Top Republican says no-fly zone over Ukraine could lead to 'beginning of World War III'

"It's not some rule you pass that everybody has to oblige by," Sen. Rubio said.

March 6, 2022, 12:24 PM

Sen. Marco Rubio, vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine amid Russia's unprovoked invasion could lead to the "beginning of World War III."

"I think people need to understand what a no-fly zone means ... it's not some rule you pass that everybody has to oblige by," Rubio, R-Fla., told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. "It's the willingness to shoot down the aircrafts of the Russian Federation, which is basically the beginning of World War III."

In a Zoom call with U.S. lawmakers that Rubio participated in Saturday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated his request for the West to implement a no-fly zone over his country. But if that can't be done, Zelenskyy asked for planes instead, several members of Congress said after the call.

Stephanopoulos asked Rubio about a potential deal with Poland to supply aircraft, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. is "actively looking at."

"How about this provision of fighter jets? We would provide the fighter jets to Poland, other Eastern European nations, they would send the jets they now have to Ukraine, do you support that?" Stephanopoulos pressed.

"I do. If that can be done, that would be great," Rubio answered. "I do have concerns about a couple of things. And that is sort of, you know, can they actually fly them given the amount of anti-aircraft capability that the Russians possess and continue to have deployed in the region? ... But generally speaking, it's something I'd be supportive of."

Bipartisan support to ban Russian oil imports continues to grow among U.S. lawmakers, but the White House has yet to back it.

"The president has resisted banning Russian oil imports, of course, that would send gas prices soaring even more here in this country. Do you support that?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"I do and I don't think -- you know, I think that's something that you can construct a plan to phase that in pretty rapidly," Rubio said. "And you could use reserves for the purposes of buffering that. But we have more than enough ability in this country to produce enough oil to make up for the percentage that we buy from Russia."

Rubio said the Biden administration's unwillingness to stop importing barrels of Russian oil each day is simply "an admission that this guy, that this killer, that this butcher, Vladimir Putin, has leverage over us."

"Why would we want that leverage to continue," Rubio asked. "Why would we have someone like him to have the power to raise gas prices on Americans which is basically if he cuts us off, what would happen in the reserve?"

"So I think we have enough that we should produce more American oil and buy less Russian oil or none, actually, none at all," he added.

When asked whether it was "responsible" for Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to suggest in a tweet that someone should assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin and "take this guy out," Rubio did not condemn the comments, as others, like Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, did.

"Well, look, people are watching what's happening in Ukraine and what this man is doing to these people, what this monster is doing to human beings, and they're very angry about it," Rubio said, adding that "at the end of the day I do think Vladimir Putin is going to face some problems internally in Russia."

"How the Russians seek to take care of it is up to them," Rubio continued. "I'm not sure he was calling for a U.S. action in that regard. I think what he was basically trying to say, at least my reading of it is, I wish someone would take this guy out and remove him from power one way or the other. I think the whole world wishes that."