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Cruz: Install missiles in Eastern Europe

Sen. Ted Cruz (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a leading conservative voice on Capitol Hill, urged President Obama on Monday to install anti-ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe as a counter to Russian actions in Ukraine, calling the administration’s newly announced sanctions an insufficient response to the crisis.

“Beyond sanctions and aid to Ukraine, the most important thing we could be doing right now, with respect to Russia, is installing anti-ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe,” Cruz said in an interview.

“Appeasement has not worked,” he added. “After more than five years of being unwilling to stand up to Putin and Russian aggression, it is time for the United States to honor our commitments to our friends.”

Cruz said an expanded military presence in Poland and the Czech Republic, similar to a missile-defense plan proposed by President George W. Bush and scrapped by the Obama administration in 2009, would provide a counterbalance to Putin’s regional power.

Obama decided in September 2009 to abandon the Bush-era proposal, shifting the focus to defense initiatives related to a possible Iranian threat. Bush had previously pushed to install 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic.

“Look, I’m encouraged the sanctions are moving forward, and I hope they can be implemented quickly, before Russian officials can move their assets,” Cruz said. “Any sign of admonition is encouraging. But it is not enough.”

Last week, former vice president Richard B. Cheney made a similar recommendation, telling CBS News that missiles should be installed in Eastern Europe.

“My answer is reinstate the ballistic missile defense program,” Cheney said. “Conduct joint military exercises with our NATO friends close to the Russian border. Offer up equipment and training to the Ukrainian military.”

Cruz floated his pitch for more missiles in Eastern Europe earlier this month in an essay for Foreign Policy. Since then, his conviction that missiles need to be part of the U.S. response has grown, he said.

Cruz, a possible presidential candidate, will be in Iowa on Tuesday, addressing a rally organized by families who homeschool their children. It will be his fourth trip in the past year to Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest of the Republican presidential primary season.