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."

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Filed under: Dick Durbin • Lindsey Graham • Russia • TV-State of the Union • Ukraine • Vladimir Putin
soundoff (689 Responses)
  1. Tim

    Mr. Graham, exactly what are you proposing? For all of your bluster do you actually think Putin cares if he is in the G8 or G20? He is a thug, and has shown that color for the last 10 years. You can only try to manage a thug unless you are willing to punch him in the nose. Since you can't handle the management approach why don't you just call for all out war? It is irresponsible comments from arrogant snipes like your who often end up on the losing side. Iran is watching? You had better show a unified house, and btw they agreed to suspend their unclear programs due to negotiation by the very administration you claim to be ineffective. Get your talking points straight, study your history and please try to think before you speak.

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

    Add incompetent.

    March 2, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  3. steven harnack

    70 years ago the Ukrainians were so brutal and committed such atrocities on Jews and Russians that they made the Germans look like Girl Scouts. Learn a little history before you judge how the Russians might feel about a Ukraine that has worked up a frenzy about Russians. If America had endured 1/10th of what the Russians had gone through in the last hundred years they would think before they start rattling the sabers. I would hope so anyway. Americans seem to have no knowledge of history and no desire to learn anything from it.

    March 2, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  4. Terry

    smc, look to the dems for your accusation.

    March 2, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  5. mnwild169

    We should immediately discharge from the G8 and G20. What alot of democrats , who are following this Pres blindly, don't understand is that the largest supplier of gas and oil tto Europe comes from the Ukraine. Russia and China, in about 48 hours could bring down the overextended American economy. Russia stops the flow of oil and natural gas from the Ukraine and black sea, and China calls in our debt. At that time the USA has only one choice. War. Putin has been thinking 10 moves ahead of this administration and Syria, Iran, and The Ukraine are examples of that. This mess is just the beginning folks, it will get much worse if we do not mobilize NATO and at least posture up as though we have some balls

    March 2, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  6. Former Marine

    President Obama is a joke, and the whole world is laughing at him. All talk no action, He does not deserve to be called President.

    March 2, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |

    I agree with Republicans, but let their sons and daughters go first into battle then ours will too but not before. That will happen, not!

    March 2, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  8. Maxim Shkunov

    Are you kidding us? Get a real reporter to Crimea, Kharkov, Donetsk and all other cities and let him to take an interview! Let him ask real people( hundred thousands of people) what do they want or need. People are begging for help agains so called new Ukrainian government ! They pray Moscow to help! They pray defense against people from maidan who come with a weapon! Clear you mind and remember the way USA intervented into Cosovo, the way you "helped" without asking! Your politics make me laugh! How can they judge sitting on the other side of a planet having no idea about real things going on there! Shame on you, people!

    March 2, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Yeah lets go to war! Alright now there is a mandatory draft with NO exemptions for anything, so every able body man/woman up to age 35 is going to serve. Now let see how that changes everyone's perspective, not so easy to decide when you know your son/daughter is going to the front line is it!!!

    March 2, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. Richard Miller

    Pretty easy Mr. Chickenhawk to send in the troops and then vote to not take care of them after they return.

    March 2, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  11. Mary

    Shut up Ms. Lindsay Graham !!! What do you repukes want President Obama to do? Do you want him to bomb innocent women and children like your dear repub leader Dubya did in Irak and Afghanistan?? You useless repuke war mongers are ready to start a war even based on lies and kill innocent people just to let so called American companies like Halliburton and Fluor make money and get richer at the expense on innocent's lives. For you idiots the most important thing in this world is MONEY. You corrupt war mongers have destroyed America's credibility worldwide with your wars based on lies, hypocrisy and greed !!!

    March 2, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  12. craigorie

    He's not indecisive....he's simply non-confrontational. If the war mongers had their way we'd be in five wars right now. If we were attacked, believe me, I pity the attacker as he wouldn't stand for it for one second.

    March 2, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  13. Humphrey

    Critics like Graham are the "non-doers" of the world. Either do something to help or shut your trap Graham. Last thing America needs is to meddle in Ukranian/Russian relations. Obama's taking the sensible approach by taking a stand and seeing what happens before getting over-involved.

    March 2, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  14. Kris L

    1) Obama threatened military force in Syria. Republicans lambasted him for potentially going around Congress.

    2) Obama threatens Russia with minor things like G-8 memberships. Republicans lambast him for not doing anything, conveniently forgetting they lambasted him about going around Congress, and conveniently ignoring he made the threats they desired.

    March 2, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  15. CaliforniaAC

    The GOP never saw a war it didn't like, but thank God they don't have a cowboy in the white house to do their bidding.

    March 2, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  16. Glenn Synigal

    I wonder how many GOP sons and daughters are in the Military? Good Job Mr. President diplomacy will work it out.
    Do not get us in another useless war like George Bush. Remember weapons of mass destruction? That was the laughing stock and someone should have gone to jail. I still remember those who lost their lives and those who are missing limbs. Its safe to say they were not GOP kids.

    March 2, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  17. mnwild169

    The G20 and G8 should immediately renounce Russia and Nato should begin mobilizing, at a minimum. What most Dems must not recognize is that the Ukraine is the largest export route of nathural gas and oil to Europe. The Black sea port on the Crimean peninsula is the short cut to the middle east for the Russian Navy. Putin has been thinking 10 steps ahead of our current administation. Russia cuts the flow of oil and gas to Europe while China calls in Americas debt. Our economy fails making 2008 look like a speed bump. Nato, should at a minimum, be mobilizing as a show of force. Russia's economy is in a far better place that the US economy, and they are in a far better place than Kerry and Obama give them credit for. Man up Obama, or go hide in a corner. Your choice

    March 2, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  18. realist

    We should all band together with Obama and do nothing, and blame the invasion on a small protest against how muslims are portrayed in some film, just like Benghazi. Obama lets all sort of illegal aliens into the US, what's the difference with Russia doing the same in Ukraine.

    March 2, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    What would President Graham do? What is Graham 'push back'?

    March 2, 2014 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  20. Marlene

    I wonder if Graham's young relatives are ready to suit up.

    March 2, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  21. Buggs

    Enough with lines in the sand! Stop making statements that only back us into a corner. Kerry's statement about all options on the table is dangerous. Also, the whole world knows that NOT all options are on the table. It is stupid and dangerous to say such things. There is not way we would ever us force against Russia unless they were stupid enough to attack up. Opening his mouth Kerry has given Russia a perceived threat to play with now.

    Stop posturing, simply put them on the "unfriendly" list, put the NATO defenses back in place, stop all types of aid and boycott all their commerce.

    March 2, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  22. edpeters101

    OK Graham. Grab your gun and I'll be right behind you: Not because I think what you are saying has any merit at all; but rather that I think you are a sniveling coward, and want something at your back to insure you follow through!

    March 2, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  23. Dave

    Republicans need to just shut up. People like Graham are undermining the U.S. position. The stakes are too high for shutdown politics.

    March 2, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  24. Kevin

    I like having a President that takes time to examine the situation thoughtfully and not have a knee jerk reaction because some do-nothing republicans demand it. Honestly, I think all these guys that open their traps at the first sign of a potential opening to bash Obama are all suffering from Newt Gingrich disease; pouting and throwing a tantrum because they can't sit at the front of the plane where the adults are sitting. McCain, Graham have no idea what is being discussed in the White House and what options are being explored. They are just mindless talking heads. And for my money, traitors to America.

    March 2, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  25. TruthInAtl

    This senator is a perfect example of the loser Republican mindset. I look forward to voting in 2016.

    March 2, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
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