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)

    People, it is Ukraine, a traditional and historic piece of the USSR, Russia views it as their own. It needs to be cleaned up as Chernobyl is in the Ukraine. No prize there.

    March 2, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |

    Graham by his words alone is aiding and abetting the enemy. Emboldening them to act provocatively against the US.

    March 2, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  3. yolanda

    @GaryOwen, yes, you do need to get it right. Perhaps watching the interview on CNN w/ Durbin and Graham would help you get it right, but that doesn't seem to be what you're interested in. No one suggested US military involvement, but that doesn't seem to register w/ the partisan postings here. Keep hating.

    March 2, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  4. rs

    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
    Really? WWIII over the Ukraine? That's rich. The GOP broke the bank (and the military with 2 ten-year, unfunded wars. Digest that. Then, try to explain why a slightly better than 3rd world nation, sitting on the Russian border with a 50% Russian population is remotely in our sphere of interest.

    March 2, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  5. ru serious

    The world suffers when America is weak.

    March 2, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  6. rs

    Why do Republicans hate America so much?
    Because their plutocrat handlers tell them to.

    March 2, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  7. Glenn NM

    @smc – Republicans don't hate America, they hate Obama and will do anything to obstruct, undermine and embarrass him, even if it means hurting this country. They've proved that over the past 5 years and will continue to do so until January 20, 2017.

    March 2, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  8. The REAL TRUTH...

    @Raphael – We should be sending troops into Ukraine right now.
    Sure we should.. have you signed up, are you signed up? If not, feel free to board a plane and join the freedom fighters over there.. you can fumble your own situation.. sheesh, ignorance and alternate realities is just too good for you folks.

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

    Gee, Republicans would do anything to hurt political opponent, even if it means harming their own country – proven again and again – first with the gov't shutdown last year, and now actively undermining President's authority. These people as disgusting as they come. And Graham is really a hypocritical drama queen – anyone who watched him over the last decade can tell the guy is after cheap publicity. I have much more respect for McCain, even though I disagree with him on many things.

    March 2, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  10. Ummmm

    (Reuters) – The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest, a study released on Thursday said.
    I thought the Republicans wanted to stop spending so much money.......... and yet.

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

    This from the party that vote against veterans?

    March 2, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  12. Michael

    Graham has no idea of what he is talking about. Push back? What does that mean? Put American boots on the ground? Putin won't be pushed back, he will only be restrained by the economic damage he brings on Russia. Putin wishes to protect Crimea, which at the end of the day has always been a Russian independent autonomous region. Maybe Lindsay was running late for his mani-pedi, and did not have time to think through his comments carefully. Once again, the GOP puts forth one of its most ridiculous spokespersons to inflame, rather than explain, a policy issue.

    March 2, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  13. Leroy

    Looking forward to kicking Mr. Graham out of office this coming November....

    March 2, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  14. rdw

    In July 2008 Graham had no criticism whatsoever of Bush's administration taking virtually the same steps when Putin launched his invasion of Georgia. No US troops confronted the Russians then either, and the talk was of sanctions, isolation, etc. Russian troops remain today on former Georgian soil. Realistic options are limited- we won't send troops because, first we haven't been asked, and second because it would be stupid. Only an idiot would advocate such a course. All US politicians used to support their President during times of international crisis when consistent messages were important. Today's Republicans care more about damaging a Democratic President than they do supporting their country. Graham is a traitor and should be reviled as such. He's also stupid, to boot.

    March 2, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  15. Jon

    Hi Graham,
    Let's go ahead and put our nose into this too. After all, it's people like me that are going to go there to be shot at and killed while you sit at home, drink your tea, and tweet about your dissatisfaction about every political move that is wrong no matter what.

    March 2, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  16. longtooth

    How many of the pro-war, pro blazing six-gun right wing zealots on this board could find Ukraine on a map? Shut up and let our president deal with this latest crisis in his own time. If Obama were republican, Graham would be wrapping himself and the president in a flag, telling nay-sayers that they were committing treason.

    March 2, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  17. Brandon

    Republicans have divided this country.

    March 2, 2014 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  18. npofahl

    This is not the time for political grandstanding. Why just once can't the GOP stop using anything and everything as a dividing factor? Why just once can't they stand behind our duly elected President and offer thoughtful and useful ideas instead of the same old political crap they have been spewing all along. I used to be a Republican, Until 2001.

    March 2, 2014 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  19. jenncoolva

    Mr. Graham needs to show some respect instead of bashing the President for taking the proper course in assessing the situation. True to his party he voted AGAINST helping veterans on Thursday (myself am one) showing who truly is in charge of Mr. Graham and his republican ILK! BeverlyNC NAILED it in her commentary. Bravo!

    March 2, 2014 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  20. mikeinthevine

    So we're going to start WW3 just to show Putin how tough we are? We're going to start WW3 because we want to interject ourselves into what amounts to a civil war? Amazing how quickly republicans are willing to send someone else's sons and daughters to fight and die, and they will die by the tens of thousands. This isn't the Iraqi army we're talking about.

    March 2, 2014 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  21. Steve

    Why not try threating Putin if he doesn't stop you'll just cut the US Military forces even lower???

    March 2, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  22. navaJohn

    You got a lot of nerve calling Obama weak and indecisive. Americans are sick and tired of wars, ESPECIALLY after your hero, Bush got us into Iraq. If you want to go to war so badly, stand in front of your kids and grand kids on television declaring they will help fight it. No? Thought so. Just another loud mouthed insulting GOP "leader". Disgusting.

    March 2, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  23. OT

    I am sick and tired of these republican war mongers coming down on President Obama because he prefers to look before he leaps. These republicans are old hat; if they want to fight so badly they should be the first on the battle field. We do not own the world and other countries are not our children and we cannot tell them what to do. By calling our leader weak does not help anyone solve this problem in someone else’s back yard, in times like this we are suppose to come together. Love your patriotism graham.

    March 2, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  24. Ron

    Obama to Putin: Can't we make money in peace?... May I ask why?

    March 2, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  25. Dre

    Doesn't matter what Prez O says or does. The regurgitans who play the loud mouthed shark attack game in politics are the same hot-mess-makers who get exposed for their major character flaws. I couldn't care any less about the polls or even those fells and damsels who can't stand you, Prez O – the Chaka Khan song says it best for me: "...through the fire, through whatever, come what may..." I support you sir. It's been an amazing journey, even with the challenges of a few missteps and over-exaggeration coupled with the tired, rancid, racist antics of the jealous few. It's a new day in this country of ours and each one who desires to enjoy the best of American life need do nothing more than work for it and dismiss the shenanigans of the crabs.

    March 2, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
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