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ICYMI: Rubio Joins The Lead with Jake Tapper
Miami, FL — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined The Lead with Jake Tapper to discuss the latest on Russia and Ukraine. See below for excerpts and watch the full interview here.
On reports that Ukrainian separatists have asked Putin for protection from the government:
“[That narrative is] the final step in this process and now opens the door for Putin to trigger his fake mutual defense agreement he signed [with the separatists]. We are hours, not days, away from [an invasion]. I believe some of it is already underway. There is a lot of activity going on in Ukraine tonight. All the signs point to something unusual happening, compared to other days….”
On the next steps involved in a full-scale Russian invasion:
“I’ve long believed that Putin would conduct this attack for a lot of reasons. We don’t have time to get into it. [It] would take about 30 minutes to walk through it. All the boxes he would check in this plan — he’s been checking them.
“We have known for some days now that he’s made what is pretty much an irreversible decision at this point…. You saw with the cyberattacks today, the implanting of malware in key systems. I think the next thing you would probably see them do is potentially seize a couple of airports so they can fly equipment directly into the country. I think you could also see them target air defense systems, [weapons], and ammo depots…..
“This will move pretty quickly once it starts, and we’re going to lose some insight into it from the perspective of the media, because I think you’re going to see disruptions in social media, telecommunications, internet connectivity, things of that nature.”
On whether a diplomatic resolution is possible to end the crisis:
“I don’t think the diplomatic window was ever open. [Putin] made demands that he knew could not be met. He made unreasonable demands. He made demands that he knew the West could never agree to. If you read his demands, [Putin] was asking us to kick out at least 13 NATO countries, basically anyone who joined after . He knew that wasn’t possible.
“I think, frankly, Putin has been planning this. It didn’t start last month or last week. This has been going on for over a year, and he felt that this was the opportune time. They have elections in France. The U.S. has got its own issues domestically and [is] focused on China. Energy prices are high. Germany has a new leader. The U.K. is going through some tumult in their political process. I think he felt like this was the ideal moment to take action. If [Putin] didn’t do it now the window could potentially close a year from now.”
On what an occupation of Ukraine will cost Russia:
“Russia has the military ability to take Ukraine. [But if it does,] the problem is now it has to govern it, now it has to stay there. There’s a reason you don’t see millions of Ukrainians abandoning their cities and families; they’re going to stay and fight. They aren’t just going to fight now, they’re going to fight after the invasion is over….
“If any nation on Earth has learned how expensive and difficult it is to occupy a country that has a massive number of people that may not want you there, especially if it’s long term, it’s us…. We have seen that in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Russians saw it in Afghanistan, too. Obviously we saw that before in Vietnam. The Russians have a real challenge on their hands moving forward.
“This is not going to be a Crimea situation…. This is going to be a long-term conflict. [Putin] may very well occupy large portions of the country, but he’s not going to pacify it. Ukrainians are going to fight him for a long time, and there’s going to be a lot of dead Russians going home, and he will have to explain to their moms why they died to occupy a place that didn’t want them.”
On the Biden Administration’s response to Russia:
“I wish we would have imposed the strongest possible sanctions, on the two biggest Russian banks, in the middle of Putin’s speech, which by the way was taped. We already knew what [Putin] was going to do. I’m not a big believer in the ‘sanction as we go’ process. Beyond that, I think [the Biden Administration is] making the right decisions about reinforcing NATO’s eastern flank. That’s an important commitment because that is an official red line, and that is something that cannot be crossed.
“At the same time, I think it is incredibly important that the U.S. return to a policy of producing domestic energy at a higher level than we have been doing. Unfortunately, the Biden Administration has cut back on it. It’s these high energy prices that have given Putin not just tremendous leverage over Europe, but tremendous leverage over the whole situation. It’s been a great asset to him and has made us potentially vulnerable. So I hope we return to [greater energy independence].
“I [also] hope we will not lose focus on the Indo-Pacific region, which is where the critical threats to [America] in the 21st century lie. I believe that our NATO alliance, with a little more contribution from the U.S. in terms of a forward presence, can hold back the threat of a further expansion in Europe.
“And I would say this: We should recognize the Ukrainian government, even if it happens to be in exile or some remote portion of the country, and we should help them. We should help them to help those insurgents that remain behind the lines, who are going to continue to fight Russia for months and years to come until their country is free. These are tough people. They will fight, and we should do everything we can to help them. They’re not asking for American soldiers. They’re just asking for the weapons to fight for themselves and their families.”
On the United States’ role in the crisis:
“These are heartbreaking scenes that we are seeing, and obviously the United States is the most powerful country in the world, [but] it is not all powerful. Even in the peak of the unipolar world, we were not all powerful, and there were things that we couldn’t control.
“These are terrible things that are happening, and I wish we could do more to stop it and prevent it from happening. Unfortunately, evil people do evil things in this world, and they should pay a price for it so that it doesn’t happen in other places. It is heartbreaking, these images…. There are a lot of Russian speakers in Eastern Ukraine that don’t want to be part of Russia, but they certainly don’t want to be shelled, and they don’t want their kids to be forcibly conscripted into some fake country’s army, [like] these fake separtist areas that Russia has created.
“America can do a lot to help Ukraine, but the future of Ukraine is in the hands of the Ukrainian people, who, I think, are prepared to fight and make this a really difficult and painful experience for Putin in the long term.”
On America’s interest in Ukraine and other foreign matters:
“We always owe an obligation to the people watching to explain, why does this matter to Americans? It’s not that it isn’t bad — it’s a terrible thing — but why does this matter to Americans? And it matters for two reasons.
“The first is, [if] we now live in a world where countries can decide, ‘That [land] belongs to us, and we’re going to invade and take it,’ the world is going to get really messy, really fast, and that’s going to impact us here.
“As far as Ukraine specifically is concerned, it has a big impact on global energy prices. We already have high gas prices, they’re going to go higher. Ukraine is a pretty substantial food producer of wheat and corn. That will have an impact on the global food market which, ultimately, would have an impact on us as well. They are the leading supplier of neon gas for our nascent semiconductor industry here in the United States. That’s going to be cut off.
“There was an accidentally leaked … directive that the Chinese government gave to its official state reporters talking about why they needed to support Russia: because one day, [they] will need Russia’s support when it comes time to deal with Taiwan. The Chinese are watching this very carefully to figure out what happens when you take a place that you claim belongs to you that doesn’t want to be a part of you. They’re watching this to see what the price you pay is, and what the U.S. reaction [is], and what [the West’s] allied reaction is.”