GOP Senators Caution U.S. Engaging Russia Would Trigger World War III

Senators Joni Ernst and Marco Rubio warned Sunday implementing a no-fly zone over Ukraine could escalate tensions and trigger World War III.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to impose the no-fly zone over Ukraine amid the continuing Russian invasion. However, NATO countries have resisted over concerns that engaging directly with Russia would escalate tensions, potentially leading to a more large-scale conflict.

Ernst, an Iowa Republican, acknowledged she is "thankful" that Zelensky is making the request, as "that's what he should do" as the president of Ukraine—but said the U.S. should not engage directly with Russia out of escalation fears during her appearance on Fox News Sunday.

"It would be World War III," she said. "And I don't think that's in the best interest of NATO, our partners and allies and friends." Instead, Ernst proposed providing air platforms to Ukraine to make "sure that those pilots are able to protect their own airspace."

Rubio, who is a Florida Republican, explained that he doesn't think everybody necessarily understands the escalation a no-fly zone would entail, and pointed to other ways to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia.

"It's not just some rule you pass that everybody has to oblige by. It's the willingness to shoot down the aircrafts of the Russian federation, which is basically the beginning of World War III," he said during his appearance on ABC's This Week.

Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press,he believes the U.S. should not take any options off table, including a no-fly zone, acknowledging that it could trigger a wider conflict.

"I would take nothing off the table," he said. "But I would be very clear that we're going to support the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian president and this government every way humanly possible."

On Friday, Zelensky accused NATO of giving a "green light" for further bombing of Ukrainian cities by refusing his requests for a no-fly zone, arguing he did not agree with the assessment that it could lead to an escalation.

"All the people who will die starting from this day will also die because of you. Because of your weakness, because of your disunity," Zelensky said.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Saturday that he would view any country that declares a no-fly zone over Ukraine as a participant in the conflict.

"That very second, we will view them as participants of the military conflict, and it would not matter what members they are," he said.

Ernst, Rubio Warn Against No Fly Zone
GOP Senators Marco Rubio and Joni Ernst, above, warned implementing a “no fly zone” over Ukraine would trigger World War III. Alex Wong/Getty Images