Texas senator Ted Cruz did not react well to being challenged on the timeline he was citing to assign blame for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to President Joe Biden.
Mr Cruz, who serves on the Senate’s foreign relations committee, spoke to The Independent on Thursday as he arrived to speak at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando.
Asked about the propriety of Republican attacks on Mr Biden by members of the GOP who have compared the president unfavourably with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Mr Cruz told The Independent that Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine – which began late Wednesday on Mr Putin’s orders and has threatened to plunge Europe into the worst military conflict it has seen since the end of the Second World War – was “caused” by “the mistakes of the Biden administration”.
“I have been pressing the Biden administration for over a year to do the right thing and impose strong sanctions which ... would have deterred this invasion,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Biden White House prioritised partisan politics over substance”.
Pressed further on whether he was explicitly blaming Mr Biden – not Mr Putin – for the Russian leader’s decision to launch an invasion of Ukraine, Mr Cruz replied: “Yes, I'm absolutely saying that.”
He then explained that Mr Biden had “surrendered” to Mr Putin by heeding the German government’s request last year to not impose sanctions against the company which had been building the Russo-German Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
When asked whether he believed Mr Putin, who earlier this week claimed Ukraine was not a legitimate country, cared about sanctions, the senator launched into a long exposition about the timing of the invasion and sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 construction.
Mr Cruz claimed a Senate vote late last year which failed to reimpose sanctions that had been waived by Mr Biden was a trigger point for Mr Putin to begin massing troops along Ukraine’s eastern frontier in preparation to invade.
“I had to force a vote just a few weeks ago to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2. And the White House expended enormous political capital not standing up to Russia, but whipping Democratic senators to vote in favour of Russia and they defeated the sanctions,” he said.
But when The Independent pointed out that Russia’s troop buildup began in March 2021 – over a year before the failed sanctions vote – Mr Cruz responded: “No n-n-no – that’s fake news” and walked away.
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