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. John Tater

    Putin has made a shameful, scorned, sordid kleptocracy out of a nation that could be great again. The Russian people have obligations here too, to set things right.

    March 3, 2014 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  2. ditdahdit

    Typical of Repubs, anything that doesn't put money in the bank accounts of their billionaire patrons is 'un-American'. The scrabble for Koch media money has them yappiing like the tiny dogs of war they are.

    March 3, 2014 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  3. Dan

    Obama IS weak and indecisive, but he is generally that way. Well, unless it is him giving a speech

    It is unfortunate that freedom must die because good men did nothing

    March 3, 2014 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  4. snowdogg

    "there needs to be more than threats coming from the White House,"

    Yeah, that ALWAYS works.

    March 3, 2014 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  5. Chris Asking Question

    "Durbin: U.S. needs to ‘draw a line’" Why do liberals insist on drawing lines? It didn't work in Syria. Why should it work in Ukraine?

    March 3, 2014 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  6. Jim Beam

    "Graham, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee......called President Barack Obama “weak and indecisive” on matters of foreign policy."

    ......whenever we decline to obligate the U.S. credit card, the GOP war hawks claim we are weak.

    Cut, cut, cut–but never the Pentagon bloat.

    We cannot afford to be the global cop anymore–let a global coalition obligate their national budgets.

    These warmongers must be ignored–the only way the massive bloat can be pared.

    March 3, 2014 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  7. Mike Davis

    Graham is as assinine as they get. I have much more faith in the president than people like Graham in congress

    March 3, 2014 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  8. Alex

    Obama is weak. If Bush is the current president, we will still be in Iraq and Afghan. We have already started the war with Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Of course, we will be right in Ukraine to fight the Russian.

    March 3, 2014 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  9. Marcia

    What would it cost the Repubs to NOT criticize the President of EVERY blinking issue-it is so phony and so tiresome-you can't turn Fox news on for 3 minutes without them calling the President a liar-so I switch stations-this phony outrage at EVERYTHING OBAMA is OLD

    March 3, 2014 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  10. David

    Graham is a bellicose gasbag with a high squeaky voice.

    Lindsay... Shut up unless you have something constructive to bring to the table.

    March 3, 2014 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  11. John

    How many hundreds of thousands died in Syria? Obama is no humanitarian by any stretch. He is being upstaged by Putin and that's the only reason for this posturing over Russia being in the Ukraine. This has been escalating for some time as the Ukraine economy weakened. The West could have got a upper hand on Russia if they would have offered more aid to the Ukraine. Now of course its too late. Another foreign policy blunder by the US and the Western countries. Now they worry about security and stability.

    March 3, 2014 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  12. MaryM

    Graham, Americans are Sick and Tired of republicans like you. Nothing helpful Ever comes out of your mouths.

    March 3, 2014 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  13. Rome burns

    Graham is correct – Nero fiddles...

    March 3, 2014 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  14. WillB

    Obama should do what Lindsey did in the Gulf Wars. Give himself a medal, wear it everywhere. Until some newspaper (in Charleston, SC) discovers you did not earn the medal and you have to stop wearing it.

    March 3, 2014 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  15. Me

    Hahaha you can't blame republicans and congress for this. Obama made it clear he does not will not listen to them or negotiate with them. His pen, his phone, his problem.

    March 3, 2014 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  16. bcaarms

    Funny how a bunch of people have all sorts of ideas, with a backdrop of reducing our military.

    March 3, 2014 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  17. DG

    Republicon Graham is full of bull. Look where that Bush-Cheney regime got us. Unnecessary war in Iraq killing and maiming thousands of our people, bankrupting our country, and all to help Cheney's Halliburton and Ryan's family business, and other defense contractors rip up off financially. Thank God for Obama, and no more of those crooked, evil, dumb Republicons destroying our country and running it into the ground.

    March 3, 2014 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  18. DC Observer

    Show Putin hos isolation will feel - call a new meeting in the US or in Switzerland or Germany for the G-7 and start preparing for it now -– Let's not keep the world economy on hold - time for the G7 leaders to show they will not be bullied and will not slow down the economic train - Isolate Putin economically NOW.

    At the G7 meeting the G7 nations can talk further economic sanctions against Russia

    March 3, 2014 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  19. Brian Richards

    This political stuff coming from the right is absolutely disgusting.

    At the very least the kooks ought to pay for the last two wars they got us into and turned into quagmires.

    March 3, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  20. these republicans

    if obama suspended Russia from the G8 and G20, then the next thing we would hear from the Republican's is "why wasn't congress involved? he just thinks he can rule by decree..." seriously they are using the crisis for political posturing ahead of the mid term elections, but one only needs to look at Georgia crisis of 2008 to see how Republicans handled a Russian invasion of its neighbor. but then again, they really hope their voting base and the american public has forgotten all about the Georgian-Russian war

    March 3, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  21. leonvang

    So the disloyal opposition opposes Obama for not starting a war with Russia. And what exactly did Bush do when Russia invaded Georgia and killed hundreds??? Sanctions – forget it. Ans how much money are the cons in Congress willing to shell out to assist Ukraine and save it from insolvency? Putin has no foreign debt so he can bribe countries with cash from ool and gas profits all day long. What do you have to offer besides a lot of BS Lindsey??

    March 3, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  22. Stephen

    Simple-minded people like Sen. Graham and most of the Republican party want us to believe that the President gets up one morning and decides what to do about Russian aggression all by himself. He hasn't sent troops in yet so he must be weak. But if they weren't trying to stir up the mob yet again, they would admit that sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor. We know you boys are always ready to organize a lynching – at least in your dreams – but the entire military intelligence community is working on this right now, and y'all would be wise to stand with them and let them do their job.

    March 3, 2014 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  23. czmdm

    It just happened a couple of days ago you dumb tea hick. What should we do? Invade Europe? Drop a nuclear weapon? Or just be smart and see how it plays out? This is the EU's problem, not the USA's

    March 3, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  24. G

    Graham sounds like a child. He doesn't speak for 'everybody'!!

    Every time the President goes on national television and threatens Putin or someone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine,”

    March 3, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  25. Mel

    These two losers are still not retired? They are good at nothing but harming this Country. I have never seen a people who will not let the President do his job. They think they have to open their stinking mouths all the time to voice their stupid opinions. All they do is undermine the President's authority at a time when we should all be speaking with one voice to Russia. There really needs to be term limits so that dump and old politicians like McCain and Graham can seek treatment for their Alzheimer.

    March 3, 2014 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
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