ICYMI: Rubio Joins Breaking Battlegrounds
Feb 22 2023
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined the Breaking Battlegrounds podcast to discuss Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs), Chinese operations in Latin America, the border crisis, and more. Listen here and read a transcript below.
On the unidentified objects over American airspace:
“Frankly, the [hearings] this week, they could have done it publicly in front of the whole world. They didn't tell us anything that you haven't read in the press, with maybe some very minor exceptions. I don't know why they've kept any of this classified. I think that when for the first time in your nation's history you shoot down three to four objects over American airspace, one we knew about already, but three over a weekend, you owe maximum transparency to the American people about why you made that decision, what these things are. Yet they haven't done that.
“Those briefings, I don't know why they were classified. There was nothing that was shared with us in [the hearings] that needed to be classified. I'm sure there's things that were shared that they'd like to keep confidential, but I don't think they shared anything that needed to be classified.”
On the lack of transparency from the Biden Administration:
“It's really important to separate the two issues. First, there's this Chinese spy balloon. We knew that was a balloon. We've seen those before. They've been testing them for a number of years. And what they've been doing is flying them across the equator. So we've seen them. We know they have this program. They've been doing it. We knew what that was. The problem with that is they saw it before it entered U.S. airspace. They should have shot it down then, and they didn't. That was my problem with that one.
“Second, this weekend, they saw what they call three objects, which now they claim may have been balloons, but which they clearly said were objects. Three were shot down. Never had that happened before in American history, and there's very little transparency about it.
“There's some fundamental questions to ask, because this is not the first time—the way they describe those three objects, how they performed, where they were, what they did—we've had hundreds of those. We have an entire task force that Congress created called the UAP Task Force to study the fact that we've got an object flying over restricted airspace, as an example, that isn't ours, and we don't know whose it is, and it doesn't belong there. There's been hundreds in the last year alone, three or 400 reports of these things, but this is the first time we shoot them down.
“What changed between now and then? What we wanted to know and what people deserve to know is, what is our policy moving forward? Are we going to shoot down every object at 20,000 feet that we don't know what it is? These are important questions, and those are the kinds of things they just haven't been transparent about because, frankly, I don't think they know the answer.”
On the rationale behind the Biden Administration’s decisions:
“I felt and I still believe that when you do something like use military airplanes to shoot down objects over our airspace, that's a pretty big deal. There must have been a risk associated with those things that justified that. The decision had to be made by the president. It has never happened before in the 65-year history of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and that deserves the president to explain that to the American people up front.
“I can't tell you what these things are. I'm not sure they'll ever be recovered, to be frank, depending on what it was. I can tell you that part of me [believes] that even though we know that we've got these things flying out there, NORAD doesn't really look for that because NORAD is set up to look for missiles and airplanes. After the Chinese spy balloon, they said, ‘NORAD, you guys need to start looking for stuff that doesn't look like airplanes and missiles,’ and all of a sudden they saw all three of them.
“Given the criticism that they had gotten about not shooting down the balloon, they said, ‘Let's just shoot these things down because they're out there,’ and they did. If they had talked to people on the UAP Task Force, they would have told them, ‘These things may very well be dangerous, but there are hundreds of these a year reported, probably more that are not reported going on, so if we're going to shoot these three down, we're going to have to shoot hundreds of them down because that's the criteria.’
“People needed to hear from the president, because we're talking about [something that is not normal for the U.S.] I can't emphasize that it is not normal over the span of 10 days to have the United States shoot down four objects, one of which we know about and three others which we do not, using missiles.”
On the origin of UAPs:
“Let's say you're an adversary of the United States, and you have big military budgets, depending on who you are, but maybe not as big as ours. You know that the United States looks for missiles and airplanes, but it doesn't look for small, slow-moving crafts at 20 to 30,000 feet. Someone doesn’t have to be a brilliant strategist to say, ‘You know what we should do? We should invent something that's relatively cheap and can fly over the United States at 20 to 30,000 feet because they'll never see it, they'll never look for it.’ I think it's a very reasonable thing to believe that some nation-state has decided to pursue that.
“All these UAP reports are very different. Some have been explained, some of them have not been explained and have demonstrated unusual, anomalous capability in terms of speed and maneuverability, and there are others that we don't know what they are but they didn't do anything extraordinary. This sounds like it's in that third bucket. According to them, according to the pilots, these weren't things that were moving in ways that they weren't supposed to move, in terms of how fast they were and what have you.
“I just don't think it's unreasonable to believe that an adversary would say, ‘If we've got entire clubs out there of people that fly balloons all over the world at $12 a pop, why can't we just design hundreds of them and start flying them out there and testing U.S. air defenses? I think that's a very reasonable thing to believe.’
“We basically built up defenses in this country that are either a) relics and successors of Cold War programs or b) from a time when we were focused almost exclusively on counterterrorism, but we had no great power to compete against. Now, not only do we have a great power to compete against—China—there’s this growing alliance of authoritarian nations, led by China with Russia and Iran as junior partners, who are beginning to coordinate with one another geopolitically and increasingly militarily. This is a challenge that we really need to reorient everything we do to confront.”
On Chinese influence in Central and South America:
“This year alone, I’ve met with two heads of states, soon to be three heads of state, from the region, and I’ve talked to another one on the phone. All of them have the same refrain, which is that it's better to be America's enemy, because if you're America's enemy, they pay attention to you, try to cut deals with you, try to reach out to you, and try to be accommodating. If you're America's friend, [the U.S.] either ignores you or tries to make an example out of you. One issue is this perverse incentive that's been created.
“The second common thing is the Chinese are swallowing our country and saying, ‘We've got $5 billion for you to build a port.’ These [countries] would prefer not to build a port with the Chinese, but these are developing countries. The U.S. has no alternative to that, and in some cases it goes further than that. They bribe the local officials. We can't do that, but there doesn't seem to be a non-Chinese alternative in many cases.
“What the Chinese care about in the Western Hemisphere are three things. First is natural resources. Whether it's oil or lithium or agricultural products, they want to take raw materials in. [Second is] they want to export finished goods out to these markets. The third thing they want is the ability to project power in the region. They're not going to build military bases, but if they own the port or they own the facilities around the Panama Canal, then they don't need to build military bases. If they want to send their Navy over here, they've got a place their companies own that they can stop at and use as a base without having to call it a base.
“Those are their interests. And you've got countries in the region that would love to do that because they hate America. The regime in Venezuela, the regime in Cuba, the regime in Nicaragua, all of those are places that would love to welcome in, not just Chinese, but Iranian and Russian elements as well.”
On the southern border:
“There's the physical infrastructure that you need to be able to monitor, but the bottom line is we have created an incentive for people to come here. This is pretty straightforward. I live in South Florida, so I personally know. I hear people that talk about this. I have a bill that would make it a crime to send money to some network to traffic your relatives here, but it's not even clear that that is a federal offense. We have to make that very clear. You can't send $10,000 using Zelle or Cashapp to some coyote who's going to traffic your family here. If you do that then that should be a federal crime.
“But they know if they send this money, their relatives are going to arrive at the border, they're going to turn themselves in, and they're going to ask for asylum. Saying the magic words will trigger a process by which they will be released and they'll have to call once a week or once a month into some immigration place. But they're going to be released into the country with a work permit hearing that can happen five or 10 years down the road that they may or may not show up for.
“There's no reason for someone, in their mind, not to come here because they know if they cross the border and turn themselves in, they're going to get to stay. You've created a built-in incentive, and the only way to stop it is to reverse that incentive. To reverse that incentive is just that simple. We should not allow people to come in automatically.
“We've got to redo our asylum laws. They're being abused. I am sympathetic to people wanting to live in America because they live in a terrible place. I understand that, but there's probably upwards of 200 million people on this planet that would love to come to America if they could. Can we assume 200 million people? What is the number that we can absorb every given year? Because it's certainly not 200 million. It's certainly not a million or two million a year, the way they're coming now. We just can't do it. We've got to stop it.”
On Rubio’s bill to end money transfers for illegal immigration:
“We just filed it. It's a new issue for a lot of people because it's not an issue that I got from a think tank. It's an issue I got [from a personal experience]. I'll never forget it. Right before Christmas, I'm at a little local Hispanic coffee shop, and I hear two people in line talking about it.
“They said, ‘I'm going to send $5,000 to my cousin's son,’ or whoever it was, ‘so they can come. How can that not be a crime?’ I asked my staff to look into it and they're like, ‘It probably is, but it's not clear,’ and so forth. If you get caught doing that, there is no reason why it should be legal. It should be abundantly clear in the law that you shouldn't be sending money to traffic people into the country, even if it's a family member.
“I don't know if we're going to get pushback. I think the pushback is going to be that they just won't do anything about it. Or the pushback will be, ‘Criminalizing people that all they want is for their relatives to live here!’ But that's not what they're doing. What they are doing is funding trafficking networks.”
On the national debt:
“The debt limit debate is going to suck all the oxygen out of the room, and for good reason. Defaulting on the debt, that would be a big problem. Even getting close to it is going to trigger all kinds of global reaction and the like. But that doesn't mean that what we're doing today is sustainable. We're in a tough spot here. We have spending that is completely out of whack.
“You saw the CBO numbers this week. 88 percent of our budget now is mandatory spending. That number will continue to grow…. If you take those numbers and run them out, we're going to go broke. But we can't deal with it because no one wants to be serious about saving Medicare and Social Security.
“We have the president saying, ‘Yes, I know that things are going to go insolvent. We'll do anything to save them other than raise taxes. You're trying to kill these programs.’ You can't do [address the issue productively] without presidential leadership.”