- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sen. Ted Cruz said Tuesday that on President Obama’s watch the United States has abandoned the leadership role it has traditionally played abroad, opening the door for Russia President Vladimir Putin to become a bigger player in international affairs.
Speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Mr. Cruz said that the Obama administration’s hands off approach to events on the world stage is hurting the push for human rights across the globe, and increasing the chances that Mr. Putin will expand his influence in Ukraine and that Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon, which it could use against Israel or the United States
“Because the United States is globally receding from leadership, we are seeing Putin and Russia expand its role in the world,” the freshman lawmaker said. “We are seeing it in Egypt. We are seeing it in Iran. We are seeing it in Syria.”
Mr. Putin has been a frequent target of criticism in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and much of it has been aimed at his nation’s poor record on human rights.
Mr. Cruz, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and possible 2016 GOP presidential candidate, laid some of the blame at the feet of Mr. Obama, saying The White House has been too reluctant to call out Mr. Putin and to champion the cause of freedom.
Russia is going the wrong way on human rights, and U.S. foreign policy right now is either so rudderless that we either can’t or won’t take a stand on this issue,” Mr. Cruz said.
Mr. Cruz said the Obama administration lacks the clarity of purpose and belief in American exceptionalism that former President Reagan used to bring and end to the cold war with the Soviet Union.
He said that the Obama administration should enforce the Magnitsky Act, which aims to bolster human rights in Russia, and should push back against Moscow’s successful drive to pressure the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to drop plans to sign a major trade and political agreement with the European Union.
Mr. Cruz warned that Mr. Putin efforts in Ukraine are part of his broader push to “rebuild the the Old Soviet Union.”
“President Yanukovych has taken more from Putin than money,” Mr. Cruz said. “He has taken the direct strategy and approach of moving to suppress the Ukrainian people’s rights, brutally with a jack, boot and a rifle. His political opponents are languishing in prison, and yet the people of Ukraine are crying out to be free.”
Mr. Cruz also said the White House blew its response to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s alleged used of chemical weapons against his own people.
The reaction, he said, led to bad US-Russian agreement that put the Assad regime’s chemical arms stockpile under international control and bolstered Mr. Putin’s international image.
“The result of that was such a debacle that there were serious discussions in some quarters about Putin being a credible candidate for the Noble Peace Prize,” Mr. Cruz said. “Let me say this, if U.S. foreign policy is so bungled that it makes Putin seem like the good guy and an advocate for peace we have done something very, very, wrong.”
“The world has seen some great chess matches, and yet in the geopolitical stages it is almost as if the Russians have a renewed grandmaster playing chess and the United States is playing checkers,” he said. “We are not even playing the same game, and the consequences are grave not just for the United State, but for the world.”