March 2nd, 2014
11:26 AM ET
9 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.

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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. jimstaro


    And the so called GOPers are chimin in! {rovian revisionist history, propaganda, Really doesn't work}

    Putin, who has been becoming a darling of many of those so called conservative right within our borders, is doing exactly what they did, including the rubber stamping {congressional tepubs} by the Russian parliament, that's what they do and always have and the type of government the GOP wants here! Invading, all costs for not covered, preemptive strikes {where the cheney and bushco got that from}, nothing for those sent into, you name it, it's what republicans do, decades now and wars of, and did when in total control under the bushco, even using private merc army and probably off the books so the Russian people don't know the monetary costs of!!

    Defining hypocrisy under that (R): IOKIYAR {not just politics and any policy but religious ideology as well!!}

    "12 years also is a long time. We now have a lifetime responsibility to a generation of service members, veterans and their families." Dr. Jonathan Woodson 11 Sep. 2013: 'With 9/11 Came Lifetime Responsibility' {two tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, came with these two recent unpaid for wars, still not paid for, and the results of!}

    USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71

    March 2, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. dave

    Republicans can't be trusted on foreign policy. They want to spend/borrow trillions for war, and then pull the old "starve the beast", wanting to cut all the social programs that they don't like wne the bills come due. Even when we are at war they give huge tax breaks to the rich, cliaming it creates jobs but no jobs are created from it, all the people get from that is huge debt. The 1st thing that should be asked when they get all gung ho about war is, "Where's the money coming from, the trillions that will be needed, and do they want more tax breaks for the rich, while troops are dying, and being maimed on the battle field"? After the war is over, there will be maimed troops begging for money on the TV, while republicans are hording the money they got from all the tax breaks they got while we were at war. They will even vote against giving help to veterans wounded in the wars. Everything republicans say about war should be questioned, they have no credibility.

    March 2, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  3. PhillyGuy

    For those of you saying that Obama should send troops into the Ukraine, my question to you is: Is your son or daughter first in line? Because it's real easy to play Arm Chair Quarterback with a XBOX/PlayStation game, while others are really putting their flesh & blood on the line forever!

    It really makes no difference what Pres. Obama does. Those that don't like him still won't like him after he makes a decision. He'll never be looked at as doing anything right in your eyes regardless. So who cares what you think, and criticize him about. You can at least support your president. That's what you all said during the times of 9/11 in the USA. How quickly do we forget when the shoe is on the other foot.

    March 2, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  4. craniator

    Excellent ; a bad 2013 for the anointed one has quickly become an even worse 2014. The worse it is for the WH , the better it is for America , and the less damage he can inflict on the nation. This will be a win-win for everyone in this country other than Dems and journalists.

    March 2, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  5. Steven Pentecost

    Can anyone imagine a U.S. Senator of the pre WW lI era speaking to a national audience in such a derogatory manner about the POTUS at such a serious time? Is he only interested in scoring political points? Lil Lindsey being lil Lindsey. It is all about him.

    March 2, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  6. Escher7

    Many intelligent comments today. The Right must be loading up on Tacos and beer to watch the Academy Awards. When the time comes, after assessing the situation, the President will act. A nuclear world is no place to play cowboy.

    March 2, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  7. Robert N. constant

    Graham once again shows himself to be a political hack who is more interested in scoring cheap political shots than in the well being of his nation. Undoubtedly he has stored lovingly away the white sheets and Confederate flags of his ancestors. Here is one shining example of why the Republican old white man's "Southern Strategy" will insure the eclipse of the republican party.

    March 2, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  8. AzLiberal

    Russia is NOT some third rate little nothing country. Make no mistake about it... Russia is NOT Afghanistan.. Crema has been part of Russia for centuries and was title over to Ukraine during the USSR days. The people there are Russians and have been treated as second rate citizens under the Western powers that pull the strings in Kiev. The EU and the US have been shoving tons of cash into the country causing all sorts of problems on purpose. Sen Graham and McCain would love nothing more than to start WWIII sending our troops once again into harms way only this time against a true super power... Why... who knows why. Having traveled in the Ukraine I can testify there is NOTHING in that country worth one American solider dying for as there. This is a Russia issue about Russian people dealing with a former USSR state... We should just for ONCE mind our own business. We are NOT the worlds police force, our military has been taxed but silly and unnecessary wars from W and this same crowd. We should be boycotting Sen Graham...

    March 2, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. El Gato

    One of the things I like about Obama, and there aren't that many, is that he does not rush in to war. That is a great relief from the idiot years of W. Although Graham and other chickenhawk blowhards would love to get tough with other people's lives, most Americans don't want more wars, we want to live in peace and work out our own problems, which are sufficient to say the least. America as the world's policeman is a dangerous and outdated notion, America the partner of other great nations works better, I believe. Defend ourselves, certainly, help others when we can, but war with Russia? Are you insane, Graham?

    March 2, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  10. Josh

    Conservatives see blowhards and chickens hawks as strong and careful deliberation as weak. I feel bad for these guys. They are the ones that are weak in intellect.

    March 2, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  11. Gerry Daley

    What does Senator Graham propose? That we get into a war with Russia? That would probably be what the village idiot George Bush would do, even though he gazed into Vladimir Putin's eyes and saw his soul. More Republican idiocy.

    March 2, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  12. Teapot dome and their tea bags

    Lindsay Graham could renounce his US citizenship and GO run the Ukrainian Navy.

    Ukraine voted for Yanukovych, and this what they get. Treason, violence, manipulation, and foolishness.

    The US is still dealing with the aftermath of Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes. Welcome to the real world.
    The US is still dealing with the Dulles disasters and their meddling of the '50.
    Ah! The US chicken hawks want to get the US into another war!

    Can you expect the Russians and the Chinese to do the correct thing?
    Or the Syrians, Iranians, or North Koreans?
    Welcome to the real world.

    Who cares? The world is 6000 years old, the second coming is next week. Every American knows history, science and facts are boring; and nothing important happens outside the US of A.

    March 2, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    HRC says " What does it matter!"

    March 2, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  14. Trombonebiker

    Graham is an opportunist. We are not going to jump into a shooting war with Russia. Not going to happen. So just go back under your rock, AH.

    March 2, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  15. Buffalo

    This guy is so pathetic but what else would you expect from South Carolina. Its embarrassing to live here with so many fools who blindly follow Rush,Fox News. Lindsey Graham is back home looting campaign dollars before he scoots to Washington for another term. Do any of you know a "Looter and Scooter' in your home state like we do in South Carolina?

    March 2, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  16. Michael in DC

    Was Lindsay with W peering into Putin's "good heart"? Because I don't recall Lindsay calling W weak then. Oh, yeah! W called out Iran and North Korea as an axis of evil, did nothing about them, and then, with Lindsay's blessing, lied and invaded Iraq which led to four thousand American patriot soldiers dying. In a word, Lindsay, you're an idiot.

    March 2, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  17. biglio

    So Graham says Obama is indecisive while he would have done what exactly? given that we don't know really what is the situation on the ground yet.
    He would've sent troop in already? started a war with Russia? We had enough of cowboys running the country and we know where that leads (WMD anyone?). Much better a President that thinks things through before acting irrationally and gets the US into what could be possibly a huge mess, we are talking about a conflict in Europe where Russia is involved for Christ sake Graham, this is not South Carolina anymore........

    March 2, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  18. Peter Smith

    Hahaha you Donkeys are joke and clueless like Nobama. I betcha it's Bush's fault.

    March 2, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  19. Jane

    Ok all you Lindsay fans-line up at the local draft board-pronto!

    March 2, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  20. Kyle

    Rapheal – The US is rightfully cautious about arming rebels because the last few times haven't worked out so well.

    Muhajideen in Afghanistan –> Became All Qaeda
    Saddam with Iran –> Remained Saddam

    That's from the old Carter/Reagan playbook. Not necessarily a wise option when those weapons (stingers) get turned on us.

    March 2, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  21. carol

    Shame on Graham and the GOP members that aren't supporting the commander and chief. Their lack of support for anything this president does is dangerous, unpatriotic and borders on treason. Putin knows these nuts will not back the president no matter what he does so he can push the issue. Also, where these guys when Russian went into Georgia under Bush?

    March 2, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |

    Poor Sen. Graham, no one told him elections have consequences eh?

    March 2, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  23. Bagocheese

    Weakness starts wars.....graham is challenging the joke to get a spine,

    March 2, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  24. Marvel

    Graham and his party have killed any idea of patriotism during the Obama administration. They have done so much to tear down morale with no legislation to help the plight of the US middle class. Their meeting during Obama's first inauguration where it was decided they would block any effort made by this president to assure the history books will say he failed has meant they have blocked foreign policy efforts made also. Their anti-government, anti-Obama activities has assured our economy will not improve for years to come. There are no soldiers to fight a war against Russia. It will be difficult to raise an army from poor emaciated uneducated gerry mandered uninsured decimated impoverished US citizen. And yes, you did this. Obama has done what he could to improve middle class condition; and the republicans have doubled down on their suffering. Surely, we are unprepared to fight Russia. With the likes of Graham, Cruz, Oconnell, Cantor and Ryan, our nation has never been weaker; and prayerfully we will never be this weak again.

    March 2, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  25. musician

    When Lindsey Graham gets elected President of the US, Commander in Chief, then, and only then, does he get to call the shots. In the meantime, he should stay out of the way. It's treasonous at this time to be publicly lecturing the President during these extremely sensitive times. And why does the GOP always want to jump immediately into a war? The country is very definitely not supportive of such a knee jerk response.

    March 2, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
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