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. David007

    Passivism invites aggression. It’s a historical fact. Mr. Obama may be the POTUS but he’s impotent and over-matched outside our borders. Russia and Iran LOVE Mr. Obama and his “can’t we all just get along” approach to world politics. But in trying to play the role of a newer, more likeable American leader, all he is doing is putting more lives at risk. During his term, Russia is expanding again, invading a former friend with whom they had a peace treaty. Russia played Obama for a fool in Syria. Iran has easily deceived and outsmarted him. Our enemies only regret is that Obama will not be getting a 3rd term. Mr. Obama is a likeable fellow, and seems good at speech-making. But he’s clearly only good at being a domestic president and actually, history will likely view him unfavorably in that regard. Each of you benefit when people like Sen. Graham question or challenge your President. Who else will? You? It’s something you might not want to hear, but the best way to protect American lives is for our enemies to know that we have a leader who isn’t the least bit afraid to let our powerful military dog off it’s leash. No one wants war and no one want to waste any American life in some foreign land. But you’re going to lose them anyway when Russia, Iran and a carefully-observing China one day expand into a country you DO care about. It’s better to lose some of our bravest now than to lose a lot of them later. If you want to know what Russia, North Korea and Iran fear, I can tell you; an American president ready and very willing to use our military. It’s not my ideal world either, but it’s the one we live in, whether you like it or not.

    March 3, 2014 04:19 am at 4:19 am |
  2. Arthur Obrzut

    One thing is tragically clear for Poland and other neighbors of Russia. If You believed in signatures of the big powers leaders – forget it! Budapest treaty from 1994, signed by Russia, USA and Great Britain offered territory integrity and security in exchange for the nuclear weapons. What now? The part of Ukrainian territory is occupied by one of the signatories. Nothing happens except for the diplomatic language. Lesson for Poland? Remember 1939 and after. They will sell us immediately, NATO member or not. Produce our own nuclear weapons and keep it as a safety guarrantee. We can do it, that is no problem. We have the technology and resources to have nuclear potential in a matter of months. We should do it.
    Mr Obama – shame! Mr Cameron – shame! Where are strong people like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan ?

    March 3, 2014 04:33 am at 4:33 am |
  3. Bob Ramos

    Graham is pretty stupid. In the last few days, Obama has sought and received the counsel and advice of Congressional leadership both Democratic and Republican even McCain. Graham ignores that if we know what Obama has in play and pending plans, the bad guys will too. In the old days, prominent politicians of both parties would have rallied behind the President. Now partisan politics govern.

    March 3, 2014 04:53 am at 4:53 am |
  4. Robert Gertz

    Senator Graham, you are a disgrace. At a time of major international crisis, with the threat of a major, even nuclear war looming you choose to play cheap party politics. The GOP once had statesmen with a sense of patriotism who put aside such foolish differences in times of crisis to support the President and act in the national interest. Sadly we now are faced with you, a man willing to put his political career ahead of the national interest and make foolish, bellicose statements at a time when we should be carefully considering our responses and options and the President should have your and other Senators' support for the good of the country. I was disgusted by your playing politics with lives over gun control and I am shocked as well as ashamed at your behavior now. It's a sad thing to have men like you in the Senate at this time.

    March 3, 2014 05:16 am at 5:16 am |
  5. telekenisis

    So it's ok for the US to invade whatever country it chooses? Talk about hypocrisy!

    March 3, 2014 05:17 am at 5:17 am |
  6. Alexander Graham

    The U.S. would have done the exact same thing. In the past three decades how many countries has the U.S. invaded in the name of peace and security? Hypocrites! Thieves never like other thieves!

    March 3, 2014 05:20 am at 5:20 am |
  7. dejavu65

    So if the President decided the start WW3 with Russia I am sure Graham and the GOP would criticize that times a thousand. ..they are the most negative whiney party in the history of politics!

    March 3, 2014 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
  8. Lizzie

    Lone wolf, you got it wrong, did not the President say RUSSIA is our friend not foe.

    March 3, 2014 05:36 am at 5:36 am |
  9. Lizzie

    Jeremy Hargens, women have always been told by MEN to take care of their problems when it comes to reproduction, MEN apparently are innocent bystanders.

    March 3, 2014 05:39 am at 5:39 am |
  10. joel hudlow

    Republicans predicted putin trying to rebuild the soviet union.Had we used our natural resources we could bring down the price of gas and natural gas and countries like iran and russia wouldnt have the money for expansion.Obama and like minded people were around when hitler got his start.Hitler went into austria on the same premice the russians are using today.We need to make this country into an economic super power and have a strong military.Doesnt mean we have to use it.We built the panama canal carter gave it back.Reagan brought the wall down and obamas letting them rebuild it.1% of the us is in the military.Israel every able bodied man serves 3 years women 2.They want to preserve their freedom.Obamas selling ours

    March 3, 2014 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  11. Tony

    Graham, stop non sense.. Russia is more wealthier than USA today. G7 needs Russia .. Your new world order is collapsing that your brother Bush sought to implement.

    Why are bankers controlling the Ukrain government? Is it IMF war?

    March 3, 2014 06:01 am at 6:01 am |
  12. sam

    Very sad, these war mongers are going to be the death of us. This graham is just a Zionist mouthpiece. How donation are they giving him to send our boys to die for these Zionist bankers you think?

    March 3, 2014 06:10 am at 6:10 am |
  13. sam

    I am for ones agree that we are not doing a thing, we have no business there to start with and Russians have done nothing. To us. Crimea is their land and they have the right to take it. I would never intervene to support a neo Nazi fascist thugs group that take over a sovereign country and a democratically government.

    March 3, 2014 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  14. RG

    Graham you are an utter fool. McCain...I use to like you a bit. Key words.....use to. I've lived thru 12 Presidents, never have I seen the drivel & drool emanate thru Congress like I have in recent administrations.

    March 3, 2014 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  15. Rob

    Funny. The story CLEARLY stated there was a Republican AND a Democrat in the interview. BOTH with the same suggestion. And yet these blind Obama worshipers can only see the Republican. No wonder Obama owns these people. As for Obama's weakness. He has displayed them since taking office. His treats about a red line in Syria showed him for a big mouth. There is little he can do with Russia, they have nukes too, but his useless threats and past history of being a blow hard has already made Obama and us, a laughing stock of the world. This is all due to Obama's incompetence

    March 3, 2014 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  16. kim

    Lindsey graham, another RWNJ blowing hot air

    March 3, 2014 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  17. Rose

    To many chiefs and no enough Indians, everyone was to run the show and no one there to listen.

    March 3, 2014 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  18. Mark

    The only people on this planet that have attacked the president relentlessly since the day he has been in office has been the ultra right wing nut jobs. Not even North Korea or Iran have shown our president the kind of disrespect coming out of the tea party ilk and their lackeys. They always say democrats did the same to Bush... well the WORLD despised Bush and his credibility was about 10% of what Obama's is right now in the world stage. You can't invade a country based on lies and falsified information and expect to be held to the same measuring stick as a leader like Obama.

    March 3, 2014 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  19. Senay

    If Lindsey and his blustering idiot friends had their way, we would be involved in every uprising in the world, from Libya to Egypt to Venezuela to Ukraine...Where does it end?

    March 3, 2014 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  20. Dave1157

    It's one thing for ordinary citizens to post their opinion on a news blog. But when one of the top elected lawmakers in the nation goes on an internationally broadcast news show and tells the world our president is weak and indecisive, that is inexcusable. This is somebody who may someday decide he wants to be president and will certainly ask for our vote and the support of other elected officials. Lindsey Graham has proven himself unworthy of any level of professional respect. His comments did nothing to change the situation in Ukraine. All he did was make the US look weak.

    The whole world knows that even if Obama decided to take action against Russia (or any other country), he would never have the support of Congress. And I'm not sure what makes Graham think the president has unilateral authority to suspend Russia's G8 or G20 membership, but I'm pretty certain that takes a majority vote of the other members.

    Graham has proven himself no more patriotic or intelligent than Rush Limbaugh or Ted Cruz. Time for the people of SC to take care of the problem and put somebody in there who knows how to talk to the president without doing it in front of the entire world.

    March 3, 2014 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  21. just wondering

    Stupid people... In positions of Authority... Vote out every Republican there is... These people have been selling out the American People for the last 35 years and its just getting worse

    March 3, 2014 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  22. AB

    Dear Lindsey Graham:
    No. 1, drop the jingoism. It's 2014, not 1914 – let alone 1874, which judging by your social policies you'd rather it be.
    How about this: wait and see if it the conflict escalates, because the last time I checked, the Russians have been there to keep the peace, albeit in a fairly aggressive manner, and no one has died. If anyone does die, it will be because of the West's move.
    But if massive civil unrest took place in a country south of us, we'd be doing the same thing. As a matter of fact we have done the same thing. If you stroll to your readily available Library of Congress, you're sure to find documents regarding our 1983 invasion of Grenada where people actually were killed. Face it: we're condemning the Russians for the exact same thing we've done in the past in places such as Grenada.
    Yes, yes, I acknowledge that Grenada was during the Cold War, but the root cause of that conflict was East v. West. And the conflict in Ukraine? No different. The Russians are trying to assert their power over the former USSR; meanwhile, the EU seeks Ukraine. And thus, the two powers have come into conflict.
    However, the US does not have any right to join this debate. We didn't have much of a right in the first place due to the sheer distance, and any right we did have has been forefeited by past actions.
    Even if we had a right, the results would be no different. The worst that could happen to the Russians is a slap on the wrist. They wouldn't be intervening in Crimea if they couldn't get away with it. Putin, a power politics mastermind and modern day Bismarck analogue, presumably has this all planned out.

    March 3, 2014 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  23. James

    I'm an Obama voter, and I'm tired of the pandering to the wimps on the extreme left. Granted, he promised to "bring the troops home", which is what guys like Putin count on. George Bush should have NEVER been allowed to invade Iraq (Afghanistan was a different story), but we were already there, and should not have left. Ask a veteran from the last 10 years how they feel about the Taliban flag over Fallujah. Georgia, Syria, Crimea: Putin needs to be stopped. Please tell me that as an American that my choices are more than a President with no brains (Bush) or a President with no balls.

    March 3, 2014 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  24. AmericansRights

    Besides being weak and indecisive, obama is a liar and one of the biggest racists to ever hold office.

    March 3, 2014 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  25. Julian

    Graham just wants to hand out more tax money to his defencse contractor buddies.

    March 3, 2014 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
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