Marco Rubio Wants to Make Sure Biden Administration Won’t Abandon Ukraine as Tensions With Russia Rise

This week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., spoke during a full U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing regarding the United States’ policy toward Russia.

Victoria Nuland, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, was testifying during the following discussion.

Rubio: “Secretary Nuland, I agree with all of the assessments that have been made about Vladimir Putin, that he seeks to establish great power parity with the United States and, therefore, tries to show force and power around the world. I also think he’s driven to some extent, maybe a great extent, by the ego and the drive to bring Ukraine into at least the Russian sphere of influence, if not into the Russian Federation, and cement his legacy as the uniter of a greater Russia.

“I think there’s a third factor here that I’m curious whether you agree with, and that is that he also thinks that the West — and I by no means am a fan of Vladimir Putin and I’m confident that they’re not fans of mine — but they’re thinking, as irrational as we may think it is, that we want to turn Ukraine, the West in general, the U.S. in specific, into a base of operation to threaten their security and/or to undermine their internal cohesion and the like. And, therefore, he’s using this as an opportunity to try to — at a minimum — impose neutrality on Ukraine. And that is, in fact, at least a primary motivator, in the short term, of this threat of military action.

“Then I would imagine that he’s already been publicly messaging what his asks are. The first is that we would pull back NATO forces from anywhere near their western border. The second is to completely rule out the admission, probably not just of Ukraine, but Georgia, as a member of NATO. And the third is to stop arming Ukraine. Of those three conditions that he’s publicly messaged already, would the United States agree to any of those three?”

Nuland: “All of those would be unacceptable.”

Rubio: “Let me ask you about another trend that I think is disturbing if you follow it.

“On the one hand, we see a growing amount of what appears to be, including domestically, this messaging that [Ukrainian President Zelensky] is a US and Western puppet, he’s ineffective, he’s corrupt, and that he’s not acting in the best interest of the Ukrainian people… One of the things we’re seeing in real time is what hybrid warfare looks like to prepare the groundwork.

“At the same time, sadly, we see a confederation of oligarchs, opposition politicians, former government officials, all with their own agendas, looking to undermine Zelensky… I imagine some of them, perhaps, are in coordination with the Kremlin, others are just doing it because they want to be president instead.

“What options do we have on both fronts to deal with this disinformation, hybrid warfare campaign that they’re undertaking to prepare the ground for all of it? And, in particular, on addressing these oligarchs, former officials, and others, who clearly understand that what they are doing would aid Russian efforts and Putin’s efforts, and they nonetheless continue — some because of personal ambition, others, I imagine, because of financial gain — to move along this track? So what options do we have on those two things?”

Nuland: “So among the many counsels that we’re giving to Ukrainians, and that President Zelensky is also now giving to his country, is that at this moment of challenge for Ukraine, unity among patriots, unity among Ukrainians who believe in the sovereignty and territorial independence of their country is absolutely essential, and that none of them should fall into these traps that the Kremlin is setting to divide them or pit them against each other.

“You know that democracy is a relatively new sport in Ukraine. They occasionally play it rough, as others do. But now is absolutely a moment for unity. Particularly, with regard to disinformation efforts, efforts to blame the other guy for what you yourself are doing, we have encouraged the Ukrainians to apply that best adage, which is that ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant,’ and to be very vigilant about exposing Russian disinformation, activities, payments, and little gray men and little green men who are trying to infect politics. That is something that they must do in this moment.”

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