Russian President Vladimir Putin may defeat the Ukrainian military, and his troops may occupy multiple cities in the country, but "he'll never win" the war he began with Russia's neighbor, as he's "either headed for a quagmire or a puppet government that's going to get overthrown the minute he's no longer there," Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday.
"He's going to be faced with one or two choices," the Florida Republican told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "Either he's going to have to occupy a country where 40 million people don't want him there and continue to attack them, or he's going to get up and leave behind a puppet government, which the Ukrainians will quickly overthrow and never accept."
Meanwhile, the United States must continue to impose a high price on Russia for its actions, said Rubio.
"This has to be the most expensive adventurism in the modern history of the world, because if it isn't, [Putin will] keep doing it," said the senator. "And if it isn't, other countries will do it as well. The world needs to see, and Putin needs to learn that if he does this kind of thing, the price they will pay is devastating. Some of that's already happening.”
Meanwhile, the sanctions that have already been enacted by the United States and its allies are having a devastating effect on Russia, and its economy is in trouble, said Rubio.
"A week from now, they're headed to Third World [Country] territory in terms of the damage that they're suffering," said Rubio. "They're completely isolated. They can't fly anywhere. They've got planes stuck all over the world that can't even fly. They've got massive problems. They're already paying a very heavy price, so we need to make sure those things are sustained."
But no matter what happens in Ukraine, a legitimate government must remain, whether it is in that country itself or in exile, and the United States must recognize and support it, said Rubio.
Further, he added, the United States must continue to provide logistical support and weapons to the Ukrainians so an insurgency "will continue to inflict damage on the Russians until those occupiers leave."
The invasion of Ukraine, and Putin's decision to put his nuclear forces on alert, also illustrate why countries want nuclear weapons, said Rubio.
"What we're seeing now illustrates and shows us why North Korea has nuclear weapons and why Iran wants them," he said. "When you're a nuclear weapons power, the options that your adversaries have against you are quite limited. If a shooting war between NATO or the United States and Russian troops puts us in World War III, that's just the fact. They could deploy tactical nuclear weapons and we would have to respond."
Rubio also on Tuesday called on the United States to return to energy independence, like had happened under former President Donald Trump in 2019 and 2020, noting that continuing to import oil from Russia gives Putin the "ultimate leverage on top of two reasons why Putin thinks he can get away with this. Number one is oil and gas, and number two is nuclear weapons. We've got to take one of those two away."
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