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Was Ted Cruz Right About Russia?

He spent years fighting Putin’s prized pipeline.

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock
Photo: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock

For years, a Russian-led pipeline project has been Ted Cruz’s nemesis. Nord Stream 2, which would allow the country to export billions of dollars’ worth of natural gas to Western Europe while bypassing Ukraine, has been a single-minded focus of the senator who pushed legislation in 2019 that was signed by Donald Trump to sanction the pipeline’s owner. The sanctions were waived when Joe Biden became president in order to repair relations with Moscow and appease European governments supportive of the project.

So Cruz single-handedly blocked scores of Biden’s nominees from receiving floor votes to force them to reimpose sanctions on Nord Stream 2’s owner. It was a familiar role for the Republican from Texas, who as a freshman helped to force a government shutdown in a failed attempt to repeal Obamacare. Cruz’s concern was that allowing the pipeline to continue would encourage Vladimir Putin to act aggressively. Needless to say, by launching the largest ground war in Europe since World War II, Putin has confirmed Cruz’s worst fears. The White House finally did restore the sanctions last week, but only after Russia had already invaded Ukraine.

“That decision was the direct cause of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Cruz said in an interview this week in his Senate office. “And when Biden waived sanctions on Nord Stream 2, I said at the time, ‘The consequences of this, if the Biden administration allows Nord Stream 2 to be completed, will be a Russian invasion of Ukraine, will be Russian tanks in the streets of Kyiv.’ I wish that prediction had not proven accurate, but it has proven precisely accurate.”

U.S. and European sanctions have already led to the pipeline company, which is controlled by the Russian state energy monopoly Gazprom, to engage in massive layoffs and explore filing for bankruptcy. That’s not enough for Cruz, who is pushing new sanctions that cannot be waived in the future. “We need to put in U.S. law that these sanctions are permanent, that that pipeline will never be on. That makes the deterrent credible. It puts teeth on the deterrent.” He surmised that Putin “anticipated a weak and muted response,” but credited Europe with taking action, not Biden.

In the meantime, Cruz took heart that Russia’s invasion is going worse than expected, thanks to the U.S.- and NATO-supplied weapons of Ukraine’s military and the ferocious resolve of civilians. But he warned of a grim turn to come as Russia pounds cities and masses forces outside Kyiv. “Right now, the focus should be on stopping Russia from conquering Ukraine,” he said, calling for the West to boycott Russia’s oil-and-gas exports and increase aid to Ukraine, saying “victory is perhaps arguable.” Like other senators, he has sat through classified intelligence briefings by administration officials and said from “almost to a person, the Biden administration views it as inevitable that Russia wins and conquers Ukraine.”

“It is a defeatist attitude that got us in this mess to begin with,” Cruz continued. “I believe we can still win using the tools we have, and in particular, real economic sanctions and serious military equipment to let the Ukrainians do what they are heroically doing, which is defending their homeland. That is a path to victory, but I’m not convinced anyone in the Biden administration believes victory is possible.”

Cruz does not favor direct intervention by the United States, opposing the establishment of a NATO no-fly zone over Ukraine, given the potential for it to incite war between the U.S. and Russia. He also made clear his support for Ukraine was not about the “pursuit of amorphous international norms” but defending U.S. interests. “We’re involved because Vladimir Putin wants to reassemble the Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin is an enemy of America. We don’t want enemies of America to become stronger. When the Soviet Union was the world’s other superpower, the American people were in greater jeopardy. It was more dangerous for American national security. We want our enemies weak and not strong.”

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Was Ted Cruz Right About Russia?