March 2nd, 2014
11:26 AM ET
7 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. Killer

    I'm sitting here listening to the American politician on CNN cry about Russia invading a sovereign country and how they condemn it.

    Why was it so different when the American went in to Afghanistan and Iraqi on the biggest trumped up lies the world has ever heard where was these condemnation then?

    The American Government is the biggest bully and liar of the free world. George W. Bush said it best by saying either your with us or your against us now that doesn't sounds like freedom to chose without consequences.

    March 2, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  2. PaulyD

    "No. 1, stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators – it is not your strong suit."

    #1, Mr. Graham, you idiot, stop going on television and belitteling the Commander-in-Chief. It weakens the country, and it is not YOUR string suit, but it sure is your "only" suit!

    March 2, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  3. DCBuck

    If you think Obama is weak and indecisive, an eminently incompetent President Hillary will make him look like a South American strongman.

    March 2, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  4. Ed

    BeverlyNC, "President Obama is not weak or indecisive. He is watching the situation and seeing what Putin is really after." "No Republican has the right to judge our Commander-in-Chief"

    Not sure what planet you are living on, in what way has the President shown himself to not be weak? Waiting to see the end game is incredibly indecisive. Once Putin has what he wants, do you really think he'll give it back?

    Your ultra left wing foolish rants betrays you. As a veteran, I'd love to see the bill pass, but I'm skeptical of some provisions and the funding appears to be funny money. We've seen how well that worked with Obamacare.

    Oh, and I know you'll just hate this but, EVERYONE has the right to judge this President, or do we now live like Russians?

    March 2, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  5. der

    "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,”

    Wow! The GOP is really tough! LOL

    March 2, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  6. JoePenn

    Lindsey's funny – and a pure chickenhawk.

    March 2, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  7. GOP = Greed Over People

    Obviously, the GOP needs an offset to the budget defense cuts, the war machine is no longer profitable.

    They will find some reason, say like "We Meant Democracy", you betcha!

    March 2, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  8. Mark Anderson

    Hey, I thought conservatives loved Putin.

    March 2, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  9. yerkiddinright

    Once again the GOP offers no real solutions but wants Obama to "do something" so they can criticize him for doing the wrong thing, either too quickly or too slowly, no matter what it is. They urged armed intervention in Syria then immediately criticized the President when he outlined a plan for armed intervention in Syria. They will sacrifice the entire world to thwart this President.

    March 2, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  10. Craig

    Typical GOP/republican remark, always interested in going to war like Bush! This is why they will lose big in the 2014-16 elections. Obama is doing exactly the right thing, not rushing into another war! He's staying on top of the situation, monitoring it and weighing his options. Military option will be his last resort. From the moment he was elected in 2008 the GOP/Republicans have done nothing but under mind him, refuse to cooperate and do a damn thing in congress all because McCain lost the election!

    March 2, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  11. Will goicovich

    i'm not Republican but gosh i agree 100% on this one with them
    plain and simple OBAMA is a weak president , ran down NASA, now he want to reduce the Army , The US in term of credibility is at its lowest ever ....keep the socialism alive OBAMA and put this country on the ground

    March 2, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  12. Craig

    P.S. Graham, your just as pathetic as Cruz, Paul and the rest of your cronies!

    March 2, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  13. hefailed

    I am neither Democrat or Republican, but I too, roll my eyes every time Mr. Obama threatens or issues an ultimatum. I think of Iran and how many warnings he gave, including the "I don't bluff (May 2012)" statement. I haven't heard Mr. Graham calling for war. How dare he criticize Mr. Obama? What...nobody is allowed to criticize the president? One does not need to be President in order to have an opinion on the subject. Just look at all the comments on this article.

    March 2, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. jaydavid666

    Obama is "weak and indecisive".
    But Graham and every other Republican are dumber than dirt.
    We are not in a position to start a war with Russia over Ukraine.
    And that is NOT Obama's fault.

    March 2, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. der

    Let's see. If we would have followed wise GOP counsel, we would now be bogged down in Syria, Iran and Egypt, And now they would send us to Ukraine. Keep voting for these idio//ts.

    March 2, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  16. just saying

    the 3am phone calls keep coming and coming and obama proves over and over again he is unwilling to answer or deaf to the world around him. his isolationist approach to world affairs invites exactly what you are seeing in the ukraine. and now he wants to downsize our military to pre-wwii days and that will be the green light for other bad actors on the world stage to act up. actors like north korea, iran and possibly china.

    March 2, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  17. Christian Davis

    How is this different from Ronald Reagan sending in US troops to protect US civilians in Grenada back in the 1980's? Putin says that he wants to protect Russian citizens living in Ukraine; if I were living there, I would certainly want my government to care enough about me to send troops to protect me...

    March 2, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  18. av

    Reps are very quick to play politics, WH has to think hard, think twice or thrice and work out strategy for this. Some people in politics are just to make comment whenever they get chance and time.

    March 2, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  19. Misha Kvakin

    "suspend Russia membership in G8 at least for a year". Are you guys kidding? We have a new Hitler trying to claim the entire Eurasia from Polish to Chinese border, and you are going to "suspend" his membership? How about

    In short run:
    – revoking visas to all Russian governmental officials, military officials and legislature. Arrest their real estate in US
    – banning the export of any more or less complex equipment to Russia
    – ban US companies from buying Russian oil
    – ban US insurance companies from insuring and re-insuring Russia or Russian state owned companies
    – ban US banks from crediting Russian companies
    – ban US banks from having correspondent accounts with Russian banks
    – freezing dollar assets of Russian officials, Russia itself, Russian Central Bank

    In long run:
    – offering US shale gas for export and giving more permissions for shale gas
    – starting enforcing WTO standards against Russia, which it currently has to violate due to poor competitiveness of their manufacturers
    – arm Ukraine with modern anti-tank, anti-helicopter, sniper/night vision, technologies
    – starting brain drain campaign to de-mobilize their defence industry by:
    - simplifying immigration for Russian military engineers and defence industry managers
    - simplifying entry to US schools for Russian kids who won regional science contests
    - simplifying work visas for Russian specialists

    March 2, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  20. Rob

    I think there are a number of options we could entertain here instead of sitting back and watching. This is just me as a layperson, but I know there are pressure points we can use in addition to light sanctions. We should also be more pointed in our dialogue with them. The last several times they tried to build an Empire they ended up bankrupting themselves (ie Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union). High level officials should be telling them to learn from the past, follow their own advice and keep their troops out of other countries.

    1. Conduct a joint naval exercise with Turkey in the Black Sea
    2. Reopen the potential to put peacekeepers in Syria, which Russia vehemently opposed, but now would be seen as hypocritical.
    3. Reopen and fast track the missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. Again Russia is strongly opposed to this.
    4. Start the process to fast track approvals in Europe and provide potentially provide subsidies to construct gas pipelines from North Africa and elsewhere to bypass Russian gas in Europe.

    March 2, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  21. Ken Vosecek

    The suspension of Russia from the UN security council should be explored. I suspect it would require a modification of the UN charter. But a serious threat to remove Russia`s influence as permanent member of this body should be part of the discussion.

    March 2, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  22. LittleAztec

    Ever notice that the ones who call for military action are usually the ones who 1)never served in the military (McCain is an exception–but then he was probably drafted) and 2)have no kids in the miltaty

    March 2, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  23. Rusty

    Typical. Do I have a problem with putting sanctions on Russia, nope. But I do have a problem with so -called politicians refusing to agree to any of Obama's sanctions/actions against Syria, but now they are all for doing the same to Russia, which is a totally new level. Only because they think they can use it for the next election cycle, not because they care about Ukraine. Hell, I don't even know if half those idiots even know where Ukraine even IS. I want to see these politicans be the first to strap on flak jackets and grab a rifle to defend the freedoms they claim are so important. Especially after they send OTHER people to do it, and then gut their benefits four years later, because soldiers need to "share the country's sacrifice".

    March 2, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  24. Don

    Putin did the same in Georgia. Bush and Cheney had the chance to be tough and show how Putin should be handled. What did they do? Nothing.

    March 2, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  25. IReason

    REALLY!

    Let's start a nuclear war over a region that has caused more wars than I can count. NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. Tell me, did the Russians threaten us when we invaded a country on one of their borders. The 20th Century is OVER people. America needs to stay home and take care of business here. Putin if a fool, no doubt about it, but if we let him make the rules we have already lost. Time to try some other approaches.

    March 2, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
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