March 2nd, 2014
11:26 AM ET
6 months ago

Lawmakers call for suspension of Russia from G8, swift action against Putin

(CNN) – As the crisis in Ukraine escalates, with Russian troops moving into the Crimean peninsula on Saturday, U.S. lawmakers are pushing for decisive action against Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the violence in the region and respect Ukraine's independence.

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Sens. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, made the case for congressional sanctions and a suspension of Russian membership in the G8 and G20.

Obama's warning

Graham, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said there needs to be more than threats coming from the White House, and called President Barack Obama “weak and indecisive” on matters of foreign policy.

"No. 1, stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators - it is not your strong suit. Every time the President goes on national television and threatens Putin or someone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine,” Graham said.

"How about this: Suspend Russian membership in the G8 and the G20, at least for a year, starting right now. And for every day they stay in the Crimea, add to the suspension. Do something,” he added.

Durbin, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, defended Obama's calls for Putin to pull back Russian forces in Crimea, an autonomous region of eastern Ukraine with strong loyalty to neighboring Russia, and agreed that suspending Russian membership in the G8 is "the right thing to do."

In a 90-minute phone call with Putin over the weekend, Obama condemned the Russian leader's actions in Crimea, saying that Putin is in violation of international law, according to the White House. The White House said it would suspend participation in preparatory meetings for the G8 summit that will bring world leaders together in June in Sochi, Russia.

“The U.S. calls on Russia to de-escalate tensions by withdrawing its forces back to bases in Crimea and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine,” according to the White House statement. Senior White House officials say the administration is considering a wide range of possible economic and diplomatic measures against Russia.

Durbin: U.S. needs to ‘draw a line’

International pressure on Russia mounted as leaders from the EU and the UK joined an international outcry over the escalation of violence in the region. On the domestic front, Durbin and Graham said that there are actions Congress can take to show Putin his use of military force is unacceptable.

"We've got to make it clear to Putin that if there are Russian-speaking people on the soil of another nation, that doesn't give him license to invade, to protect them when there is no obvious threat against them,” Durbin said. "What Congress has to do, what the Senate has to do quickly is a resolution condemning what Putin has done.”

The Illinois Democrat said that Russia's "charm offensive," dumping billions of dollars into the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, has done little to redefine the nation's image among Western nations.

"That Sochi charm offensive died on the streets of Sevastopol (Ukraine) when he moved in thousands of troops days after the closing ceremony. He is trying to have it both ways," Durbin said. "We've got to make him feel like there is a price to pay for this kind of conduct."

Graham said the U.S. needs to make clear to countries surrounding Russia its resolve to take action against Putin and accelerate the admission of neighboring countries, like Georgia and Moldova, into NATO.

"I would like to create a democratic noose around Putin's Russia," Graham said.

Graham: 'Iranians are watching'

How the U.S. handles the situation developing in Russia is key to the Obama administration's credibility in other international crises like the ongoing negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, he said.

"The Iranians are watching. If we do not decisively push back and make them weaker and all of our friends in the region stronger, the Iranians are going to misunderstand, yet again, (that) we mean it regarding their nuclear program," Graham said.

Iran is in the process of rolling back parts of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions as a part of a temporary agreement to curb the country's nuclear ambitions appears. Talks between international leaders continue to forge a long-term agreement.

"So much is at stake," Graham added. "Putin is on the wrong side of history. He is on the wrong side of the law. Make him pay a price. The Ukrainian people are dying for their freedom - I hope we will stand with them."

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.


Filed under: Dick Durbin • Lindsey Graham • Russia • TV-State of the Union • Ukraine • Vladimir Putin
soundoff (689 Responses)
  1. greenaxe

    Another stuffed shirt with an opinion.
    Graham's only contribution to the better of this country is criticism and more criticism. Try something constructive Lindsey.

    March 3, 2014 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  2. Sue Floyd

    President Obama is doing absolutely the best job in working toward stabilizing a situation that could easily go completely out of hand and into a disastrous war. I am infuriated by people who love to characterize our president as weak or indecisive. What do you want? A third WORLD WAR???? This is not a Vietnam or an Iraq. For god's sake, better be glad we have an intelligent president who is as diplomatic as they come.Because, people, you do NOT want another World War. Stupid society that won't get behind its President and support him in controlling this situation so that it does not get to the final stage.

    March 3, 2014 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  3. Anonymous

    Love one another, you bunch of whinners

    March 3, 2014 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  4. Dana

    In case you didn't notice, the article isn't just about Lindsey Graham saying Obama is weak-Dick Durbin, #2 Democrat is also mentioned..."What Congress has to do, what the Senate has to do quickly is a resolution condemning what Putin has done.”..."We've got to make him feel like there is a price to pay for this kind of conduct." And in case you didn't notice, he didn't mention specific strategies as Graham did. How about instead of being partisan, you read and you think for yourselves!

    March 3, 2014 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  5. Kinard

    WAR. That seems to be the only consistent vocabulary theme made by republicans. Seems we've been at war since the end of WWII, yet no one gets tired of sending the youth of the nation into battle, nor do they tire of making enormous profits from the military industrial machine. It's been to long since the country has been allowed to have a peaceful moment monetarily, let alone militarily. Looks like many of you would tire of it too.

    March 3, 2014 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  6. the horror of it all....

    Lindsay Graham is the MOST opportunistic basher in the world .... and i'm a modertae Repub–fiscally conservative.... So what do WE do Lindsay? Declare War on Russia? Are you people NUTS? We just spent 12 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.... is this all about feeding the war machine? About money in the pockets of DC warhawks? Don't send MY kids, you fools....send your own....

    We are cowards for NOT sending troops in? No , we're realists and diplomats... take CARE of our own people first ... we WASTED trillions on Military .... this is getting insane..

    March 3, 2014 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  7. Romeo

    I have my doubts that Obama has his own personal plan/strategy for dealing with this crisis. He most likely will let John Kerry and/or Chuck Hagel come up with a strategy to resolve with this situation, and if that strategy fails, he has someone to blame for it.

    March 3, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  8. FLUX

    Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) is a complete hypocrite for calling the President "weak and indecisive" at a time when we need unity in government in reaction to Russia's actions. He is putting the wishes of his party to win the senate first and America second. If we have serious problems with Russia and Iran we can blame him and others like him.

    March 3, 2014 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  9. roscoe00

    Well, from reading these posts at least we all agree that the President IS doing nothing, the dispute being whether he should do nothing. GOP wants him to react with more than rhetoric and Libs want him to sit tight or maybe take a poll. He might do more in coming days but I doubt it. Putin has his number. Obama isn't about confrontation. But to be fair Russia attacks its neighbors every decade or so and it hasn't destroyed the world.

    March 3, 2014 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  10. Chuck

    Graham? What does he do again?

    March 3, 2014 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  11. TONE

    Republicans just a week ago voted down a bill to help vets, and now they are calling for a war are these people for real.

    March 3, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  12. tighten grip on reality

    This from a budget conservative? What's there to gain? Oh yes calling the president a wimp is a bold move from behind the curtain during recess. Way to school the prez Lindy.

    March 3, 2014 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  13. Antwoine Anderson

    Phil Grahams comments are irresponsible and reckless. Nothing he said helps the situation at all, nothing he said offers any other course of action that the President and his foreign policy team have not already floated... But most importantly..... those linds of comments gives comfort to our enemies to see sitting Senators on the Armed Forces Committee say they "roll their eyes" when the President speaks. Put the country first senator Graham and put your party line and ego to the side for now.

    March 3, 2014 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  14. plain and simple

    Whatever happened to a united front in times of chrisis? You know...support our president! It's actually very disturbing that a US senator would go on national television and undermine our president. You think Putin doesn't see that as weakness. Our republican party needs to say whatever they have to say at this time directly to the president in the presidential office IN PERSON! Be an American first,quit prostituting yourself for a perceived political gain with your "base". This is no game moron!

    March 3, 2014 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
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