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. stanton allaben

    Graham is up for re-election and all this blather on his part is an attempt to appeal to the right wing elements in his home state who want him defeated. This is a selfish move on his part and does nothing positive to address the situation in the Ukraine.

    March 2, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  2. Bismarck

    When the chips are down, you can always count on Republicans like Graham to stab America's President in the back, to make him and the country just a little weaker for his own political benefit.

    March 2, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  3. raj

    It takes more courage to decide to not send our soldiers to war. These idiots will never learn. CNN had trivia today morning on how bush declared success in Iraq war in less than a week. It was not his sons and daughters who paid price for years after that.

    March 2, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  4. yogi

    The righties are blaming Obama, oh yes, we hear you loud and clear, we should intervene militarily like the Bushes have. Republicans lack the capability to negotiate with intelligence or evaluate complex foreign situations, they only think in terms of brute force, they love wars, the more the better, and if thousands die? Oh well that's war.

    March 2, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  5. Bye bye USA

    Graham's completely right of course. If Clinton, Bush or Reagan were in office, Putin would never have the nerve to push forward in the Ukraine. Same for the recent Chinese aggression, the Iranian refusal to dismantle their centrifuges and Assad's continuing Syrian genocide. Obama has no respect among world leaders, and we are now reaping the results of his weak leadership. More to come from North Korea, Iran and Syria, no doubt.

    March 2, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  6. J.Mann

    To all of our congressional members starting with Sen. Graham and ending with those who share his war monger mentality, it is this way of thinking that has killed thousands of our American men and woman. For one, how many of your sons and daughters have, or would you be so freely willing for them to fight these wars you all seem so hell-bent on getting this country into? Secondly, how many of you have risked your own lives fighting in any of our previous wars? Or did you go the deferment route like our infamous past VPOTUS and many of your peers? Shame on you. Our current POTUS, although not perfect, neither were any of his predecessors is attempting to get us out of these wars we were committed to before he was elected, and keep us out of others going forward without losing our respect around the world, and is doing an outstanding job in this regard. He doesn't have a "you are either for us or against us" mentality or has prematurely went on record stating "mission accomplished," or wants to continue picking fights that wind up getting more of our children killed needlessly. This is by far the most reasoned, intelligent president we've had in a long time. You may not like him, but I fought for the right for you (including you congressmen) to voice your dislike and opposition, but if you have a better way of doing the exact thing he's been successful at to date, apply for his job, or be quiet!!!!

    March 2, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  7. Jax Beach Son

    When it comes to Hypocrisy we here in the USA are the Heavyweight Champs! The USA lecturing other about attacking other nations. You have to give us credit for nerve! We are and have been since the Cold War ended been the number one nation in the attacks on sovereign nations by the US Military! No wonder we have no credibility!

    March 2, 2014 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  8. Sue Pearlative

    Definitely we should invade. How dare Russia attempt to keep the region that was historically its cradle, within its orbit. It's altogether unreasonable that the Russians would not want NATO nuclear missles right along their border with Ukraine.

    March 2, 2014 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  9. deee510

    How stupid is this Graham? He is on television calling the president of USA weak and then he tells the world when the president talks he rolls his eyes like a teenage girl. Get over yourself Graham. You are still mad the president made you idiots look horrible with the government shutdown. So you take a international crisis and think this is the time to take cheap shots at our president. You make yourself look childish. This idiots shouldn't be allowed to sell candy bars for girl scouts let alone be a US congressman.smh GOD bless our president to make the right decision as he has done in the past.His haters would rather see America go up in flames then a good out come for President Obama.

    March 2, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  10. Geo Bruno

    Halliburton's coffers are a running low

    March 2, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  11. aao

    Nobody reports full picture . I read Russian , Ukrainian and American news , it is like they all describe completely different event. Russians in their typical xenophobic way trying to equal Kiev uprising to nazis , they refuse to acknowledge that it is Russian troops that are trying to block Crimea . They conveniently(or inconveniently depending on the view ) site the legal precedent of Kosovo, which is very clever peace of propaganda , in my opinion. Ukrainians scream violation of law and constitution, while forgetting that they just did it themselves. US media conveniently forgetting "minor" details , like the first law of the new government was to annul the "language law" that gave Russian language equal status (quebec like) , or the funny fact that newly appointed commander of Ukrainian navy just switched sides. All 3 sources claim huge support of the population for their respective causes .
    It is almost like all these stupid politicians and journalists want to start the war. There are simple steps for all 3 sides , but I guess saving face is more important then potential disaster .

    March 2, 2014 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  12. allenwoll

    The Russians are not the ONLY ones who need to go back to their bases ! ! ! - And SHUT UP ! ! !

    March 2, 2014 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  13. vbobserver

    Once again, introducing the self imploding Republican Party. And to think, I was once a member. Never again. We are American's and Graham needs to shut his un-American pie hole.

    March 2, 2014 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  14. jim

    Hey why don't we suspend Putin's Library card too.

    America has no stomach for getting involved in another far away Civil War. Putin wins this one get over it. Europe is the one who will pay for this in Propane and NG prices. They are screwed

    March 2, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  15. Bill Davis

    Obama is just present, taking a salary and just there to blame some one else...
    My brothers have not been able to find a job in 200 years, and it is your darn fault..

    March 2, 2014 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  16. mm

    Leave Obama alone. Graham, everyone rolls there eyes at you as you walk lightly in your loafers.

    March 2, 2014 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  17. peterz

    GOP did not have capable politicians to handle this kind of crisis.

    March 2, 2014 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  18. Dave

    Wow, the current spin Doctors of this administration are really hard at work defending the incompetence of the current POTUS. Those that think he was elected by a majority better wake up. He was not elected by a majority, he was elected via in a major fraud voting scam. Why do you think the Democrats don't want voter ID with a photo? They are famous for waking up the dead to vote, for voting as many times as time permits. How can Ohio not have one Republican in it? Why were Republican voter observers run off if nothing else but to stuff the ballot box. Why does this president hide his past and all records. How can this President become a multimillionair while starting off as not one, in only 6 years and don't tell me it is book sales. IF he is our President 24 hours a day, then any speaking money he makes on the side should be turned in to the Government, and that goes for Republicans too. The man has no common since!

    March 2, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  19. Joe

    I'm somewhat surprised at all the comments here...we all roll our eyes when Obama threatens other countries. I am an independent voter and all I gotta say is Obama is making this country look like a coward.

    Graham is correct, other countries are looking not just the Iranians, Syrian and North Koreans but Japan, China, Israel and the Europeans. If we do nothing it will embolden aggressive nations as well as increase military spending across the globe as many allies will realize that we won't help them if they are invaded.

    China will increase its influence on Asia and Russia on eastern Europe. We can condemn Putin till we are blue in the face but words mean nothing if action isn't behind I am not advocating for war but we need to do something other Han wag our fingers

    March 2, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  20. eric

    Obama got Bin Ladin. GOP didn't care about him. The fear factor is all the GOP want. Graham is the biggest wana-be that keeps getting elected into office. I feel sorry for the GOP. I bet the GOP wants to invade Canada now.

    March 2, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  21. Capone

    Remember back when Dubya was President and all Republicans demanded that politics must stop at the coast?


    March 2, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  22. Dave

    Is we are indeed still spending billions of bucks in Iraq, Afghanistan and overthrowning Lybia, why hasn't this POTUS done something about in during the last six years! Seems to me the "blame it on Bush" string has long long ago played itself out. What ever is wrong now, has to be the POTUS, or Democratic Congress's fault. The Republicans are a weak whining group now and don't do jack. WE, as voters, need to use the vote to get rid of all the dead heads/wood that have resided in the Senate and House for more than 6 years. It would do us well to start over.
    Putin has Obama's weak kneed number and will walk all over him as he knows Obama will do absolutely nothing worth while to counter the invasion of another country. The UN is worthless as well.

    March 2, 2014 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  23. peterz

    Instead of saying if the president suspending the Russia from G8 ... then they would support the president. They tell the president what he supposed to do. Clearly, violate the separation of three branches. Sadly, it was repeated time to time, politician to politician.

    March 2, 2014 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  24. honestmidwest

    To me it is just sad to see the Republicans consistently complain about everything – never any solutions, but sure seem to complain a lot about most anything/everything that exists. Perhaps putting our country first, over their 'political agenda'....would be novel idea.

    March 2, 2014 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  25. Tom

    Obama is making the US look in-effective and weak.
    On Friday – Obama made statements that he got assurances from Putin
    On Saturday – Putin had Russian parliament give permission to "invade" Ukraine

    Putin lied to the US and the world. Obama is the leader of the US. The free world continues to just talk while Russia takes action speaks volumes to our potential adversaries. And not in good terms.

    March 2, 2014 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
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