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April 8th, 2014
04:51 PM ET

Rubio: Russia plotted to 'stir up' Ukraine

(CNN) – Secretary of State John Kerry testified before Congress Tuesday, saying the administration believes the protests in Eastern Ukraine are fake, and a pretext for Russia to invade.

Sen. Marco Rubio said he is "glad" Kerry called out Russia's tactics publicly.

"We've seen evidence of that even beginning with Crimea, where you see the Russians sent agents and other trained elements to stir up the sort of pretext for any sort of intervention," Rubio said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper." "I think we suspected that for quite a bit of time."

Critics of the administration say Putin does not take threats from Kerry or President Barack Obama seriously.

Putin is weighing "the costs and the benefits," says Rubio. "I think he feels he can wait out international sanctions, that eventually many of the things that have been put in place will have to be removed. But that it is critical for his own survival and for his ambitions for Russia that he, in fact, show his ability to engage and interfere in the affairs of countries that are near his border."

Echoing what colleagues like Sen. John McCain have said in the past, Rubio says Putin is trying to "restore Russia ... as a great power."

"Part of that, in his mind, is the ability to have a disproportionate amount of influence over what happens in the countries that surround Russia," says Rubio.

"The approach this administration has taken and somewhat the (President George W.) Bush administration, is to try to convince Putin that this is not a win-lose proposition, that Russia could benefit, as well as the U.S. He clearly hasn't bought into that," says Rubio.

"He views this whole scenario as a zero sum game, either they win or we win," said the Florida senator.

Rubio: If I decide to run, it won't be a reflection on Jeb Bush

Rubio is openly contemplating a run for president in 2016, and is headed to New Hampshire in May.

“This is the one window of opportunity for Governor Bush, but (Rubio) will have many opportunities to run for president," said the former head of the GOP who is now the head of the American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas.

"In my mind when people decide to run for an office of that magnitude they do so under their own criteria, not what someone else is going to do. And I'd imagine Jeb would tell you the same thing. His decision, and the decision of many other people who are being speculated about, is not going to be about whether someone else is going to run or not," said Rubio.

Noting he has "tremendous admiration for Jeb Bush," Rubio says "I don't think if I decide to run it would be a reflection on him, or if he were to run it would be a reflection on me."

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