March 2nd, 2014
11:26 AM ET
3 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. Ted

    Somebody tell Graham that Obama isn't running again, the election was in 2012. Obama only made his first move which is a warning, the GOP are always playing divisive politics. Graham needs to be booted from office...

    March 2, 2014 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  2. Bubba

    Lindsey Graham and John McCain need to learn to shut their stinking pie holes. McCain has become a doddering old fool. Thank god he didn't get elected as POtUS

    March 2, 2014 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  3. Magic

    There are 196 countries in the world. it will take more than the United States to condemn Putin. Not denying the US is a (the) major player but other sovereign nations have to take action and a roll too. As for Graham and others of the opposition party. Wake Up. We are ONE NATION UNDER GOD. Let's act like it. Can we. Did your mother ever tell you to keep family business inside your own house. It applies now. The world sees the greatest nation on earth, the sole super power as divided. Quit condemning our President and find way(s) to show publically that we are as strong as we say we are; and that we mean business. Keep our private squabbles and family business at home...but I am sure there is always one in the family that just can't help themselves...Graham and others. Finally, we are and our President is only as strong as his weakest link...it is not him. What is best for American? How about you (as our elected officials) all get on board with that...like today...like sooner than later...we cannot afford to wait. Republicans, quit to poke but you are slow to act. Do something for our nation and in support of OUR president–be part of the solution...a solution. Your constituents demand it...Your country requires it...The world needs it. it is your obligation and part of the OATH you took. Do something to make this nation better, stronger, united, and PREPARED!!!!!

    March 2, 2014 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  4. Paulwisc

    Graham is a traitor for not standing behind his President in a crisis.

    March 2, 2014 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  5. Georgia Clark~Proud Democrat !

    Lindsey Graham ~why didn't you listen to what your parents taught you ?
    If you have nothing nice to say ~zip it~ shut your mouth ~ or DON'T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL !!

    March 2, 2014 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  6. polycarp pio

    Folks, I am no fan of the President, but I do pray for him everyday. He is between a rock and a hard place, none of us really wants to get involved in another war, we always seem to stick our noses in where it does not belong. The voices that are now telling the President what he should do are reminicient of the Cuban missile crisis, I am glad President Kennedy did not listen to all the war mongers and I hope this President acts with the same restraint, but too Mr President you are no Jack Kennedy. PP

    March 2, 2014 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  7. theotherbob56

    I think Graham has the vapors again.

    March 2, 2014 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  8. djthp

    The military-industrialist complex is salivating at the thought of all those billions of dollars that could possibly be coming its way if we stick our necks out in Ukraine. We really don't have any leverage except for economic sanctions. Actual war is unthinkable... unless we are actually attacked... and I don't mean our "business" interests.

    March 2, 2014 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  9. MJ

    Shame on the GOP and Graham, what happened to not being openly critical of sitting president during wars and conflicts. It makes the US look weak and encourages people to act of self interest as opposed to acting in the interest of the people and the country, There will be plenty of time to be critical when the situation is history, No one was critical of Bush senior or Junior when they went to war or when they tried to address Russia moving in Georgia and the Bushs did little.

    March 2, 2014 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  10. Grinning Libber

    The regressive neocon war mongers are pounding the drums.
    There is a war shortage going on!

    March 2, 2014 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  11. Vadar

    This is Russia's playground. We told them to stay out of Cuba years ago and it worked but it was our sand box so to speak...Now they are in their sandbox. so why don't we let Europe handle it. No more lines in the sand, etc. Some good suggestions re G20 , etc. But keep inmind the world needs Russia's natural resources especially Europe for nat gas and coal.

    March 2, 2014 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  12. Lynn Eddington

    Graham and McCain are always so quick to want to pull the trigger. Let's not look at the facts, engage in dialogue, gather a coalation of other countries, work with the united nations. These guys are not happy unless people are dying. They pretend to be concerned about freedom yet show no compassion for the poor and hungry in this country. Of course they get their contributions from the war machines like all the other phoney represenatives. . Where in the constitution does it allow for our leaders to be bought off by the rich, the banks, the arms manufacturers, the oil com[panies and all the other special interests. Our democracy is an illusion. It was best described as oranized corruption.

    March 2, 2014 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  13. mickinmd

    And what did Graham say when Bush did nothing about the Russians going into Georgia in 2008? NOTHING. He knows Obama cannot unilaterally toss Russia out of the G8.

    This is nothing more than a political attack that's potential damaging to the status of the United States.

    March 2, 2014 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  14. Lifehiker

    Graham is a nobody with no responsibility. Obama is president with all the responsibility. There is no military solution to the Crimea issue but plenty of political and economic options that take time to formulate and implement. Right now all Obama can do is tell Putin these things are coming unless he pulls back. Later, Obama can wreak some havoc, especially if he can coordinate a lot of international support against Putin's Russia – and I think he can. Graham and McCain; two unguided missiles who I'm so happy have no propellant in their shooters.

    March 2, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  15. G

    The comments on this forum sound an awful lot the isolationist commentary when Hitler invaded Poland. How well did that work out? Putin is a bully , Obama needs to stand by our agreements with the Ukraine and act. Not talk. Bullies treat talk as an indicator of weakness. Define a site, tell Putin he has 24 hours to leave that site and if he doesn't destroy the groups there. Move on to the next one. Since the troops are not wearing insignia...nothing he can say.

    March 2, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  16. jdun

    Lindsay Graham, another chicken hawk! Tell the truth Lindsay, we have no more power over Putin and Russia than they have over us. All this political posturing does no one any good. What is there to be decisive about? What if Crimea joins Russia, what will we do,suspend Russia from the G-8? Whoopie! The neo-cons will use this to badmouth Obama when he has very little options, nor would they in the same situation. Putin is a sick ruler WITH nuclear weapons and the support of his people. Kind of like North Korea? In the meantime watch oil prices skyrocket because of the crisis! Anything to make a buck!

    March 2, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  17. mark hensley

    What a surprise. An idiot from the GOP pushing for war.

    March 2, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  18. anh

    Who's Graham? I elected Obama and I side with my president regardless what he decides/not decide to do.

    March 2, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  19. Joe

    Hey Lindsey, why don't you pick up a rifle, go to Crimea, and face down the Russian tanks you coward.

    March 2, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  20. Tom

    Lindsey, get over there and lead the troops... Tally Ho!

    March 2, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  21. Johnny 5

    Obama won't stick his nose in Putins business. A war with Russia is a whole different animal these days.

    March 2, 2014 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  22. amber3

    GOP stop undermining America at every opportunity.

    March 2, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  23. Mark Smith

    Drop Graham and Mccain off in the middle of the conflict with one bullet each.

    March 2, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  24. Ralf Smith

    "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. "

    Agreed, although it is both parties, and just depends upon who is in power, who is doing the criticizing. I honestly don't think Obama was too weak and indecisive, he actually was decisive and dismissive of Russia.

    It was leaked long before this, that Obama's state department was working with internal Ukrainian political leaders on a daily basis. And the moment the coup occurred – they instantly recognized the non-elected leaders as 'legitimate'.

    We don't have access to all the internal conversions – some were leaked. But its a likely scenario that Russia has long been saying that we are not to orchestrate in Ukraine – and especially the overthrow of the elected President, had to really gall the Russians. So they reacted.

    For political reasons Republicans in America want to say Barak is weak, but his strategy in foreign affairs is not of a progressive – its really not much different than George Bush. Help your friends (even if they may not hold democracy so precious) – go after your enemies...that type of thing.

    March 2, 2014 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  25. tm1946

    Wow very disappointing. Both stick with the party line. I guess we are getting a bigger divide between us.

    Must say not going to the G8 three months from now seems pretty weak. tying up their personal money in every bank in Europe and the US might get some ones attention. If they have a Russian name, they no more money. Also, any aid to Russia would be sent to Ukraine, not one cent more. Doubt it would work but we would seem to have a bit of spine left.

    March 2, 2014 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
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