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. Patricksday

    The GOP are beating the drums for war because its a new distraction now that Gay marriage is off the table. The War Industry stands to bilk the tax payers good. Wall Street willl reward the share holders handsomely while our young people go to die for male egos and greed.

    March 2, 2014 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  2. Gentlemenforu

    Here we go again! When will these representatives from the south stop disrespecting the Commander-In-Chief! Graham has no understandings of the complex situations facing President Obama. I would predict if the Russians would invade SC, Graham would be running back to the cave he came from. I'm sick of these red state, backwoods representatives degrading our President when a international crisis arise. Either support our President or resign traitor!

    March 2, 2014 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  3. JB

    No help for the long-term unemployed but let's talk war. Was is good business. Maybe that can use some of those Raptor F-22 jet fighters that just HAVE to be built.

    March 2, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Lemmings out in full force I see. Obama can do no wrong. Another round of golf ?

    March 2, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  5. Bill Deautrive

    If Obama said the sky was blue Lindsay Graham would insist otherwise.

    March 2, 2014 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    So glad GOP is not in control. We would be at war by now.

    March 2, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  7. Demitria

    Miserable political bottom feeders like Graham have another brief moment in the spotlight.

    March 2, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  8. John Tighe

    Ms. Graham and his other Conservative cohorts have never been right about any foreign policy question, yet the so-called liberal media still looks to them for advice.

    March 2, 2014 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  9. Rafa

    Graham shut up!!! U want w.w.3!!!!! U republicans don't know how to be diplomats!!!!

    March 2, 2014 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  10. Vence

    These are the guys trying to cut spending right?

    March 2, 2014 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  11. Denverdriver

    If this was turned around and the Democrats were trying to interfere in foreign policy under a Republican president, the Republicans would all be screaming "traitors!"

    March 2, 2014 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  12. Binaslice

    Obama doesn't need any help in showing his international diplomatic weakness. Looks like another moving "line in the sand".

    March 2, 2014 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  13. bilk7

    Have you noticed that these idiots like Graham, who are so quick to blame Obama for everything, have no suggestions of their own? Do these anti-Americans realize they are aiding our opposition by tearing down our President and government? I'm beginning to think they do and that is their agenda.

    March 2, 2014 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  14. Bryce

    I like how Lindsey thinks the US has the right to suspend people in G8 or G20 all on our own.

    March 2, 2014 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  15. Just

    Putin has a warship in Cuba, Putin invades ........ The world recognizes that Obama is a weak POTUS.

    March 2, 2014 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  16. Michael Jenkins

    We need to take the republicans out of office all they do is make things worse for the country.

    March 2, 2014 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  17. tim pegg

    Obama _ silly simpleton guy........... really............ did he really think his wants and desires were relative to Putin's actions?............ What a dumb turd...... Putin is rolling on the floor laughing.

    March 2, 2014 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  18. Paul Hogue

    Can you imagine the hailstorm that would occur if Democrats used a potentially world-war starting event that's barely two days in the making as a launching point for attacks on a Republican president? Of course you can. Graham, McCain, and the other supposed leaders of the GOP should try supporting the Commander-in-Chief for a change rather than trying to subvert him. They should be ashamed.

    March 2, 2014 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  19. Dr, Stranggelove

    Checkmate Obama! Your screwed!

    March 2, 2014 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  20. James

    I wish someone could define the correct response. When you look at our wonderful history of dealing with major powers we have always taken our time. When you land ultimatums at major powers such as Russia you better be ready to buckle down. We did not enter either of the two world wars until the killing began, and we had plenty of opportunities. There are no good answers at present and the politicians should be careful because history has a problem of repeating itself.

    March 2, 2014 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  21. Ryanwin

    Sarah Palin was mocked by SNL and liberals for predicting that Putin would make a move on Ukraine. Romney was criticized for suggesting Russia was a serious threat. Now who looks like the fool? Obama, that's who.

    March 2, 2014 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  22. 2tired2care

    Oh hell, let the nukes fly and let the chips fall where they will.

    March 2, 2014 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  23. Jim Campo

    People who are for war, have never experienced it.

    March 2, 2014 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  24. Peter

    Love the BO apologist on this site, they act like his Syrian red line and other actions dont mean anything in the rest of the world.

    March 2, 2014 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  25. Tony

    Mr. Graham, it's called 'spheres of influence'. America's position is weak to begin with. Putting Russia in a desperate corner over this runs the risk of nuclear war as the worst case scenario

    March 2, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
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