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. Grahame Rhodes

    Those GOP loonies would have us into WW 111 in a split second and then claim it wasn't their fault

    March 2, 2014 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  2. noway jose

    I've been despondent and disillusioned with our elected officials until Obama came into the picture. I don't vote left or right, I vote common sense and practicality. I have to admit that Obama makes me want to vote left across the board as the republicans are grasping at every straw trying to usurp the President at all costs.
    Ideology over practicality seems like bad medicine. Get a grip righties, you lost this time around. Now the game is over and backing the President during international crises is standard protocol. Get in the game!

    March 2, 2014 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  3. capt obvious

    Putin taking a page out of Hitlers book–hitler invaded Poland to protect German speaking people that were "attacked" in that country, sounds familiar. Now it makes a ton of sense why there are spy and warships in Cuba to keep us in check. Sanctions with the EU and UK leaders is the way to go–going after them alone again would be ignoring history and our own stupidity from Bush's cowboy ways, we're gonna git them evildoers yeehaaa!!!

    March 2, 2014 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  4. clarence leblanc

    Ask Bin Laden how indicisive he is. If the GOP had sat on the fence a little longer in Iraq we would have 4500 dead Americans still alive, 2 trillion more dollars in treasury and safer to boot.

    March 2, 2014 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  5. TheTruth

    As a person who lives in a free country I admire a president who has the view of making the world a world for the people. Sorry Lindsey, just move to Canada, I think they might like you there.

    March 2, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  6. Joseph Brown

    Just what the international community needs: a US Congressman undermining a sitting president during a crisis.

    March 2, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  7. Uh-Clem

    Yes, bellicose and belligerent is so much better.

    March 2, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  8. bruce

    Graham is nothing but a traitor. Turning on our country and helping our enemies when we are attacked.

    March 2, 2014 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  9. bruce

    Graham is trading out our country for a few political points. The Repubs have so much hate, they'd rather side with Putin.

    March 2, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  10. Fooey

    Hypocrites... support democracies when suitably convenient!

    March 2, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  11. Larry L

    Republicans are only good at second-guessing, obstructing progress, and playing Monday-morning quarterback. For over five years Graham has automatically assumed the opposite position as the President – but never actually offers any real solutions himself. He is the poster child of a useless politician and the folks in South Carolina should be ashamed of sending him to Congress. He is exactly what's wrong with Congress.

    March 2, 2014 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  12. tychi

    At a time when world tension and conflict are possible you do not call your President weak. You stand behind him and support and advise. Congress is pathetic.

    March 2, 2014 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  13. Lindsay

    Why is Lindsey Graham so slack-jawed?

    March 2, 2014 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  14. Chris

    It's funny that this man says Putin is on the "wrong side of the law" and OBAMA should do something. Hilarious when you realize that it's like "the pot calling the kettle black". Obama IS the wrong side of the law!

    March 2, 2014 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  15. keith

    Graham's just worried about getting re-elected. CYA . What a loser.

    March 2, 2014 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  16. John Pickett

    One Naval Task force & a six pack of Harpoons
    Problem solved!

    March 2, 2014 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  17. MikaelM95

    Graham calling Obama "weak and indecisive". That's like the pot calling the kettle black. Senator Graham is a HUGE joke.

    March 2, 2014 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  18. TC

    Just remember Graham, we don't need to stick our military nose in this. This country has had its belly full of wars from both Repubes and Dums – use sanctions and leave the military out.

    March 2, 2014 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  19. MJW

    Lindsey Graham makes me sick. For someone who was a lawyer and has been in Congress fir so long he speaks like a "little girl." The President and the rest of the western world are doing their best to resolve this issue, but left to ignorant comments coming from the "penny section" it is so much harder to get things done. I remember it was the former Republican President GWB who said he looked in Putin's eyes and see his soul. Putin is a short man like Graham and is trying desperately to be bigger than he really is. Putin is the least respected as any leader except the N. Korean boy, he is trying to be recognized since he is losing grip on Iran and possible Syria and he is trying to start something to get some respect. Graham should know that instead of attacking the President. All these Republicans are so negative, it just brings this country down. Stand with the President for once, you know who Putin is...former KGB.

    March 2, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  20. G_Edwards

    "Graham: Obama 'weak, indecisive'"

    What a coincidence! Pres Putin was saying the exact same thing.


    March 2, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  21. Jack

    I see the left wing Blatherers are up – isn't it past their bedtime?

    March 2, 2014 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  22. Mary1972

    Yes, yeh. We know what you are going to say before you open your mouth.

    March 2, 2014 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  23. woodie

    This is proof that the GOP cannot be relied upon in a crisis. They just want to backstab their President and embarrass the American people.

    March 2, 2014 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  24. imma

    Putin is doing all this because he knows the GOP in America will never side with President Obama and as such neutralize America to all talks only. but imagine if the GOP will side with President Obama and the president says we will deter Russia- Russia will not venture into this crazy voyage they are on.

    March 2, 2014 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  25. Bill

    Obama has no credibility whatsoever. In the eyes of the world Obama is clueless on foreign policy. His empty threats to Syria where just that....empty. The only thing he cares about is social re-engineering to the detriment of the U.S.

    March 2, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
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