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. skeptic1

    Lindsey, a true chicken hawk, is “weak and indecisive” on most matters except bashing a Dem president. No. 1, stop going on television and trying to threaten presidents – it is not your strong suit. Every time the Lindsey goes on national television and threatens the president or someone in his administration, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine.

    Lindsey, listen to and abide by your very own drivel.

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

    During international crises, senators and congressmen should defer to the duly elected President and let the Executive Branch confront and deal with the crisis in a timely manner. It is totally counter productive and insulting to the concept of democracy that folks like Sen. Graham and Sen. McCain (and others) should get behind the President and support his efforts. Anything less demonstrates weakness and internal conflict that is music to our enemies' ears. It is shamefull that the GOP feels the necessity to disrespect the President at every opportunity, but mouthing off like Sen. Graham does is just another example of why the GOP is making itself totally irrelevant when it comes to the practice of democracy. I hope to see much less of the GOP after each new election. Good riddence!

    March 2, 2014 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  3. Dar

    Well Lindsey Graham, I mean girlfriend . You wouldn't have a Clue what to do so Please Please Shut Up

    March 2, 2014 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  4. DC Johnny

    You liberals are quite funny with your comments that demonstrate how little you've read of the actual article.

    Every other comment cites Graham's blind hatred and opportunistic trashing of Obama "with no constructive ideas". In his first quote, he recommends action that would soundly punish Russia on the world's stage.

    And color me absolutely shocked that Durbin wants to just pass a resolution, and fully supports Obama's weak approach to standing firm. So shocking. Durbin supports Obama. For a change.

    March 2, 2014 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  5. Shane Merrill

    I always find it funny when men named Lindsey criticize other men for being weak. What a joke?! Then again, Senator Graham should be an expert on weakness and impotence.

    March 2, 2014 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  6. Dave

    Let's see here, When Hitler invaded Poland it was for German protection of Germans, then the next country fell and the world let him alone when it could have stopped him. Back then the nation had pride, the citizens stood united, our political leaders worked to make the USA better and to protect it. When war was declared, boys became men and went to war to support our ideals and freedom. Today, I highly suspect that our weak kneed liberal right wing public would ever actually get their hands dirty supporting other than their own small words. If we were attacked or war was declared, there would be a major increase in chickens in our nation.

    March 2, 2014 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  7. Marie MD

    Ms Lindsay go have some mint tea with your good friend McCain and let the real big boys who are not that much into guns and killing our soldiers so they can then take away their veteran rights do what needs to be done in a diplomatic way.
    It's not always about you and your teaklans because it's this right now is not just our President but the UN and NATO too.

    March 2, 2014 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  8. jimmy

    Lindsey Graham is so lame its sad. He's never had an original thought ever, even if someone else wrote it, oh thats right, they did. Shameful politics.

    March 2, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  9. Randy Buist

    Lindsey Graham: SHUT your mouth and get behind your President.

    March 2, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  10. Leslie Deutsch

    Graham is a traitor. Calling our president weak in a crisis is giving comfort to the enemy!

    March 2, 2014 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  11. Sue

    You can guarantee that the other crazies in the world--such as those in Syria, Iran, and North Korea-–are watching closely to see what our "leader" (sarcasm) does regarding the Russia/Ukraine situation.

    March 2, 2014 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  12. Dave

    "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."

    Witness war in the making by those who think nothing of shoving a rifle in our son's and daughter's arms and sending them off to die, merely to score political points.

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

    Lindsey cares about nothing but pulling the TP radicals into his orbit.

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

    He knows how to handle things , he's raising two girls,that makes him an expert

    March 2, 2014 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  15. Ancient Texan

    Putin got Obama's number long ago and knows that he has nothing to fear from America as long as Obama is the president. No one respects or fears the wimpy community organizer and laughs at the 'red lines'.

    March 2, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  16. pete samual

    take care of OUR people at home, sorry but screw all these other countries, damn I wish it was 1960 again, well good luck, and may the force be with you because sooooo many of you are clueless

    March 2, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  17. Mike

    Right!!!! Remember this statement the left and folks mocked her for:...Sarah Palin said in 2008

    "After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama's reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia's Putin to invade Ukraine next."
    Ah, not so dumb after all.

    March 2, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  18. Mort

    The GOP isn't happy unless they are going to war. Ukraine has been Russian overseen for decades, so why will US go to war with Russia? It would be like Russia going to war with US, if US troops went to Mexico. GOP wants war with Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, and any other country they don't like. Death clowns...

    March 2, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  19. CR

    Whose team is Lindsey Graham on? Shameful behavior from a Senator who should know better.

    March 2, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  20. independant jim

    Graham is an IDIOT he has never made a correct foreign policy decision except in hindsight ..his only solution to anything regarding foreign policy is bomb first figure it out later

    March 2, 2014 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  21. oliver

    I love these headlines. As though if we had a good conservative president like McCain or Romney, the missiles would already have been launched and we'd be in the middle of WWIII (thank jesus!). The sad truth is, there is nothing the USA can really do, nor should we do. This is a European problem and Europe is going to have to solve it. Sure, we can stand by our more western allies, support them morally, even financially to some degree, but that's about it. Any sort of sanctions are making Russia pay only pennies on the dollar, and in truth would probably hurt our own economy just as much should Russia follow suit.

    There president looks weak and ineffective to you? Big surprise. You've only been saying that for six years. Sometimes strength comes from restraint. Is a return to the cold war what we really want?

    March 2, 2014 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  22. ericynok

    The more Graham talks the more stupid and superficial he sounds. I understand that for him it is only politics but shouldn't he once raise above it and say something that does not sound like BS? Come on McCain, help your idiotic twin.

    March 2, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  23. Chuk

    Graham is playing to his constituents at home again. When politicians do that they speak as if they've been Presidents in the past and know the responsibilities that come with the office.
    In fact, whether it's Graham or McCain, they don't know squat! If the President should do what they are suggesting and it blows up, they will find a way wiggle out of any responsibilities. It's too easy to fan the flames of war – more difficult to carry it out. There are just too many know-it-alls who think any time the US encounters any problem in the world they just have to act like the big bad guys and put boots on the ground right away. Just get into perpetual wars everywhere. Good luck with that.

    March 2, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  24. Mark Kilgore

    The world watched Obama bumble and stumble his way along after Syria used nerve gas on its own people, small children and women dead in the streets and he had to go to Mr Putin to help him wiggle his way out of the corner he had painted himself into. Why would anyone think for a single minute Obama could handle Putin in this situation. I have never heard of a hungry wolf being afraid of a lamb. Baaa ~ Baaa~ Baaa~ Mr President

    March 2, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  25. scott

    Graham is a traitor. The last thing anyone needs coming from the peanut gallery at the moment is more name calling from the right wing.

    March 2, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
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