March 2nd, 2014
11:26 AM ET
4 years 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. liberal disease

    he is not weak he plays 200 rounds of golf a year!

    March 2, 2014 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  2. Garner Foley

    Thr Republican Party, the shame of American history except for Lincoln, TR and Ike.

    March 2, 2014 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  3. FirstLast

    G8 and G20 – 8 and 20 stands for number of countries and if this bully means that the USA alone can suspend any country from either one he needs a lesson on how democracy and politics work. Our credibility is way down and we would not be able to secure support from other countries (those aligned with Russia). We call for suspension of Russia – let's see who is going to take us seriously after being in Afghanistan and Iraq for more than 10 years (for similar reasons; protecting our interests like they are trying to protect their own in Ukraine – so they claim) .

    March 2, 2014 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  4. Bill Graham

    I wish Lindsey Graham and John McCain would stop pretending they speak for the American people.

    March 2, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  5. Nelson

    If Graham and the Republicans think Putin is this great and decisive leader, why don't they just all go to Russia? Good riddance.

    March 2, 2014 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  6. Jack

    It can be easily debated that the US invading Iraq defied International Law, now it's not ok for other countries to do so. How can the US denounce this (even though my opinion thinks we should) when our own history contradicts such statements? We set a dangerous precedent and now our leaders are paying for it. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. A much serious situation is occurring but short sighted US politicians are quick to do the damning now to get some public soundbites. Ridiculous.

    March 2, 2014 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  7. BigSir

    Graham/McCain...be quiet please.

    March 2, 2014 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  8. edward

    Obama undermined his own authority by opening his big mouth about what he is going to do and then does nothing. He told the Syrian president do not use chemical weapons or America would use military interven. Obama did nothing!!. Told Iran to stop making nuclear bombs and they continue to make them and nothing has happened. Obama and Kerry told Putin to stay out of Ukraine. They go in with troops Obama does nothing. How can any American with a ounce of a brain support Obama. Obama undermines his own authority and makes America look weak. This generation of Americans are the most stupid because they voted Obama for and they stand behind him as he sinks America. God help America with this president and all the blinded Americans that blindly follow him because of there ignorance.

    March 2, 2014 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  9. gwats1957

    Lindsey, could you please, just once, act like a real man, and support our President?

    March 2, 2014 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  10. hallambaker

    Lindsay Graham only makes a fool of himself with these disloyal statements.

    Obama has never lost a foreign policy standoff yet. Though the Graham and the GOP have consistently made disloyal statements to undermine him every time.

    Right now everyone is trying to avoid this turning into a shooting war. Like George 'Warmonger' Bush, Putin has no difficulty sending the troops in but will find it very difficult to bring them home without huge loss of face and harder to keep them where they are.

    There will be a lot of dead Russians if a shooting war starts.

    March 2, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  11. LouAZ

    Don't you just respect and admire how all these NEW and IMPROVED Repub/T-potty politicians stand by OUR Commander in Chief in times of International crisis ? With honorable Senators and Congressmen like these . . . I feel like Jimmy Durante . . . "Surrounded by ASSASSINS" !

    March 2, 2014 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  12. Ltcolbob

    The Republicans won't be happy until they start another useless war.

    March 2, 2014 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  13. shan

    Obama is way smarter than any GOP Presidents we had Mr .Graham.

    March 2, 2014 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  14. mark nati

    The first thing we should do is pull the plug on the billion dollar helicopter order that the Pentagon gave Russia to make helicopters for the Afghanistan military. We should give that work to a American company like Sikorsky Aircraft. We should have done that in the first place anyway. But the Pentagon seems to hate the American worker and looks to spend tax payer dollars overseas every chance they get.

    March 2, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  15. Just sayin too....

    so he should leave the tough talk, threats etc. to the likes to you seasoned cowboys who all have masters degrees in the subject/s....get a life. There are many of us on the other side who were heart broken when Bush went into Iraq but guess what? He was our President and we had no choice but to support him once the shooting started! Man up!

    March 2, 2014 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  16. bks

    We should not forget that Putin is from old KGB school and he is committed to see that all breakaway countries from USSR are back or under his control You just can not trust Russian politicians. Stalin screwed up Poland and Hungary. Putin did with Georgia and Now Ukaraine. So western countries have to be careful in dealing with Mr Putin.
    Now China can go head and invade neighbors if it is in their interest.

    March 2, 2014 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  17. Mike Brown

    Obama to Putin: Don't you dare go into Ukraine.

    Putin: Oh yeah, and what will you do?

    Obama: I'll.....well....I'll ......call you a Poo-poo face. So there.

    March 2, 2014 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  18. caseyhd

    The problem with most conservatives is their shoot first and ask questions later mentality. What infuriates them more is the fact Obama is very pragmatic about such things, wanting to get as much information as is possible before making a determination as to the best course of action. Knee jerk reactionary decision making is usually not the best course of action in these sorts of matters.

    March 2, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  19. prolowe

    OMG.... overly aggressive? Not as aggressive as shocking and awing a country and then taking it over and hunting down the established leader and hanging him or at least making it all happen... I haven't seen where one bomb has been dropped on Ukraine... We are so arrogant. How much money do the military contractors have to make, Lindsey who would cut any and all help with the exception of the 12000 federal employees at SRNS. He and others elected goofballs talk about too much government in our lives and beg for billions for that voter pool. Since Rep Wilson has despensed with" kinergarten taught" respect let me say to all of them....You Lie!"

    March 2, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  20. Robyn

    I don't care what you say to the President in private: agree, disagree, whatever.
    But in public, AMERICANS stand together united in a crisis and support the Commander in Chief.

    Unlike whatever you are Mr. Lindsey Graham, a sad, sorry excuse for a human
    A fraction of a man in a cheap suit. You endangered American lives and American interests today.

    March 2, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  21. Andacar

    Senator Graham, the best way to make the United States appear weak and indecisive is for members of Congress to attack the President from behind his back while he is attempting to deal with a dictator. You are really pathetic, and so is anybody else who sees an international crisis as a way to take cheap shots at the leader to please the folks back in Glunksville.

    March 2, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  22. William

    Sen Graham has no answers he is just another useless mouth piece of the wealthy and stupid people that own the Republican party. They have no answers except make this President a failure even if it ruins our country in doing so. I think there is a word for that one they like to use for others. Just what could it be?

    March 2, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  23. mentallect

    When all choices are bad ones, and the situation is tough, the GOP knocks Obama. How about they assist the president? How about the voice opposition to Russian president Putin instead who invaded Ukraine instead of bashing Obama who is POTUS? Would it be too much to ask the GOP to stop allowing their hatred, racism, and bias against Obama from supporting the USA?

    March 2, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  24. Pete Zoria

    IMO, the very last thing we need today is to have some unpatriotic politician like Lindsey Graham throw stones at our President for going on national TV to state his case about the Ukraine problems. What exactly does Lindsey Graham
    accomplish except to display a lack of cohesion by the American people! It's borderline traitorous behavior and this man should be taken to task for it....but, of course we can't breech the first amendment ....maybe it's time for a REAL CHANGE!

    March 2, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  25. Tito

    Mr. Lindsey Graham, there is a reason why YOU are not the president of the USA and YOU'LL never be; need I say more?

    March 2, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
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