March 2nd, 2014
11:26 AM ET
8 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. YeahRight

    Obama is totally incompetent to handle a real situation with a real State actor.

    March 2, 2014 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  2. Patrick

    You tell em Lindsay! Let's all rush in and start shooting. Hee haw!

    March 2, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  3. Stoner

    Mr. Obama is one weak president , your making the USA look soft

    March 2, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  4. Hogarth

    ...and this, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is why Lindsay Graham should never, ever, be President.

    March 2, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  5. mb2010a

    Everybody’s eyes roll, including mine whenever Graham opens his mouth...period.

    March 2, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  6. Joe Tanz

    Mention how "weak" Obama is to Osama bin Laden. Moron.

    March 2, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  7. sisterchef

    Were we suspended from G8 or G20 when we invaded Afghanistan? Graham is an attention seeking hypocrite on virtually every topic he can talk about.

    March 2, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  8. bshugart

    Gotta love the chest beaters who are willing to make political hay out of a serious geo-political crises. Instead of presenting a united political front to Russia, they are using the crises to score points for this year’s elections….party before country is their operative strategy.

    March 2, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  9. Gurgyl

    Dump these GOP garbage, McCain, Lindsey graham are so pathetic, dump these two in Ukraine come home.

    March 2, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  10. Clint H

    Just shows you how much Graham understand the G8 and G20. First of all, the US can not just suspend a member because it wants to... It takes a vote of all the members to make this happen. IDIOT.

    March 2, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  11. bill

    I think obummer should call Putin and tell him we will give all the russian people a new obama phone, foodstamps and free healthcare if he would just play nice.

    March 2, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  12. Dave

    Thats how we feel about you too Mrs. Graham. (eyes roll)

    March 2, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  13. George

    I dont like the guys foreign policy either, but look at Bush he allowed the Russian commies to invade Georgia and they are still there

    March 2, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  14. Anonymous

    War hunger politicians.

    March 2, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  15. Anonymous

    So to Graham, trying to keep the US from getting into yet another war is being indecisive. I believe the US is tire of sending more troops into this mess just so more Americans will be killed or maimed and more money will be thrown at an endless
    invasion with no true way of winning. But even more to the point, this hatred for the President, the endless name calling
    and trying to play politics with each and every decision he makes is hurting our Country. This kind of political terrorism
    can destroy us in a worse manner than bombs or shootings. All the dire outcomes the GOP has predicted from the
    horrors of Obamacare, which by the end of the year will be going strong and thriveing, to the lies about our President's
    legitimacy and his intelligence have all died their own natural death because those lies were so incredibly inane. Americans are tired of the GOP bully's, their pointless attacks on our President and the childlike name calling which only
    goes to show how inept the GOP is.

    March 2, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  16. Mentalcase

    The last thing anyone should do is listen to Lindsey Graham.

    March 2, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  17. gee

    Graham needs to just shut up. If he is so brilliant why is he still just a senator and not president?

    March 2, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  18. CL

    Does Lindsey really mean what he says in that last line? "The Ukrainian people are dying for their freedom – I hope we will stand with them." Does that mean he will go over there and die with them??? Or is that his desire for our sons and daughters? Will there ever be enough wars for some of our "strong and decisive" leaders?

    March 2, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  19. Hugh

    Im glad Obama is not like Dubya Bush and send thousands of US servicemen and women to their deaths and spend trillions of US dollars to defend Ukraine from the Russians, when it was the Ukrainians who kicked out their President and wanted to be close to Europe.America does not need to save the Ukrainians from their decisions! Let them deal with the deadly consequences!! America first!!

    March 2, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  20. mfvjr

    Be President guys!

    March 2, 2014 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  21. PuzzledInPeoria

    "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.

    Ronald Reagan, invasion of Grenada, 1983.

    We don't NEED and we don't WANT another war, Washington.

    March 2, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  22. patriot

    What if Russia supported protestors in the overthrow of the Canadian government and established a government favorable to them? We would be sending in troops also. This is all about natural gas and U.S. world dominance. Why don't we mind our own business. Graham and Obama should be nowhere near positions of leadership.

    March 2, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  23. Redeye Dog

    Obama. Weak? He said, "Russia, stay out" while attempting to cut off his urine flow due to aging an prostate. Alas, he wasn't successful..

    March 2, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  24. Farrok

    In the last few days the GOP refused pass a bill to help wounded and injured Veterans and they are spoiling for another War? Pay for the wounded and injured Veterans you have now before planing another War.................

    March 2, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  25. dina

    Ah, Lindsey Graham! At the ready to send your kids off to die in another conflict. At the ready to bash PRESIDENT Obama, regardless of whether it's good for the country or not. "Party before Country" Graham.

    March 2, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
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