Sen. Marco Rubio has declared in a little-noticed TV interview that the United States should go to war against Russia, merely to block a flood of Muslim immigrants that can otherwise be stopped by a few European border guards.
Rubio wants to create a “No Fly” zone over Syria to prevent the Syrian air force from bombing rebel and civilian targets. Any Russian sortie into the no-fly-zone would be “no different than any other adversary,” Rubio said Oct. 5 in a CNBC interview.
His urge to shoot down Russian aircraft is a sharp break in the nation’s national security policy — and the public’s preferences —that were adopted once Russia developed its nuclear bomb in 1949. Since then, direct conflict with Russia has been avoided, and is viewed as extremist in popular and commercial culture, such as the 1964 move, “Dr. Strangelove.”
However, Rubio’s combative approach to Syria reflects his need to build up his foreign-policy support among GOP votes and donors to compensate for the polling damage he’s taken since 2013. That’s when he allied with Democrats and GOP donors to push the hugely unpopular “comprehensive immigration reform” amnesty bill that stopped by voters in 2014.
So far, Rubio is running in fourth place in the GOP nomination process. He’s also doing poorly in fundraising, and raised only $6 million in the third-quarter of 2015. So far, his funding has been limited because he and rival Jeb Bush are wooing the same set of donors, including many wealthy Wall Street investors.
Rubio’s daring announcement came Oct. 5, during a friendly interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, who asked him how he would respond if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin despatched combat aircraft into a U.S.-declared “no-fly zone” in Syria.
Rubio: “If you are going to have a no-fly zone, it has to be against anyone who would dare intrude on it, and I am confident that the United States Air Force can enforce that, including against the Russians… I believe the Russians would not test that. I don’t think it is in the Russians’ interest to engage in an armed conflict of the United States.
Harwood: You think Putin would back off if we had a no-fly zone?
Rubio: I don’t think he’s going to go into a safe zone, absolutely. I don’t believe he will look for a direct military conflict against the United States in order to go into a safe zone.
Harwood: What if he was?
Rubio: Well, then you’re going to have a problem, but that would be no different than any other adversary.
Harwood: You’d be willing to accept that consequence?
Rubio: Because the alternative is this massive migration crisis that we’re now facing. The alternative is that [Syrian strongman Bashar] Assad will remain in power, but never control the whole whole of Syria again. the alternative is the continued growth of non-ISIS [jihadi] terrorist groups in addition to ISIS itself. So i think the alternative is worse.”
Rubio admitted that the U.S. public would be scared by such a dramatic war with Russia.
Harwood: Don’t you think the prospect of potential military – hot military conflict with Russia would scare the American people?
Rubio: Sure. But the consequences of not doing anything would scare them even more and that includes its ongoing crisis of the migratory crisis that we’re now facing. The continued growth, not just of ISIS, but a Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups in the region as well. At the end of the day… We cannot say, well, if Putin is going to test us, then we can’t do anything. You’ve basically at that point ceded to him as becoming the most influential geopolitical broker in the region.”
Alternatively, Germany’s government could reverse its new open-door policy for migrants, which is drawing hundreds of thousands of young, low-skilled men — and eventually their millions of family members — out of Syria. If those men are denied Germany’s offer of free housing, welfare and jobs, they can be turned back at Europe’s borders, or even formed into combat units to fight their fellow Muslims in ISIS.
Also, it is not clear if the U.S. Air Force can enforce a no-fly zone over Syria.
If pressed by its neighbor, Russia, Turkey’s government can stop U.S. aircraft from using their main airbase at Incirlik in Turkey.
The U.S. has no bases in Iraq since President Barack Obama quit Iraq in 2010, leaving it under the control of Russia’s main ally, Iran.
The U.S. could operate from nearby Israel or Saudi Arabia, but those countries would have to agree to host a large anti-Russian force of fighters, surveillance and refueling aircraft. Neither country’s government wants to join a war against Russia which recently announced its new alliance with Iran, following the Senate Democrats’ agreement to let the Iranians have nuclear weapons after 2025.
The U.S. Navy could try to enforce the no-fly zone over Syria, but the aircraft-carriers can be shadowed by Russia’s missile-armed warships. That shadowing could be stopped by the declaration of a no-sail zone in the eastern Mediterranean, but that could create a high-casualty naval battle with Russian ships and submarines.