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. John Mininger

    I don't have a problem with what Graham is saying. I don't know where some of you get the idea he is calling for boots on the ground ... he never said anything like that. He is calling for decisive action instead of empty threats and I don't disagree with him. Removing Russia from the G-8 and the G-20 is an appropriate response. Russia is acting like a rogue nation ... well, let's treat them like one. Being critical of the president's response does not mean he is taking sides against the president but if he doesn't feel the response is adequate then he absolutely should state his case. The democrats would do exactly the same if a republican was in office.

    March 3, 2014 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  2. steve

    Have you no shame, sir?

    March 3, 2014 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  3. Smokey

    Putin is a master an Obama is a novice. Putin was right on top of the situation in Ukraine, immediately saw how he could turn a disadvantage (the overthrow of a friendly government) into an advantage (the annexation of a strategically important region). America and Europe were slow to clue in, too busy patting themselves on the back over Yanukovych's downfall to clue in to the longer game that Putin was playing. Now the Russians have Crimea and the key industrial cities in the east, and there's nothing anybody can do about it.

    March 3, 2014 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  4. moveforward

    I see Grahame can't keep his mouth shut, instead preferring to undermine President Obama publicly. What a jerk.

    March 3, 2014 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  5. Jonathan

    All this complaining about Graham voicing his opinion is one-sided. Blindly supporting the president is the opposite of what a democracy is. If it were Bush in his seat, the roles would be reversed and it'd be some top democrat voicing his opinion and not "supporting" our president's decision. We should not be policing the world is my stance. Only when it affects us, should we be concerned. Us should not include foreign interests of corporations... Graham is doing his job. Representing the ideas of well.. the people he represents. Sorry it doesn't align with your ideologies but maybe I don't agree with you OR the president.

    March 3, 2014 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  6. Tuan Nguyen

    I think this is America should do,
    1) Suspend Russia from G8 &G20.
    2) Draw a RED LINE. If Russia cross the Red Line then,
    America, Nato,EU,need to teach Russia the Real Lesson.(Military Action If Possible) That way the Baby North Korea & Stupid Iran can learn too.

    March 3, 2014 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  7. mikewj

    Lindsey, we would appreciate your suiting up and getting on a plane to the Ukraine to engage in military battle with Russian soldiers. You and John McCain on the front battle lines, yeah, that's what we'd like to see. Please let us know how you make out. In the meantime, we'll write you letters and pray for your safe return 'cause we sure as hell ain't willing to stick our noses in somebody else's crazy conflict. We're all shot up from trying to do it your way (policing the entire planet) as it is.

    Sincerely,

    The American People

    March 3, 2014 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  8. Bob

    If we went to war every time the GOP called for the U.S. to send ground troops we'd be mired in four additional wars that Obama kept us out of (and kept the Middle East much more stable than if we'd stepped in). The GOP is great at starting wars and leave it to the rest of us sane people to end them.

    March 3, 2014 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  9. Francisco Decastro

    It would be weird if Graham called Obama "Strong and decisive!"... We all know that regardless of what Obama does, Graham would never say the President is Strong and decisive!... To Graham, Obama will always be weak and indecisive, even if Obama does something that Graham agrees with... There is nothing new about this article. A republican is being a republican. If Graham called Obama strong and decisive, it would be a hell of a read!

    March 3, 2014 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  10. Bob

    The GOP look ANY excuse to undermine the President. Obama could offer the country the cure to cancer and the GOP would oppose it and claim it destroyed jobs. Seriously. Post-9/11, anyone who even questioned the wisdom of invading Iraq was publicly chastised by the GOP (and Fox News) as "giving comfort and aid to the enemy". Nowadays the GOP can openly commit what by any legal definition is treason and go unchallenged.

    March 3, 2014 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  11. Andreas Schiff

    Lindsay Graham's record on suggestion on foreign policy is a complete disaster.
    Why on earth does he steer for a confrontation?
    Does he not realize that Putin is made of the same wood as The North Kerean Boy leader?
    Except he has a little more real fire power.
    For the Europeans to see this backstabbing of a President in an international political crisis is not confidence instilling.
    Does Lindsay Grham play politics or is he a blood hungry warmonger?

    March 3, 2014 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  12. SPQR

    Idiots who will cry about anything the President does or says. Regardless of what it is. They are lucky they don't live in NK.

    March 3, 2014 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  13. dee

    Graham still cant deal with Obama being President ...GET OVER IT !!

    March 3, 2014 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
  14. allanhowls

    "[...]Every time the President goes on national television and threatens Putin or someone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine,”

    Yeah, who would believe the guy that captured the #1 terrorist AND the #1 drug kingpin? What credibility does he have? Why, we haven't declared war on a nation that hasn't attacked us since Iraq!

    March 3, 2014 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  15. Bunny

    According to Sen. Durbin if there are Russian citizens on the soil of another nation and they are not in obvious danger, that doesn't give Russia license to invade. Hmmm........I seem to remember an invasion which took place in Grenada under somewhat similar circumstances. Then again, that was those 'millions' of Cubans in Grenada. Ah well, different strokes for those different folks.

    March 3, 2014 02:34 am at 2:34 am |
  16. Mike

    Anyone find the irony? Graham goes on national television to condemn Obama for going on national television to condemn Putin.

    March 3, 2014 02:39 am at 2:39 am |
  17. Andy Daniel

    Disgusting self-serving blathering by the Republicans. Do you believe that Obama is handling this incorrectly? Fine, then tell Obama, not Putin. The strength of the nation is in a united front, not in telling Putin "We don't support our President, so you can safely assume that there is no cohesive threat from the USA". I seem to recall that after 9/11 everyone rallied around Bush, because it was best for America – not necessarily because every Democrat suddenly agreed with all of his policies.

    March 3, 2014 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
  18. Susan

    Russia isn't our true enemy... We are!

    March 3, 2014 03:15 am at 3:15 am |
  19. OldAsDirt

    Lone wolf – siding with the President because of his title is ana adolescent's reaction. When Congressional leaders from both parties are on record that immediate sanctions should happen, it's a pretty strong hint to the President that he may be offering a limp response.

    March 3, 2014 03:18 am at 3:18 am |
  20. san

    These Republican Politicians, I mean really, who needs enemies when we have politicians like Republican Graham in office. Republican's can't win elections on their fail polices, so they lie, cheat, gerrymander districts, suppress the vote, and create havoc when there is none. Out with the whole lot, there is not one Republican in office, nation wide, deserving of your vote, not one.

    March 3, 2014 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  21. John

    I miss the old days when the Republicans believed that "our differences end at the water's edge". Now they treasonously attack our President and try to make him fumble all for the sake of political gain. I personally like having a president who is not a hotheaded cowboy that needlessly spills our blood in a faraway dessert all the while bankrupting the country.

    March 3, 2014 03:39 am at 3:39 am |
  22. Indietom

    Tough talk coming from a wussy man (Graham) makes me roll my eyes.

    March 3, 2014 03:51 am at 3:51 am |
  23. Sgt. Baker

    Graham-nesty will do anything to take the attention away from his own treasonous amnesty agenda.

    March 3, 2014 04:05 am at 4:05 am |
  24. Lars J

    What a contrast. When President Bush was in the White House the insinuation was that criticism of foreign policy was evidence for a lack of patriotism and love for America. Where did all the talk of solidarity with the President in difficult times go? While I don't think there should be any difference between the nature of the right and left, I do wonder if we would have seen the unity after 9/11 that we saw if the sitting president had been a Democrat.

    March 3, 2014 04:06 am at 4:06 am |
  25. George

    Senator Graham is an embarrassment, and a fool. President Obama should keep right on ignoring Graham and ALL the rest of those GOP/Tea Party fools!!!

    America is prayerful and thankful everyday for President Obama ...and his wisdom.

    March 3, 2014 04:16 am at 4:16 am |
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