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. Mike in Texas

    Blah, blah, blah. The Republican attacks on Obama are like the boy who cried wolf. They are so predictable and expected that have no affect except to those who hate Obama in the first place. The President just talked to Putin for 90 minutes yesterday. He is going to go all gung ho which it seems like the Republicans always want to do. Knee jerk reactionaries are not who we need running our country. People like Graham need to stfu and do something productive instead of going on tv and criticizing others. But then again, it seems that is the only thing he is good at besides receiving government handouts for collecting a salary as a U.S. Senator. The working poor put in a lot more honest hard work and they still need govt assistance but they are considered lazy and stupid by some who frown upon them.

    March 2, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  2. dkhhuey

    Imagine that – the GOP already fired up this morning at the thought of the potential start of a new war!

    March 2, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. Anonymous

    The only way to make Russia weaker is to drop oil prices as fast as possible and keep them down for as long as possible.

    March 2, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  4. GOP = Greed Over People

    Oh, please, as if this Congress could come to an agreement in one afternoon, like the Russian legislative body did.

    March 2, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. JMT

    Who is Graham? And why should anyone give a damn what he thinks or says?

    March 2, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  6. william reed

    Graham is at it again. Giving Obama pointers on how to be a bad-ass in typical chickenhawk fashion.

    March 2, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  7. Ron

    Agreed!! Stop threatening!! Obama is an embarrassment!! Hit 'em where it hurts – economically. Remember when Obama asked Romney in 2012 what the biggest threat to the US was and Romney said Russia. Obama and every other Democrat laughed. Once again, Obama was wrong!!

    March 2, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  8. Booblay

    I think I recall Senator Graham criticizing Bush critics in Congress for not supporting the Bush when we invaded 2 countries last decade – they were unpatriotic I guess patriotism depends which party occupies the White House, huh Lindsey?

    March 2, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  9. GonzoinHouston

    We can't send troops, but there's a lot of less-satisfying but effective steps that can be made. If Russia really wants to re-ignite the cold war, then so be it. We could expedite membership in NATO for the previous Warsaw Pact countries and possibly move troops into them. Russia is far more economically intertwined with the west than before, and that can be a vulnerability. As for the US, it would be nice to have some external threat for us to oppose instead of attacking each other.

    March 2, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  10. NickD

    There comes a time when being a nice guy on the world stage does not work. This is one of those times. Putin was KGB in his youth and that is what he is in his heart.

    Empty words mean nothing to him. I agree with the democrat durbin and the republicans when suspension from the G 8 is a good start. but like a 100 mile hourney it is only a step in the rigght direction.

    It is time for NATO and the UE to step up and carry some of this water.

    March 2, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  11. Bayousara

    Lindsay Graham sounds like a kid with his comments about the President. The US has not gotten into a new war since Obama took office. The GOP leaders want a new war. What do YOU want?

    March 2, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  12. Surthurfurd

    Graham has been a Neo-Con for a long time. He believes in world wide military welfare by the US. He supports attacking any country that does not support our point of view. In other words, if he was Russian, Graham would have been one of the first to demand the use of Russian troops in the Ukraine.

    March 2, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  13. waylon bc

    Republicans cry around because the president didn't pull troops out of afghanistan fast enough, now they want obama to put troops in Ukraine . get your kids ready for war again , republicans want more dead americans. this isn't our fight.

    March 2, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  14. geraldine

    graham is a nut case!

    March 2, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  15. John

    Graham should have the the President, not Obama.

    March 2, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  16. David DeForge

    "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."

    Graham advised that he can be reached from his underground bunker safe from the fighting.

    March 2, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  17. John Medina

    Obama the waffler. He should put on his bike helmet, his mom jeans, and an extra pair of Depends and charge that Putin bully on his bicycle!

    March 2, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  18. John

    John

    Graham should have been the the President, not Obama.

    March 2, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  19. Socialguy

    You can call the President weak all you want, but as long as he doesn't drag the United States into a war I'm fine.

    March 2, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  20. FactsRBad

    Kick them out of the G8 and G20. Increase missle shield in Europe. Freeze assets of thier leadership held overseas. Prohibit advanced drilling technology from import into Russia. Cut them off politically and economically.

    March 2, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    Blah, blah blah, blah blah.............Would Mr. Graham be OK with sanctions against the US fro going into Panama, Granada,...starting Wars with Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Graham does not care about the Ukraine or Crimea. He only cares about how much negative Press he can generate against his President. No one is going to risk all out War with another Superpower,...no matter who is President.

    March 2, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. Glenn NM

    Typical ignorance from the Right. This situation is days old, the last thing that's needed is some knee-jerk reaction because the Right wants to take advantage yet again to criticize Obama.

    March 2, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  23. Joe

    Blah, blah blah, blah blah.............Would Mr. Graham be OK with sanctions against the US fro going into Panama, Granada,...starting Wars with Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Graham does not care about the Ukraine or Crimea. He only cares about how much negative Press he can generate against his President. No one is going to risk all out War with another Superpower ,...no matter WHO is President.

    March 2, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  24. zafrogzen

    The macho Repubs want to get us into another expensive, senseless war. What folly.

    March 2, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  25. MIke C

    Let's remember the facts and the facts are that War World II happened under an inactive U.S. and Democratic president Roosevelt we ended up with Pearl Harbor. Democratic President Kennedy followed by Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson got us in Vietnam and it was a Republican president Nixon who got us out. Nixon also fermented and improved relations with communist China. Democratic president Carter gave us the Iran hostage crisis which gave rise to the Islamic holy wars that we are still fighting and it was Republican president Reagan who got us out of the hostage crisis. Not only that, Reagan also got us out of the cold war, signed a nuclear disarmament agreement with Russia and turned down the Berlin Wall which gave freedom to millions. Inactive Clinton did nothing against Osama Bin Laden and we paid for it on 911 and again a Republican president had to go out after yet another crazy guy due Democratic president’s inaction. Now history is repeating itself. Obama the Democratic president through his inaction is letting the seeds of many different wars be planted around world which will probably leave us with no other option but to act militarily. The policy of inaction is dangerous just like not acting on a cancer at the early stages is dangerous.

    March 2, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
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