Mar 27 2022
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined News4Jax’s This Week in Jacksonville to discuss the latest on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. See below for highlights and watch the full interview here.
On the strategy of NATO countries amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:
“We should seek to avoid [armed conflict between NATO and Russia]. The Russians might do something that triggers it. An attack on a NATO country or anything that would undermine the security of a NATO country could very well trigger something like that. I hope we don’t reach that point. Not because I don’t care a lot about what's happening in Ukraine, I do. I warned about it before it happened and I’ve been very vocal about it since.
"I think this is a time for prudence. A war between NATO and Russia would be devastating for Ukraine and the world. We should seek to avoid it if possible. We need to do everything we can to help Ukraine win, which they have an opportunity to do. There’s no doubt Putin will not have a strategic victory here. He may also have an operational loss but, strategically, there’s no way Putin wins. We need to continue to help Ukraine.”
On whether the U.S. should rethink its military presence in Europe:
“Unfortunately, because of this invasion there's going to be, for the foreseeable future, a pretty big buildup of NATO capabilities. NATO is not just America, it’s all these other countries. Hopefully it has awakened them to the need to invest more in their own defense capabilities.
“But I also think the conflict in Ukraine going on for the past four weeks has been incredibly debilitating for Russia. Their economy is in freefall. The military has underperformed. They have about 60 to 70 percent of their conventional forces inside of Ukraine today. Right now they're in no position to invade anybody else, not to mention … even take all of Ukraine. That doesn't mean that [Putin’s] designs don’t remain the same, which is to reconstitute what he views as Russia's rightful place in the world. That includes territorial claims over places like Belarus and Ukraine. Maybe not part of Russia, but certainly as vassal states.”
On Putin’s agenda to preserve his legacy:
“It is a mistake to think that when we talk about [Putin], we're talking about some guy that is crazy or insane. He is certainly psychopathic, but that doesn't mean he's not capable of making decisions that he believes are rational. His history has been to double down. Anytime he has gone into conflict or had setbacks, rather than seek a new course, it is simply to dig in.
“In this particular case he has adjusted his strategy and his goals. [His goals] are no longer to overthrow the government in Kyiv and take over all of Ukraine. His goal now is to encircle five or six key cities, take and consolidate his hold on the coastal south and the Donbas, degrade Ukraine’s military capabilities and their defense industries. With that advantage as leverage, [he can] force Ukraine to accept a peace deal that includes a permanent demilitarization, putting neutrality in their constitution, and putting some pro-Russian figures in the Ukrainian government, like in the position of prime minister. His objective has changed in that regard, but the methodology by which he’s pursuing it is even worse. He's talking about laying siege to six cities and that includes killing, starving, whoever is in those cities.”
On the possibility of Ukraine’s invasion leading to a broader global conflict:
“I don’t believe we're on the verge of World War Three, as far as a missile landing inside of Poland or another NATO country. My expectation will be that the country will invoke Article 5, especially if they believe it was deliberate. There will be a proportional response to it, perhaps targeting whatever the site of that missile launch was. That can quickly escalate. I’m not telling you Putin gets to dictate everything here. There are certain lines that if he crosses, there will be consequences. There has to be. We should not be the ones to cross them first, simply because the price for such a conflict is extraordinarily high and our country has a lot of priorities around the world — not that Ukraine or what is happening in Europe isn’t [important] — but there’s a lot to balance here.
“Generally, I’m one of the guys out there that’s calling for more forward leaning action. In this particular case, people need to understand this could devolve into something that’s truly catastrophic for all of Europe, but for Ukraine in particular. We don't control everything here. Putin could make decisions or miscalculations or mistakes that do end up leading to a broader conflict. That would be terrible for the world. That will be on him.”