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. Andrea Bonsall

    This country was harmed to the extreme by Bush's decisions. Only such ignoramus are strong and quick to come up with a decision in such matters. Obama looks weak and indecisive because he is intelligent and thinking of the best for his nation. Aggression and bullying may win him votes from the not-so-smart portion of the population but it would further destroy the US economy after the two unjustified wars that Bush started during his administration.

    March 2, 2014 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  2. Ruggie

    Remember Hitler went into Austia who German speaking people and noboby did anything about it. Then Czechoslovica was next and again nobody did anything but talk. Everyone who knows History knows the rest of the story. Putin is acting like Hitler and everyone else is pointing fingers at one another but are unable to come to a solution and show some backbone.

    March 2, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  3. herewegoagain

    graham cracker! lets attack russia now. send the droids! i hope graham runs for president so i can vote for someone offset the 3 trillion dollars for this coming war lets cancel medicare for seniors, stop social security too OFF SET THE COST PER REPUBS, and send all the people from wallstreet to the war. what an idiot, let the people at the top deal with this not you!! keep your mouth shut!

    March 2, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  4. renegade98

    Give it up Graham, you've had your 15 minutes toooooo many times.

    March 2, 2014 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  5. labman57

    Congressional Republicans and conservative pundits are fond of criticizing the Obama Administration's foreign policy for being "too diplomatic" and for not touting America's "exceptionalism" and reminding all other nations of their inherent inferiority on a daily basis.

    Perhaps these pompous, self-righteous politicos don't really know what diplomacy means:
    1 : the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations
    2 : skill in handling affairs without arousing hostility : tact

    Threatening to invade or bomb a sovereign foreign power is NOT diplomacy, despite what these right wing war-mongers believe.
    And calling on the unified efforts of many powerful nations to bring pressure to bear and effect a constructive response from Putin will prove much more potent than all of the fist-pounding and chest-thumping that Republican war-mongers could ever muster.

    March 2, 2014 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  6. Scott

    Graham would have launched world war 3 and killed most of humanity if he had been in charge during the Cuban missile crisis. The same is also true of John McCain.

    Russia is overreacting and we know Putin is a bully.

    One option is to let Russia buy Crimea for several hundred billion dollars from Ukraine.

    March 2, 2014 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  7. Americans for america

    so what those old grumpy senators can do but talk? Would they want to start ww3 by getting young americans into a conflict that have nothing to do with us? Havent young americans spilled enough blood already over iraq n afgra?

    March 2, 2014 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  8. Jack Horner

    South Carolina is an abomination. Eliminating that state from not just the Union – but the face of the earth should be America's first priority.

    March 2, 2014 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  9. Forever Unstained

    The GOP doesn't realize how they are humiliating the country with every frothing syllable that babbles out of their partisan lips. Their response to a crisis is to attack and denigrate OUR president, in a frantic chorus that never stops and never is even capable of shutting up for two minutes. If anyone is making the U.S. look weak, it's them.

    They're like a horrible nagging spouse who somehow managed to get inside their spouse's job interview. "I told you you should have worn that other tie! Don't be so stupid! Speak up for yourself! You're making us look bad! Oh, God, why did I ever marry such a loser! Don't blow this interview like you usually do, you fool! What a jerk! Just be a man/woman for once and get this job! Why are you doing so poorly, huh? Huh?"

    They have no loyalty to this nation whatsoever. They are willing to use every single event to humiliate our president because he happens to be from the other party. In this case, they're trying to humiliate and spit on him in front of the entire world. And they claim to love America and be some kind of hyper-patriots.

    Truly, they disgust me.

    March 2, 2014 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  10. Cecil

    Why do we listen to those clowns Lindsey and McCain? McCain failed to get the presidency twice because he's a half cocked war monger and Lindsey needs to shut his trap and respect the office of the president.

    March 2, 2014 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  11. walkabout

    Yes lets take meaningless actions that won't change the out come. Maybe Russian will refuse to fly us to the space station in return.

    March 2, 2014 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  12. ghostdarlin

    Reblogged this on Jody Provost and commented:
    We have been a joke to the world-while many think b-balling it and going on "The View" and doing celebrity things is a Presidential thing to do, they obviously have been ignoring the White House for Years. Obama is not considered a threat and at the same time those speaking out too much undermine his authority as well. It is a no-win situation. We already have high-cost wars going on that are killing us financially. If you want to make a change like hsi campaign had said, start here at home and feed the people, support the people, and make OUR lives better FIRST! Charity begins at HOME!

    March 2, 2014 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  13. WorkingClassJoe

    Kudos to georgex9. You are spot-on re: Senator Graham's comments. For modern Republicans, all that matters is winning the next election cycle and regaining the White House. If the situation deteriorates in the Ukraine and thousands die in new violence, Graham and his Elephant Party thugs won't care - so long as a democratic president and his party are weakened. Fifty years ago, Grahams foreign policy criticisms would be considered treasonous. Don't get me wrong, Mr. Graham has every right to voice his opinions on foreign policy, but his comments over such a sensitive situation should have been made behind closed doors, not on the Sunday news programs. Last I heard, it was President Obama on the phone with Putin, not Senator Graham. If the situation in Crimea deteriorates because Graham's comments have emboldened Putin the bully, the blood will be, at least in part, on Sen. Graham's hands.

    March 2, 2014 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  14. NIck Broderson

    Remember that just before World War II Hitler invaded the Sudetenland to protect the Germans living there.

    March 2, 2014 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  15. liberalsdontread

    One of the two accusers is a democrat. This is a bipartisan article.

    March 3, 2014 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  16. mdoelling

    Sadly there is little the U.S. can do militarily. However, criticizing and undermining Obama at this moment does nothing more than play into Putin's hands–and makes the U.S. look divided and weak. Is that what the GOP wants? Republicans must join with rest of the nation in supporting our President in condemning Russia for violating it's own treaties with the Ukraine, violating Ukraine's sovereignty and seizing the Crimea which Kruschev gifted to the Ukraine in 1954. My sympathies to the Ukrainian people whose fate hangs in the balance.

    March 3, 2014 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  17. claudiacvargas

    You can always tell when these republican senators are up for re-election, they start running their mouth on matters they do not know anything about. Let our president handles foreign affairs and you can stick your head up your rear. This is the Chief of the Military, show some respect for your leader.

    March 3, 2014 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  18. DuluthMN

    Our enemies don't fear us and our allies don't trust us all courtesy of our elected national leader. But, his followers love him and to them he's a god and can do no wrong. It can all be blamed on someone else, like republicans. Funny thing though about how that day of reckoning stuff works out. OK lefties, time to eat your own cooking.

    March 3, 2014 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  19. dee3

    I thought he was a dictator. which is it?

    March 3, 2014 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  20. Jim

    Why is it alright for America to invade countries on false accusations, destroy the country then leave? If anyone else did what we did to Iraq the whole world would condemn us. It is all about the money and control. We want to control Ukraine and are upset that Russia wants a piece of the Ukraine. The IMF is sending a team to Kiev this week to assess which financial and budgetary reforms should be implemented in the country to be eligible for a loan that Kiev’s self-appointed authorities are desperate for. It seems the self-appointed leaders cannot wait until they are micro managed by the Western bankers. This could really be a problem if the people don't like the belt tightening that will result, and the money that comes into the country will result in the country being bled dry by the West.

    March 3, 2014 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  21. gg

    Evey time the mealy-mouthed America-hating reactionary LIndsey Graham opens his mouth, my eyes roll back in my head. What a jerk.

    March 3, 2014 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  22. sausagelad

    Graham and the rest of the GOP malcontents care more about destroying the Obama Presidency than what is good for the United States or Humanity for that matter. What do they want President Obama to do? Send in troops, bomb Moscow? They are being decidedly unpatriotic.

    March 3, 2014 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  23. sausagelad

    The usual GOP loud mouths care more about destroying the Obama Presidency than they do about what is good for America. Stand behind him during crises like true patriots do.

    March 3, 2014 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  24. bspurloc

    the only people who are weak and indecisive are the gop.
    obama goes right they go left, he goes left they go right. he hops they sit...
    playing the Role Opposite makes u look like a tool...
    but hey let us invade RUSSIA! wooohoooo more Veterans is just what we need after the bush wmd lie fiasco

    March 3, 2014 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  25. Zaga

    Bottom line, the U.S. is up S's creek without a paddle. Too much debt to do anything about Russia or China. Welcome to the beginning of the end. The crooks that run the NGO's are winning the war against us all.

    March 3, 2014 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
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