Sen. Ted Cruz: 'Putin Is a KGB Thug'

By Barbara Boland | March 10, 2014 | 3:55pm EDT

"A critical reason for Putin's aggression has been President Obama's weakness. Putin fears no retribution," Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in an interview with ABC's "This Week."

"[The administration's] policy has been to alienate and abandon our friends and to coddle and appease our enemies," Cruz continued in his interview with Jonathan Karl. "And so Putin -- you better believe Putin sees in Benghazi four Americans are murdered and nothing happens. There is no retribution. You better believe that Putin sees that in Syria, Obama draws a red line and ignores the red line."

Karl asked, "OK. So how would you stand up? What would you do? Military action?"

Cruz said no, but he would absolutely do sanctions. "There are a host of things we can do. Let's rewind the clock a little bit. Number one, don't demonstrate weakness for five years. We have seen historically over and over again tyrants respond to weakness."

Karl pushed back on that point. "I mean, let's not forget that they invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president. So this is not... Obama didn't invent Putin's aggression."

Cruz: "But I will tell you when Mitt Romney talked about Putin expanding his sphere of influence, Obama mocked him, said, 'The Cold War has been over 20 years, nothing to be worried about.' And we keep making that mistake with Putin."

"Putin is a KGB thug," Cruz said. "When the protests began in Ukraine, the president should have stood unapologetically, emphatically for freedom. And when the United States doesn't speak for freedom, tyrants notice."

Cruz is drawing distinctions between his position on foreign policy, and that of his closest conservative rival for the Presidency, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

"I'm a big fan of Rand Paul, We are good friends. I don't agree with him on foreign policy. U.S. leadership is critical in the world. I agree we should be reluctant to deploy military force aboard, but there's a vital role, just as Ronald Reagan did. When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an Evil Empire, when he stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate and said 'Tear down this wall.' Those words changed the course of history. The United States has a responsibility to defend our values," Cruz said.

Rand Paul responded to Cruz's digs with an article where he asks Cruz to "stop warping Reagan's foreign policy."

"There is no greater priority for Congress than defense of the nation," Paul wrote. "... Reagan was not rash or reckless with regard to war. Reagan advised potential foreign adversaries not to mistake our reluctance for war for a lack of resolve.  What America needs today is a Commander-in-Chief who will defend the country and project strength, but who is also not eager for war."

Invoking Reagan's name has become a Republican go-to move, of course - but, it would be nice if candidates would enumerate their own positions without taking Reagan's name in vain.

This is Paul's point: "Today's Republicans should concentrate on establishing their own identities and agendas, as opposed to simply latching onto Ronald Reagan's legacy-or worse, misrepresenting it."

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