By Alexander Bolton - 01/28/14 12:39 PM EST
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Tuesday criticized President Obama for being drastically out-maneuvered by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the world stage, and lamented Russia’s backward slide on human rights.
Cruz marveled that Putin was recently discussed as a possible recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in securing a deal to remove chemical weapons from Syria.
“If U.S. foreign policy is so bungled that it makes Putin seems like the good guy and an advocate for peace, we have done something very, very wrong,” he said.
“The world has seen some great chess matches, and yet in the geopolitical stage, it is almost as if the Russians have a renowned grandmaster playing chess and the United States is playing checkers,” added Cruz, who blasted Putin’s human rights record just more than a week before the Olympic Games are scheduled to open in Sochi, Russia.
Cruz, a potential White House contender in 2016, has become increasingly active on the foreign policy front. He has written op-eds on Benghazi, Egypt and the Iran nuclear deal for National Review Online and Foreign Policy.
“We need to get back to our long tradition of standing up for the human rights of every human being on earth,” he said. “Because the United States is receding from global leadership, the consequence is that Russia is stepping in, from Egypt to Syria to Iran. We’re seeing spheres of influence grow that diminishes our role.”
Cruz said the Obama administration should be called to account for its failure to enforce the Magnitsky Act, signed into law in 2012, which bans Russia’s worst human rights abusers from traveling to the United States. He said the administration eased back on its enforcement of the law because Russia helped it negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran.
The administration declined to expand the list of restricted names by the Dec. 20 deadline, even though the State Department had prepared a list of human rights abusers, and members of Congress, including Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), had urged an expansion.
“Because Russia was ostensibly being helpful in brokering a historically terrible deal with Iran, the administration decided those names need not be made public,” Cruz said. “What a terrible statement to the world.”
Cruz said the precedent set by Obama in not enforcing the law would give Putin leeway to arbitrarily follow statutes in his own country.
He criticized Obama’s handling of diplomacy with Iran and warned he was making the same mistakes former President Clinton made with North Korea when he brokered a nuclear pact with that rogue state.
Cruz warned the danger posed by Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would be greater than a nuclear-armed North Korea because Iran’s former president, with support of its powerful mullahs, declared that Israel must be “wiped off the map”.
He also called on Obama to take a more active role in helping pro-democracy protesters in Ukraine who are trying to break the grip of Russian influence.
The Obama administration should consider short-term and long-term steps such as setting up a free-trade zone to help bolster the Ukrainian economy and protect it from Russian economic coercion, he said.
Cruz said the United States should share the expertise of American companies to assist in the development of Ukraine’s domestic shale gas reserves and assist with the construction of liquid natural gas import infrastructure so that the former satellite state does not have to depend on Russia as a source.
He urged Obama to follow the example set by former President Reagan in the 1980s, when he famously demanded that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall.