The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion It has come to this: Ted Cruz is Putin’s stooge

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), attending the memorial services for Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Oct. 24. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, pool)
Placeholder while article actions load

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has spent his entire adult life touting the West’s defeat of communism in the Cold War. In July 2014, he declared to a young conservative group, “‘Mr. Putin, give back Crimea.’ Why is it so unimaginable for President Obama to utter those words?” He continued, “We need to stand up and speak out for freedom. The words that come from the president of the United States matter. President Reagan demonstrated that. One of the saddest things is President Obama doesn’t do that.”

In fact, in March 2014, CNN reported:

President Barack Obama and other world leaders have decided to end Russia’s role in the group of leading industrialized nations. . . . The move to suspend Russia’s membership in the G8 is the latest direct response from major countries allied against Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
“International law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force,” the statement said. "To do so violates the principles upon which the international system is built. We condemn the illegal referendum held in Crimea in violation of Ukraine’s constitution.

In August of that year, Obama said, "We agree, if there was ever any doubt, that Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine. The violence is encouraged by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia, they are armed by Russia, they are funded by Russia. Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the new images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see.”

So Cruz and other Republicans, in particular President Trump, have been lying about Obama’s stance on Ukraine for a long time. One can argue, as I did at the time, that Obama’s response should have been stronger, but he was no apologist for Russia. In that regard, Obama cannot hold a candle to Trump, who in the 2016 regurgitated Russian talking points that “the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.”

The impeachment inquiry into President Trump has exposed troubling cracks in the political system. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Danielle Kunitz/The Washington Post)

To quote Cruz, why is it so imaginable that Trump should not tell Vladimir Putin to give back Crimea? I see you there, chortling. Of course it is unimaginable that Trump should demand anything of Putin or demand it cease its illegal invasion and annexation of Ukraine. Trump is the one who was willing to suspend aid to Ukraine, something Putin has been trying to accomplish for years. Worse, Trump now advances the blatant lie that Ukraine meddled in our 2016 election, something our intelligence community has repeatedly repudiated.

Follow Jennifer Rubin's opinionsFollow

And as for Cruz, Cold Warrior, Obama critic and anti-Putin hawk, he now declares there is evidence of Ukraine interference in our election because an op-ed was written criticizing Trump’s campaign rhetoric about Ukraine. This is what Cruz is now reduced to — making excuses for a president willing to stab Ukraine in the back to the utter delight of Putin.

Putin would like nothing better than to alleviate Russia’s sole responsibility for the 2016 attack on our election, the surreptitious plan detailed in the Mueller report to throw the election Trump’s way. Raising doubt that others’ were responsible, as well — and we aren’t punishing them? — is straight out of the Kremlin propaganda playbook. And Ted Cruz is willing to help Trump and Putin do just that. (Because Ukraine, in Cruz’s telling, interfered as well, is he now in favor of throwing Ukraine to the Russian bear, as Trump is?)

Why is it unimaginable that Cruz would stand up to Trump, to denounce cutting off financial aid to an ally fighting off Russia, to excoriate him for repeatedly inviting foreign meddling in our elections, to condemn him for suggesting Russia be let back into the Group of Seven? Because Cruz, like virtually every other Republican in Congress is a coward, is afraid of a tweet or of the Trump mob. The formerly tough-on-defense Republican Party would rather contribute to the Kremlin propaganda machine and enable Trump (Putin’s best friend) than incur the wrath of the right wing.

The words of a U.S. president and a U.S. senator matter, and one of the saddest things is that both are willing to enable an enemy of the United States. In comparison to this crowd, Obama was Winston Churchill.

Read more:

Max Boot: The Republicans have become the party of Russia. This makes me sick.

Jennifer Rubin: Barr and the GOP cannot handle the truth

Jennifer Rubin: Laura Cooper’s testimony is a powerful piece of the Ukraine puzzle

Greg Sargent: Stop calling Trump a ‘Russian dupe.’ The truth is much worse.

Paul Waldman: Republicans were right about Trump the first time