March 2nd, 2014
11:26 AM ET
5 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. physics1200

    It's RUSSIA. Many out there call it a 3rd world country. Don't underestimate Putin. The port of Crimean is strategically important to Russia. Their Navy has had warships positioned there for over 200 years. Obama must be careful to not draw a line he is not willing to cross.

    March 2, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  2. georgex9

    If the people of the Crimea are ethnic Russian and prefer to be part of Russia the best solution might be to let Russia ehave that area. That would be better than a prolonged civil war or Russia taking over the whole Ukraine.

    March 2, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the repub/tea bag majority

    @Former Marine: "President Obama is a joke, and the whole world is laughing at him. All talk no action, He does not deserve to be called President."

    Assuming your screen name is true (and you're not just another lying tea bag, trying to be cute), thank you for your service.

    And if you did indeed serve, why do you not recognize that the President has direct access to a LOT more information than the likes of Miss Lindsay? Why would you, of all people, jump to conclusions without knowing the facts – is that how you and your platoon operated during conflict? For your sakes, I hope the heck not.

    March 2, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  4. Joe

    Really sick of people like Graham playing nice with Obama the Great Failure. Obama is nothing more than a coward and a worthless piece of feces. Putin views Obama as nothing, but a mouth piece that is spineless.

    March 2, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  5. Kirk

    As an independent voter, thank you Graham for sealing up my vote – DEMOCRATIC – in 2016.

    The GOP has lost any sense of national interest or unity for the good of America.

    March 2, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  6. Brian from DC

    After the stunning victories that the last Cowboy-in-Chief gave us in Iraq and Afghanistan it's refreshing to have an actual adult in the White House.

    March 2, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  7. SteveInMN

    Graham and hit Republic Comrades speak from HIGH GROUND in calling Obama “weak and indecisive” on matters of foreign policy.

    After all, it was THEY who caught Bin Laden, and THEY who brilliantly figured out a way to bring Libya to heel without loss of American lives or treasure.

    Oh...no,,,,wait...who was it what done that?

    March 2, 2014 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  8. bing520

    Graham is so simple-minded. Russia will leave Ukraine one she has achieve her goal. I suspect Russia is working on divide Ukraine into West and East Ukraine. We need to think fast and come out with a solution. Economic sanction will not deter Russia. It is in their vital interest to keep NATO from entering Black Sea. The new Kiev government is showing hostility toward Russia. If Putin does not move now, Russia will surely lose the base in 2042. Graham has a big mouth and a useless brain.

    March 2, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  9. Anthony

    mcp123, where does it say any member of the GOP or conservative wants a war? We need an escalation in diplomatic action. Obama missing security council meetings involving this crisis and his complete unwillingness to be outspoken are disgusting. All you liberals are disgusting in your "wait and see approach". God forbid, but if the first Russian soldier lands on our soil, let's see how that wait and see tactic works when you have a gun pointed at you.

    March 2, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  10. George

    And what exactly should the POTUS done?? "Graham, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said there needs to be more than threats coming from the White House". "THREATS"?? Is THAT what Obama did, he 'threatened' Putin??
    If this guy is on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Obama is cutting the defense budget, is that part of this? They cry about the debt and then want to go gung-ho at the first provocation. Obama's weak? Oh yeah, lets send in your son & daughter (not his) to fight Russians??? Are you crazy? This politicizing every issue is tiresome, these are early days, calling, discussing, evaluating, that's what grown-ups do. Would Mitt Romney have done any different so far? No, of course not. Grandstanding is all that's going on here, nothing to see folks, move along.

    March 2, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  11. georgex9

    In the old days Congress let the president handle touchy international affairs but now Graham and McCain open their mouths at every opportunity. This undermines the authority and reputation of the president and complicates risky situations. But the Republicans think they have to take the opposite side of every issue that the president says something about. This is not good for the U.S.

    March 2, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  12. luvUamerica

    It is sad and pathetic on how these Republicans take every opportunity to undermine this President. Instead of coming up with a way, they come up with all these irresponsible comments and rhetoric.

    If only they could come up with a solution. All they can do is criticize and beat an empty drum to get their followers all up in arms.

    The other thing, is if something is happening, then I wouldn't be publicizing it. I would do it. The President does not need the permission of the GOP to do something here. Let's just wait and see.

    Case in point: These same people jumped up and down, and wanted the US to invade Syria. Imagine if we had gone in. Our soldiers would have got shot at by the Assad soldiers and the Rebels.

    None of these GOP idiots have any sense of what is going on. I wonder if they know where and why there is a problem in Ukraine.

    If the Europeans don't care, I don't see why the US should be doing more than what it is already doing.

    March 2, 2014 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  13. Lone wolf

    Here we go again the right playing politics instead of siding with our Majority elected President! Can't the right unite as one United States even when it comes to a nation that is our true enemy, Russia. Is the right so blinded by hate that hey can't put politics aside even during a crisis with Russia! Apparently they are once again ready to blindly sacrifice our young soldiers in another war! Graham for once, shut your mouth.

    March 2, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  14. Paul Williamson

    Yes, let's bomb the hell out of Russia and the Ukraine and start WW III – it's worth a few hundred million lives , after all Ukraine has been part of or under the influence of Russia/Soviet Union for over 100 years and part of it has been associated with eastern Europe for maybe 10 years. And we have done so well in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan...

    March 2, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  15. Mike the Veteran

    @Joe: What do you know Joe? Are you some foreign expert? Are some NSA data miner? Are you the President? Easy to call out folks from behind keyboards huh..

    If US troops are involved and you are a US citizen, I hope they send you your son and family members into the fight.

    March 2, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  16. Fire the GOP

    Going on television and dissing our President makes AMERICA look weak. Stop being a hypocrite Graham!

    March 2, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  17. arduck

    Yeah right Lin-say. A major player in the disloyal opposition. Never miss an opportunity to use a world crisis to take a cheap shot at our leaders instead of focusing on the real source of the problem. With friends like you who needs.....you!

    March 2, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  18. Connie

    President Obama has more intelligence and common sense then 100 Graham's or any other GOP member. The Right likes to blow off. I remember Bush making huge mistakes on 9-11 and the quote looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction starting 2 wars not ever finding Ben Laden and the list goes on and on..

    March 2, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  19. LDH2O

    Former Marine: " All talk no action,"
    Joe: "Obama is nothing more than a coward"
    Bush said he was not interested in BinLaden, Obama killed him – now who is all talk??

    March 2, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  20. Jeremy Hargens

    It never ceases to amaze me that Republicans can't get behind anything that doesn't involve the military. Immigration reform? 'Not gonna talk about that.' Gay Rights? 'Nope.' Women's reproductive rights? 'Nah.' Healthcare for everyone? 'UnAmerican.'
    Infrastructure jobs? 'Wasteful.' Send troops to another country/kill people? 'We are interested. Let's talk.'

    March 2, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  21. mark

    Hey Graham Blah Blah Blah Blah

    March 2, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  22. tim

    Ah, the bully. Allow him his ways and he will repeat them again with yet more confidence. So we teach and now we wish to ignore. This is what a once powerful nation becomes. Obsolete out of fear and those rising to power put fear behind them.

    March 2, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  23. Hugh Harvey

    I wonder how much the Russian Embassy donated in cash to Sen. Lindsey Graham's re-election campaign for making those comments?

    March 2, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  24. Bob

    Here we go with the infamous GOP war mongers yelling that they know everything about everything except when in charge of course. Oh wait the GOP (Bush) did a great job. HAAAAAAA God I am so glad I left the party of NO-it all.

    March 2, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  25. chris

    It's an election year so the president and congress need to get into the media and see what the people want. Polls not wisdom will decide actions in this administration...as they have in others in the past.

    March 2, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
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