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. Al

    I do agree obama shows weakness of on this isseus. at least he should mobilize navy ship to show we are not going to put up with this nonsense soviet tectics. Move the chess piece as russians show theirs. DOnt be sissy. MOVE THEM NOW!

    March 2, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  2. Democrat

    The EU and some nutty US politicians help created this crisis. How can you force an elected government out of office simply because 20,000 demonstrators (OUT OF 45 MILLION) opposed to some of it's policies? Now here we see that they are not satisfied with the crisis that they have already created. In their feeble minds, the next step is for Obama to start a nuclear war against Russia. Who elected this idiot?

    March 2, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  3. Vusi

    Graham couldn't punch his way out of a paper bag and he us giving lectures on weakness and indecisiveness? Interesting.

    March 2, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  4. J. Gordon

    While bemoaning Obama's weakness, they conspire to make him weaker. If America were under nuclear attack, the first thing Lindsay would do is call a press conference to get the GOP spin on the event first. Dastardly back stabbing cowards.

    March 2, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  5. Evan

    Whoever says we should be sending troops to Ukraine right now should go themselves. Please leave the country and fight an endless war by yourself. We don't need you and you have no brain for America.

    March 2, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  6. SFC Mike

    I miss the cold war too.

    Personally, I smell political theater, with Obama able to say to Putin, "look, my junkyard dogs are smelling raw meat"

    The problem with economic threats like kicking Russia out of the G8 or G20 is once you've done it, you have no more power – and Russia may simply decide to go all in at that point.

    Putin is the proverbial bull in a china shop – once he hears a big crash behind him, he'll stop to look around, then figure out what aisle he'll go down next.

    March 2, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  7. leeroy

    Somebody tell this graham to shut up...

    March 2, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the repub/tea bag majority

    "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.

    And every time, Miss Lindsay, you or another repub/tea bag goes on television and does everything you can to undercut our President, I wish you'd all go to Florida, have someone see you as an imminent threat and act accordingly.

    I am so TIRED of the crap coming from the right. November 4, 2014 can't get here soon enough for a majority of Americans to VOTE YOU ALL OUT OF OFFICE.

    March 2, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  9. Jim B

    Obama has deeply weakened the influence of the USA around the world. Why did he support the Western leading rebels that toppled the duly elected President in the Ukraine? That was his BIG mistake and opened the door for Putin to act. Obama is only rhetoric. When he threatened Putiin with " costs ", what did he expected? Mr. Obama – the whole world is laughing.

    March 2, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. Syd Chaden

    As our leaders love to say, we are for Peace. Peace through diplomacy, not through military strength. And so, we are reducing our military and avoiding confrontations. When the Russians moved their warships into the Syrian waters, the US warships withdrew. The US exercised diplomacy, and Russia now controls those waters. The US exercised its diplomacy in Egypt, and Egypt now is negotiating Russian arms and Russian military bases in Egypt. And, the US has withdrawn from Iraq, which has become a satellite of Iran, and is withdrawing from Afghanistan, leaving it to the Taliban. And so, clearly, our policy is to withdraw, avoid confrontation, and rely upon diplomacy. After years and years of failed US diplomacy, when the Reagan-led USA confronted the USSR, the USSR collapsed. It could not match US military strength. All of the "shame, shames" of the UN and the Western World had been fruitless, but superior military strength enabled the US to win a war without even having had to fight it. Putin's reincarnation of the USSR is on the march, and Obama is showing us how to lose a war without even having had to fight it.

    March 2, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  11. Greg

    President Obama, who voted for, is putting us all at risk.. Community organizations skills don't work when dealing with mother Russia!

    March 2, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  12. jaylee0289

    How is this any different that us invading Iraq to protect our own interests? We had absolutely no reason to invade Iraq. Yet our administration did it anyway. Unfortunately the day we invaded Iraq, we lost all credibility and no longer have the same effect on the world we previously had. Our threats are empty but it is not our current administrations fault. The damage was already done.

    March 2, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  13. Eric J. Beck

    Hey, Graham, shut it. First of all, they invaded Saturday. It's now Sunday. Forgive this President for not immediately firing up the ICBM's and launching. And, you're just playing politics. Presidents have gone on TV for decades in similar situations to voice the American position to friend and foe alike. And OF COURSE, you know that right now in the background, there is a MASSIVE amount of activity to assess, analyze, prepare, etc. So, would you traitors STOP working with the enemy?!? We may be heading into a military confrontation with Russia. If you can't support the American President, move to Moscow and go fight for the Ruskies.

    March 2, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  14. american

    This worried repuplican dont want war at all. I just want it safe for me and my children and there children. That said, I think Obama is doing right not jumping in there til more facts are available. I am just worried that no one will take him serious. I dont. A country that is as strong as the united states or was, should be able to achieve things without war everytime. unless no one (not narrow minded americans but world leaders) takes this comannder of chief serious.

    March 2, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  15. Eric J. Beck

    First of all, they invaded Saturday. It's now Sunday. Forgive this President for not immediately firing up the ICBM's and launching. And, you're just playing politics. Presidents have gone on TV for decades in similar situations to voice the American position to friend and foe alike. And of course, you know that right now in the background, there is a massive amount of activity to assess, analyze, prepare, etc. So, stop working with the enemy by working against the Administration. We may be heading into a military confrontation with Russia. If you can't support the American President, move to Moscow and go fight for the Russians.

    March 2, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  16. Steve

    And now we know why Russia was hostile to admitting Ukraine and Georgia into NATO in 2008.

    We should have never acquiesced.

    March 2, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  17. Steve

    Let's blame Bush now:

    President Bush strongly supported Ukraine and Georgia becoming NATO action plan members; however, he was opposed by the United Kingdom, France and Germany. The British judgment is that, although there was full support for both Ukraine and Georgia, the question of when they joined should remain in the balance. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France are of the same mind.

    March 2, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  18. Guest

    His statements have been pitiful.

    March 2, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  19. littlepeaks

    Hear that Obama skipped the national security briefing yesterday. He must be really concerned about what's going on in the Ukraine.

    March 2, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  20. sly

    I honestly think it is time to start shooting these TeaKlan traitors. Just line em' up and execute them.

    As an American, I think we need to eliminate our enemies, and Lindsay Graham is the enemy of Americans.

    March 2, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  21. Fr33d0mhawk

    So, apparently Graham wants Obama to press the Jesus Pager, more commonly known as "the button" and start global nuclear war. Any conventional war with Russia will end up in nuclear war, and anyone with more than half a brain, obviously excluding Graham, knows that.

    March 2, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  22. B.

    Right… Like taking out Bin Laden ? Graham will say anything in-front of the camera.

    March 2, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  23. amazed2

    I wish all republicans would just shut up or disappear. Nothing but talk, talk, talk. They do nothing for anyone but themselves and just wait for those verbal pounce opportunities that comes with loosing elections. What should we do Lindsay, no fly zone up to Russia's border? Sure thing that will work. Send in our military to fight on Russia;s doorstep? That's a real logistic beauty. Keep piping tough sir, the far right nuts in your party want you out of office anyway.

    March 2, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  24. GOP shrill

    Doesn't matter what the President does, republicans are quick to criticize. No matter what he does. E

    March 2, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  25. Moocow

    Russia is doing what every nation is expected to do. Protect its interests. Ukraine is THE MOST IMPORTANT breakoff nation from the old USSR because of it's geographic location and supports the flow of oil through underground pipelines that run under the Ukraine. The loss of control of the Ukraine will cripple the Russian oil supply line and its economy.

    This is the same reason why the US has invaded many middle eastern countries like Afghanistan (to get a military foothold in the area), then to Iraq where the oilfields are.

    For Russia, controlling the Ukraine government is MORE IMPORTANT than a ban from the G8, or any political sanction. If Russia loses the Ukraine, the situation would become PERMANENT and IRREVERSIBLE. Russia would have to find a new conduit for its oil which could take over 10 years to construct. On the other hand, people have a short-term memory for things like sanctions and bans. These can be repaired and forgotten over time. The loss of the Ukraine support cannot be repaired. So the Russians have no choice to do this to protect their national interests.

    March 2, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
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