Photo by Steven Purcell

Photo by Steven Purcell

Russia’s geopolitical power has expanded “because the United States is globally receding from leadership,” according to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who spoke at a Heritage Foundation panel on U.S.-Russia relations Tuesday.

“In the geopolitical stage, it is almost as if the Russians have a renowned grandmaster playing chess, and the United States is playing checkers. We’re not even playing the same game,” Cruz said, condemning the “rudderless” foreign policy that prevents the U.S. from taking a stand on human rights abuses in Russia.

The panel discussed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s opportunistic strategy toward negotiations with Syria, with Cruz commenting that “If U.S. foreign policy is so bungled that it makes Putin seem like the good guy and an advocate for peace, we have done something very, very wrong.”

Cruz also addressed the uprising in Ukraine, noting that in light of Putin’s efforts to maintain the allegiance of former Soviet republics, “the United States needs to be making absolutely clear that we stand with those who are protesting for freedom.”

“[I]f you look through the reaches of history, it has been very, very dangerous for tyrants and autocrats and despots when Americans realize we are exceptional and when we stand up and defend liberty,” Cruz said. “Mr. Putin is right to be nervous about American exceptionalism.”

Condemning Russia’s human rights abuses, including holding prisoners of conscience and cracking down on dissent, Cruz called on the Obama administration to play a forceful hand in the international arena, highlighting that “American leadership and unambiguous advocacy of human rights and freedom penetrates the darkness of oppression.”