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. stan

    "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue.

    "I was able to get a sense of his soul.

    "He's a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue and that's the beginning of a very constructive relationship," George W. Bush

    Where was GOP outrage about "naïve" Presidents when "W" made that comment in 2001?

    March 2, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  2. JStarling

    Yes, President Obama is being "weak"; not at all like President Bush's tough, decisive, and firm response to Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008...which was...umm....write a very sharply worded email to Vladimir Putin.

    March 2, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  3. Motoko Kusanagi

    "I would like to create a democratic noose around Putin's Russia," Graham said.

    Graham should be put on trial for providing aid and comfort to the enemy. Comments like these can be used by Russia to justify actions against its neighbors, in the name of protecting themselves from Western aggressors.

    March 2, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  4. Bob

    The GOP wants war that is there message.

    March 2, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  5. Dk

    The insignificant mouthpieces for the Right. Who cares what Graham and McCain think? We would still be in Iraq and would be looking at a long haul in Afghanistan if they were calling the shots. Despicable.

    March 2, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  6. My Way

    Shut up Lindsey you S Carolina twit

    March 2, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  7. Kumanova

    Guys you should know that U.S and allays were the warranty of 1944 agreement about the protection of Ukraine territorial integrity,

    March 2, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  8. Weasley

    At a time when American needs to show a united front, the GOP are literally tripping over themselves on the way to the microphone to score cheap political points at the President's and America's expense.

    The party who wears patriotism on their shirtsleeves should consider putting America first for a change.

    March 2, 2014 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |

    the fascist has spoken

    March 2, 2014 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  10. FrankinSD

    Why does CNN (or anybody else) keep paying attention to people like McCain and Graham. They've been wrong about every major national security issue in the last two decades.

    March 2, 2014 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  11. Dk

    The mouthpieces for the insignificant Right who would still have us in Iraq and mired for another decade in Afghanistan. Stop the madness GOP. I am grateful for the levelheaded Obama.

    March 2, 2014 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  12. gahh

    This country is tired of wars, and tired of losing our young people to unnecessary wars. Putin knows we're broke, and if we get into another war, we'll have to borrow more money from China.
    Putin is not worried.

    March 2, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  13. budwhite451

    Again with the censorship when CNN knows there is something to hide, In 1998, according to the Congressional daily newspaper The Hill, Graham was describing himself on his website as an Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran. In reality, he never left South Carolina. Graham responded "I have not told anybody I'm a combatant," he said. "I'm not a war hero, and never said I was. I never intended to lie. If I have lied about my military record, I'm not fit to serve in Congress," further noting that he never deployed.

    March 2, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  14. Ulan bat

    Unfortunately, there is hardly any other measure Obama can take except to kick Russia out of G8. If he does that straight away and Putin does not blink, what is next? To ban import of Russian caviar? We are already doing that.

    Both Obama and GOP rhetorics are for our internal consumption. Anybody with at least 2oz of brains should know by now that Crimea is a vital strategic point for Russia. Just look at the map.

    There won't be any wars between US and Russia, unless both us and them are ready to vaporize our children.

    March 2, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  15. Jag

    I hope republicans realize that much of what this man says is simply to insure the votes of the more conservative members of the party. He has no time to think things through, but time only to toss red meat to those starving to hear a new rebuke of the President.

    March 2, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  16. tedpedo

    Bush was strong and decisive, who paid the price?

    March 2, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  17. jerry

    REMEMBER HOW THE COLD WAR ENDED Russia could not afford it any longer,they learned much by that.Now we are the ones that can not pay the price because of our government has spent us into the hole,and to many lazy people found it much easier to take government handouts instead of working to insure our countries success.Wake up people it is every ones problem

    March 2, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  18. Bob, NY

    We need to enforce and reinforce TREASON laws. The president has a pretty full plate right now and these politico, armchair generals are still going to kick him for all they're worth. These crimes are worthy of public beatings, prison terms, and large fines. This is America ....Act like Americans!

    March 2, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  19. Kmkemalyan

    Why does it matter what Graham said? It's not like our enemies don't already know Obama is a paper tiger.

    March 2, 2014 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  20. john857

    I like to read the comments of the communists in the US. It's always a good laugh!

    March 2, 2014 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  21. Ramoe

    Too bad "Lindsey" doesn't have the nads to come out as he does to bash the POTUS.

    March 2, 2014 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  22. Jaws3119

    Obama has all this experience being a community organizer, should be no problem for him to solve this mess, NOT.

    March 2, 2014 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  23. Climb_High

    GWB was "decisive" about WMD's in Iraq, and look what happened. No WMDS, thousands of lives lost, billions of dollars wasted. Fallujah is now terrorist HQ. I'd choose indecision if it meant avoiding that pratfall.

    March 2, 2014 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  24. YeahRight

    There has already been a line drawn. It is called the Ukrainian border. Russia crossed it already.

    March 2, 2014 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  25. HK

    Let us not get grahams and mccains elected again!

    March 2, 2014 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
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