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. Lindsey

    I hope those idiot republican't children are in the Army on the front lines! Why do they always want to go to war an butt their heads in other countries business??? That's why these countries hate the US! Not because they are "rolling" their eyes at Obama, it's because we send 50000 troops to "defend" someone else's priorities! Maybe McCain and Lindsey have oil rights in Ukraine?

    March 2, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    It's immaterial what Obama does, republicans will continue to undermine him and play politics. Republicans are traitors to this country.

    March 2, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  3. ammoaj

    Remember, these are the guys who still want us in Iraq, who are clueless about Iran's military capabilities and will not let the sanctions work, then stonewalled against us using military force against Syria (though I think Graham might have been the few Republicans who were for airstrikes, along with Boehner and McCain.) Instead of jumping to conclusions, let's just sit back for a few and see how this plays out. I personally do not care how Putin feels about us. He is on the other side of the world. Let's not lose our minds over this and let the President do his job.

    March 2, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  4. jake

    graham needs to keep his mouth shut......

    March 2, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  5. Prophet

    Give me until after the elections, I'll have more flexibility. - O bama 2012

    March 2, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  6. DEC

    I always knew Lindsey was a cowboy. He does need to check his saddle though, he's facing the wrong way on his horse.

    March 2, 2014 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  7. rs

    The no-win scenario isn't what is happening in the Ukraine- it's dealing with Republicans. Do too much, and you're a dictator, violating the Constitution needing to be impeached. Do too little, why then you're leading from behind and indecisive. Naturally, they hope no one notices that they don't have a clue what to do.
    Frankly instead of declaring war on Russia, I'd much rather Obama declare war on the GOP- at least we get rid of the domestic anti-American terrorists.

    March 2, 2014 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  8. Dan

    the only solution, unfortunately, is a 2 state solution. The more you make Putin angry the more dangerous it gets and people might loose their lives. The Russians feel very very strongly about large parts of the Ukraine since this is one of the most important birthplaces of Russian culture. Just imagine: We grant California independency. Next thing we know is that the Chinese are trying to bring California under their political umbrella. I do not know how comfortable we will feel…..
    Why is that so difficult to understand for our dear politicians? Hence it is now very important to negotiate a two state solution and have new elections. Putin will agree to that and we avoid a civil war.
    The people who say that we should send troops there are out of their mind! Putin just turns the gas of and Europe will freeze to death. I am sure these knuckle head politicians will again come up with the worst possible solution causing ten thousands to die. Sad….

    March 2, 2014 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  9. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    I LOOK FORWARD TO VOTING the GOP OUT in 2014 AND 2016!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 2, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  10. Anthony

    Reading what all you left wing lunatics are posting is hilarious. Nobody is calling for a war, but we as the worlds leader need to be out there protecting Ukraine through immediate diplomatic action. Obama can pout, complain, and threaten all he wants. He is a joke. At least Bush, with all his flaws, stood up for what was right. For the idiot who wants Graham arrested, those are Gestapo tactics; arresting someone for disagreeing with you. Take your sorry, disgusting, socialist politics and go to North Korea and do us all a favor and speak against their leader. Let's see how you like being arrested for having a different opinion. The left is destroying America, and right now is on the verge of helping destroy Ukraine as well.

    March 2, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  11. Diana

    Look where cowboy diplomacy got us before, Lindsay Graham! Maybe people using their heads instead of flexing their muscles look "weak" to you. It's a wonder any venue gives these moröns a platform to speak.

    March 2, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  12. Simplefaith

    We are so fortunate to have a president that thinks of us and don't care what other nations think. President Obama does not want us to sacrifice our troops yet again. He is seeking diplomatic ways of assisting in Ukraine. Why do Republicans feel every time revolt is happening in the world, the US has to get involved. Our resources are depleted and our men and women are put to death and injury. Look at China, they mind their own business are becoming more powerful everyday. Putin thinks he is a tough guy but we know his Russia is economically suffering. He doesn't care about his people, just like the Republicans in Congress.

    March 2, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  13. Vue

    Love to see all the big mouths Republican send their son & daughter to the war now instead run their big mouth around

    March 2, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  14. Fish

    Now this takes guts to be this arrogant to call the President weak and indecisive when that was the goal of your worthless party!!! Being a southern boy, 40 years ago it would have been much harsher language, but now he finds it necessary to state the obvious!!! This guy makes me sick when our nation is dying because of his putrid politics he has the audacity to make a stupid statement like he does, it's like a kid saying so's your old man!!!

    March 2, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  15. Anthony

    In case any of you left wingers have noticed, your own base is turning against your president. Come November, the Senate will be back in Conservative hands.

    March 2, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  16. deee510

    I'm so tired of these idiots republicans looking for any opportunity to make president Obama look bad.instead they should be doing their job and do what's best for our country.a lot of these congressmen are too childish to run a lemonade stand.

    March 2, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  17. Jon

    Mnwild, China can't "call in our debt", They bought bonds that have a ten year life on them and they have to wait until the bonds mature to get their money back. Actually know what is going on before you comment on something.

    March 2, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  18. mcp123

    "Reading what all you left wing lunatics are posting is hilarious. Nobody is calling for a war"

    Yeah the republican method worked real well in Iraq and Afghanistan... and we are still there. Yes the republicans are calling for an escalation that's pretty obvious. We don't need armchair quarterbacks like Lindsey Graham claiming they know how to handle the situation. They don't...

    March 2, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  19. rs

    The next war the Republicans want, the U.S. should only send the sons and daughters of members of that party. The nation is weary of the GOP's war-lust. I like it that our President is evaluating and examining possibilities instead of starting another foolish chicken hawk war.

    March 2, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  20. USForALL

    So we think that only American have the right to invade any country, and kill thousand of people, if we just feel like it, and of course without waiting for the UN approval, , but if someone else tried to do the same, we suddenly become human right advocates.
    hypocrisy at its best 🙁

    March 2, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  21. georgex9

    Graham and McCain are warmongers who prefer military action over diplomacy. Imagine what wars we would be in if McCain/Palin were in charge. Someone please tell McCain that he lost the election and we are better off because of his losing.

    March 2, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  22. billleesbrain

    A politician never misses an opportunity to pander to his or her voters. Country be damned.

    March 2, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  23. Anthony Devianza

    Graham obviously failed history in high school. Crimea is Russia's historically and now it looks like Russia is going to take it back, and the majority of Crimea want to go back to the old ways. If Russia was invading Sweden and the vast amount of the population Sweden were pissed, I'd say the US should get involved. But getting involved in this Crimea/Ukraine matter when the vast majority want to side with Russia and not the other side, it would pure stupidity.

    Ron Paul is the person who should be interviewed right now, his input would be interesting since he was always against the US playing the world police game, so I'm curious to see if he still feels the same. It's a shame his views on abortion and women's rights were so backwards, his nationalism ideals aren't that bad. His son on the other hand tries to hard to be his dad but he doesn't have half of his fathers intelligence, it's like comparing George Bush to his father, the father was far wiser and actually lead the country on his own, his son needed Cheney to babysit more often thannot.

    March 2, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  24. Get Real

    Graham is a blithering idiot. President Obama is 100 times stronger than George W. Bush ever was. And 1000 times smarter.

    March 2, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  25. rs

    Agreed!! Stop threatening!! Obama is an embarrassment!! Hit 'em where it hurts – economically. Remember when Obama asked Romney in 2012 what the biggest threat to the US was and Romney said Russia. Obama and every other Democrat laughed. Once again, Obama was wrong!!
    Do explain why Russia is such a threat. Feel free to elaborate. Meanwhile the GOP won't lift a finger to help here at home. For extra credit- explain why the GOP has any credibility at all- on anything.

    March 2, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
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