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. budwhite451

    Graham has supported an interventionist foreign policy. On November 6, 2010, at the Halifax International Security Forum, he called for a pre-emptive military strike to "neuter" the Iranian regime.

    March 2, 2014 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  2. budwhite451

    In 2013 Graham said that he shared the blame for the impending defense cuts due to sequestration.

    March 2, 2014 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  3. Patrick

    I trust your judgement Lindsey ... Clearly this is all Obama's fault has could have complete control over the Russian "lawmakers" if only he'd invade a few more countries to show everyone America's strong. That forceful president you had with you in 03 did so well eh? Idiot.

    March 2, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  4. bluenotekid

    When Bush was President, Democrat voters blamed him for everything, while Obama has been President, Republican voters blame him for everything. Do us all a favor and stop looking at things through only the eyes of a Democrat or Republican, and start coming together as Americans. You people are going to make the quiet majority come alive if you continue to run my country into the ground with your divisive politics.

    March 2, 2014 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  5. budwhite451

    Graham has signed Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge. However, in June 2012 he went on record supporting the closure of tax loopholes without compensating decreases in other tax revenue, saying "We're so far in debt, that if you don't give up some ideological ground, the country sinks

    March 2, 2014 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  6. Bob, NY

    Who's afraid of a little ol nuclear game of chicken? Most of us will get to meet the creator! And we have the nerve to call the terrorists the extremists?

    March 2, 2014 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  7. KC Yankee

    The smart thing to do would be to lob a nucular warhead over the Kremlin and show them we mean bidness.

    March 2, 2014 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  8. gman11

    Typical loudmath southern republican,all talk and hardly anything to show,shut up Graham your an embarrassmrnt to the nation

    March 2, 2014 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  9. mercfan

    Can you imagine what would have happened if one of the Republicans said something like this during the Cuban missile crisis? If you want to counsel the President using an alternative strategy at least do it in person, don't hash this out in the media. THAT's what sends mixed messages to other countries like the Iranians.

    March 2, 2014 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  10. NoMoreRetoric

    Graham is a disgrace and the Republican Party is blinded by anger and greed, to realize it.

    March 2, 2014 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  11. David

    Weak and indecisive? Remind me fool what George W. Bush did when Russia invaded and fought with Georgia? Nothing. He did nothing what so ever. We sent some humanitarian aid to Georgia, eventually, after hand winging, and finger wagging. So SHUT UP. You just hate Obama because he's on the other side, and never said a word about Bush being week when North Korea got nuclear weapons under his watch and Russia invaded Georgia. He just started a war with a country we already defeated (Iraq) which had not particular military left. Pathetic.

    March 2, 2014 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  12. Morerightwingblather

    Hilarious. Graham sounds like he thinks the president of the United States can unilaterally suspend Russia from the G8 and G20. Maybe one of his aides can fill him in on how it really works.

    March 2, 2014 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  13. menisino

    This isn't Utopia but not a single bullet has to be fired. It's about absolute total unity on part of the E.U.; NATO; U.S. ; & the entire free world to put an absolute total lockdown on Putin & his Russia. From economic, political, cultural avenues, every possible sanction available. But it`s certain E.U. countries that rely on Russian gas &oils that seem to lack the real conviction to do the right thing. We did quit well without Russia in the USSR, so why not nowÉ Putin & his Russia lie, lie lie, delay, delay, delay .Now lets see a total lasting unified effort by all for a change to teach the world that Putin`s aggression does not work in todays world or into the future.

    March 2, 2014 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  14. Patrick Loeffler

    If war is not the President's first choice, then Graham and McCain spout "Indecisive." Go away and let men handle these situations.

    March 2, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  15. Bret

    Did all of you people badmouthing Graham notice that Durbin (a Democrat, btw) agreed with a fair amount of what he said? Also, if you think that it makes the U.S. look weak when Congress and the President don't stand united, then please apologize now for every time Democrats made any negative comments when Bush was the President. You can't have it both ways. The U.S. Congress has a long history of publicly disagreeing with the President, going all the way back to the War of 1812. So don't act like this is a new, GOP only, pattern of behavior. Read a little bit about history, acknowledge that this is how our political parties have always behaved, and get over it.

    Also, take time to acknowledge that Graham didn't suggest that we should invade or send troops. All he suggested was a slightly milder stance. Or would you prefer that our Congress just rubber stamps every Presidential policy? The Russian Duma does just that, but I for one am glad that we have a system with checks and balances where the parties openly disagree. And everyone on here bashing the GOP was very thankful for that back in 2000-2008.

    March 2, 2014 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  16. M

    typical GOP. If it was a republican president then hypocritical Graham will say he is being tough and trying peace. If its a Democratic president then Grahm or the GOP will say "the president is being weak and indecisive." Typical GOP hypocrisy.

    March 2, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  17. Dandy

    Graham is a total Nitwit. Why would CNN even listen to that turkey?

    March 2, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  18. Bismarck

    What a scream, Graham and the Replicans are lecturing us on foreign policy. Last time we listened we landed in Iraq and Afghanistan...of course with others to do their fighting. Republicans are chicken hawks.

    March 2, 2014 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  19. Pete Schatz

    It doesn't matter what risk they put this country in. Anything the Republicans can do to put pressure on this President they are happy to do. Graham, McCain, et al are not patriots. How about backing the President and let's see how things develop?

    March 2, 2014 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  20. Gurgyl

    This SC thug is so nasty idiot, vicious. Fire him first for America sake, god bless!!!!!!

    March 2, 2014 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  21. Daniel

    Republican are just irresponsible politicians looking to make a few extra votes in each occasion no matter how risky the situation. Europe can be close to a war and these idiots only think about getting votes. Shame on them.

    March 2, 2014 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  22. Gordon Jones

    Graham – you are disgusting. Using a serious international incident to play politics. Shameful. Next thing we know you will suggest sending Ted Nugent over their to solve this incredibly complex issue.
    American public is not stupid – they know your motivations – another bullet in the foot by the Republican "loyal opposition". Will be helpful in upcoming election – which will return Democats to the majority in the House and expand Democratic majority in the Senate.

    March 2, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  23. Bill

    Like Billy Graham's buddy W would have done any different. For one thing, W's wars in the Middle East stretched our military and our budget thin, and Putin knows it. Regardless of who was president, we would have very limited options in our response. Putin (and the rest of the world) knows this, and the irony of the right-wingers proclamation that W kept us safe is that the Afghan and Iraq wars left us vulnerable to the rest of the world.

    March 2, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  24. Al

    Yeah… more warnings to a nuclear superpower… Good idea

    March 2, 2014 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  25. Noel

    "In the old days Congress let the president handle touchy international affairs but now Graham and McCain open their mouths at every opportunity. This undermines the authority and reputation of the president and complicates risky situations. But the Republicans think they have to take the opposite side of every issue that the president says something about. This is not good for the U.S."

    Well, if Obama (and yes, I voted for him, THE FIRST TERM, as a middle of the road individual, who votes on the person, not the party) actually did ANYTHING he said he was going to do, ever, then maybe others wouldn't need to step in. Democrats, reading through these posts as an impartial observer, you're coming off whiney and are very quick to "blame the evil republicans", when, although a touch more softly, Durbin was pushing for the same thing Graham was. Isn't it a bit hypocritical to only point the finger at one of them and just pretend there weren't two people in this story?

    Personally, I'm ashamed I voted for this man, if only once, it was once too many. He lies coming and going, and that's actually a literal observation. By that, I mean, he told us oh so many things he'd accomplish as president, and then has done next to none of it (coming), then,when something out of his control does happen, he lies about it instead of being straight with us. (going). I'm not naive, I know all politicians, including presidents lie to us, but whether it's because he's just really bad at it, picks the wrong things to attempt to lie about, lies more often increasing the odds of being caught, or whether it's just a sign of the times we live in where privacy isn't what it used to be.....even for the President of the United States, regardless of the reason(s) he's been caught so many times, the fact is he got caught. Now, no one has faith (both here at home and abroad) that what he says is the truth, good, bad, or indifferent. So if no other members of the senate stepped up and took a leadership role, this thing could easily escalate way beyond where it normally would have, simply because Putin thinks whatever Obama says, he won't do (and he might be right).

    So in the name of humanitarianism, and putting an end to this thing as soon as possible, there really is no other choice than to get other politicians, and other countries involved, because our presidents words and threats hold no water with anyone anymore. Just the way it is.

    March 2, 2014 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
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