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. Horace B

    I wonder–what President Hillary Clinton would do in this situation?

    March 2, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  2. BeverlyNC

    President Obama is not weak or indecisive. He is watching the situation and seeing what Putin is really after. What would Lindsey Graham do? Send in bombers and troops into a situation we do not yet understand? Maybe all Putin is doing is making sure Russia has access to their major and only Navy port in lower Crimea. Maybe he wants to show force and then negotiate for access for his one and only port.
    Graham and McCain and all the Republican loudmouths who have sat and done NOTHING for the American People but criticize President Obama for EVERYTHING would be hiding in a corner with Boehner crying over what to do. They have spent so much time criticizing and whining – they do not know how to lead or accomplish anything. Name anything they have done for the People. They just voted down a massive bill to aid VETERANS with healthcare, the backlogs for care, getting them off food stamps, and shoring up the VA. Republican voted NO even though every Veterans Organization was behind it.
    No Republican has the right to judge our Commander-in-Chief when they cannot even stand up for our troops and the veterans they sent into Bush's fraud wars. Republicans have betrayed us all by obstructing every piece of legislation to restore our nation and solve problems for the People. How dare they criticize President Obama for DOING his job while they sit and do NOTHING but whine.
    It's time to wipe this Party of Hate and Do-Nothing from our government – both local, state, and national. They serve no one but themselves and the corporations who own them. They have betrayed all of us when we needed our legislators to stand up and help move the nation forward – not obstruct just for political games who only hurt us.

    March 2, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. Larry L

    Here we are again – in a time of crisis and Republicans seize the opportunity to play politics. Can any of them keep their pie holes shut and try to help America?

    March 2, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  4. Sean G

    Obama is a laughing stock to half the world! Not just this country, the world! Maybe when they release his college grades we will see that how poorly he grasped western civilization and US history. Talking accomplished nothing in Syria and now Ukraine. You need to step up, stop thinking everything can be handled by community organization and be a President. There are way to many ex-presidents turning over in their graves right now thinking.... "Omg, how dumb was America to elect this idiot twice.'

    March 2, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  5. Blue

    Graham is for what President Obama is against, period! We do not need to go to war with Russia. It would be a bloody war and everyone loses. President Obama knows what is best for America. We are war worn out. Graham is just like Bush, go in and hurry home, but that never happens. America ends up paying a high price in losing our military people for a cause that we should have stayed out of. Remember, Iraq?

    March 2, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  6. Jocho Johnson

    What does some yokel from South Carolina understand about the complexities of Russian-Ukrainian relations? He should mind his own business and focus on putting South Carolina back to work. Jim DeMint started the recession.

    March 2, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  7. Everyone

    Remember, it didn't take more than a couple of hours after the Benghazi incident for candidate Romney to try and score political points for his campaign. I would hope that they would give Obama a bit of a chance here to make a move without being triple guessed to death.

    March 2, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  8. Max P

    oh please.

    if Obama does something Graham other GOP members would be like he is a tyrant or dictator or bad move or what ever

    if he does nothing he is weak and indecisive.

    March 2, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  9. William Miller

    Lindsey Graham is a traitor, aiding and abetting the enemy during a time of international crisis. During the Iraq War, and immediately after the fiasco in Beirut, when hundreds of U.S. Marines were killed while Reagan was President, Republicans argued strongly that, regarding international affairs, the President should enjoy the unwavering support of all Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, and that to do otherwise would play into the hands of our enemies. How quickly they forget their own rhetoric when a Democrat is in the White House. Shame on them for indirectly playing into the hands of Putin, and for putting their own political careers ahead of the best interests of the U.S.

    March 2, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  10. Deserttrek

    love some of the comments .NBOBDY is calling for the USA to go to war. however be aware we did sign a treaty Ukraine regarding defense.
    folks the bottom line is Putin is eating obummer's breakfast lunch and supper. china is making moves in east asia, iran is as honest as a carnival side show, yet Kerry and obummer and shrillary in her time danced away thinking they have a handle on things. I have no doubt Putin didn't listen to a word obummer said and probably had him on mute while the staff gathered round to laugh
    instead of slamming the gop, look at the incompetent boobs in the administration and state department

    March 2, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  11. Vence

    What do we have to win in Ukranie?

    March 2, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  12. Manuel

    Mr. Graham, put your money where your BIG mouth is and run for president. In the meantime, shut up!

    March 2, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  13. fizban1

    Hey Graham. I have an idea. How about you NOT politicize this and project a Senatorial presence of unity with your Commander in Chief? You' seem a sorry, sad political HACK if you do anything else.

    March 2, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  14. JP

    Let's start 3rd world war. It is past due. Republicans are demanding it.

    March 2, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  15. AC

    Sure, let's start another war and get ourselves kicked again.

    March 2, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  16. AC

    Treaty? We have treaties all over the world. So what.

    March 2, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  17. jboh

    Graham and McCain want us in another war. The same duo that complained about weakness in Syria, then voted against air strikes. Quit playing partisanship with the lives of other peoples' children.

    March 2, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  18. fizban1

    Hey Graham, I have an idea. How about you NOT politicize this and project an appropriate Senatorial presence of unity with your Commander in Chief? You seem a sorry, sad political wonk if you do anything else.

    March 2, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  19. Lenny Pincus

    I am sick of listening to right wing zealots undercut America. Lindsey Graham should be arrested.

    March 2, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  20. smc

    Why do Republicans hate America so much?

    March 2, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. Raphael

    We should be sending troops into Ukraine right now. that's the only move Putin would respect. Jesus Christ I mean seriously are we just gonna give the Ukraine up. Obama was weak on Syria and now hes Weak on Ukraine. At one point early on in the insurrection in Syria he could have armed the rebels who at that time weren't radicalized and very pro western. that ship has sailed. lets see how he fumbles this situation

    March 2, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  22. Barry

    Lindsay Graham – world renowned expert in foreign affairs (leafed in South Carolina. Give me a break. Graham knows that the President has limited options. We are NOT going to war with Russia...or should we threaten to nuke 'em back to the stone age?

    Tinhorn politicians annoy me...

    March 2, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  23. t

    ........FIRST.............call up ALL South Carolina reserve units.....to be the very first to strike Moscow........

    March 2, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  24. Jodo

    obama continues to embarrass the United States. He makes us look like a third rate bannana dictatorship. Putin is laughing at him, I'm laughing and crying at the same time

    March 2, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  25. august43

    Graham needs to back off the public criticism. If the situation is as serious as he seems to think, he ought to just back the President. Same for Durbin. There is a reason why the President is in charge of foreign affairs. The advice and consent of the Senate should be behind closed doors.

    March 2, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28