the bottom of it and work through it, and hopefully, we’ll make some progress.”
On the danger of the situation in Ukraine escalating to a broader conflict:
“There is great danger for two reasons. The first is, you now have 70% of the Russian military power … active and engaged and deployed very close to NATO forces. So the risk of miscalculation [is high.] For example, these countries are now providing planes to Ukraine. So it would not take much for a Russian anti-air element to confuse a Romanian jet or a Polish jet with maybe one from Ukraine and shoot it down. And suddenly, you’ve got a conflict.
“The other [reason] is, … all these things that are being provided to Ukraine, they have to be driven in, and at some point, [Putin is] going to start bombing these convoys. And so you worry about … what could happen there. The border isn’t as easy to see from the air as it is on the ground….
“The third [reason] is, Putin’s not the same guy he was five years ago. What I mean by that is that his risk calculus is not the same. There are risks he’s willing to take now that he wasn’t willing to take a few years ago. A lot of the people who are running this whole thing and reacting to it I don’t think fully appreciate [that fact]. [Putin] is not going to accept [just] any outcome. He would rather have World War III than be humiliated or appear to have been backing down to the West. And I think that poses real dangers.”