AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas will visit Ukraine this month and meet with leaders of the protest movement that forced out the country's pro-Russian president
Frequently mentioned as a potential 2016 White House contender, Cruz also will visit other Eastern European countries and Israel on a trip that could be seen as an attempt to build his foreign policy credentials.
Cruz told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he'll meet with political, military, business and religious leaders in each country but declined to provide details, citing security concerns. His office said the visit will include meetings with protest leaders in Ukraine, which has scheduled a May 25 presidential vote.
A Republican, Cruz is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The trip is sponsored by Secure America Now, a conservative foreign policy group and Cruz will be the only lawmaker on the trip, his office said.
"Ukraine right now is facing an enormous threat from a resurgent Russia. (Russian President) Vladimir Putin has been quite naked about his desire to reconstitute as much as possible the old Soviet Union," Cruz said. "I have a particular responsibility to assess firsthand the current and future military threats that could jeopardize our safety and the security of our allies."
Cruz criticized the Obama administration as "tepid" in its response to the crisis in the Ukraine. He renewed his call for the U.S. to install anti-ballistic missile batteries in Poland and the Czech Republic as safeguards for Eastern Europe, and push for liquefied natural gas exports to reduce Ukraine's dependence on Russia.