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. kneesus

    Who is Graham? And it's pretty easy being an arm chair QB.

    March 2, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  2. kneesus

    Oh and it's really helpful to call your leader "weak and indecisive", that will really get those Russians thinking. They hypocrisy is astounding.

    March 2, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  3. GOP = Greed Over People

    "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,”

    But, but Ms. Graham, what if the Ukranians have WMD's? And at least the Russians are protecting Russian people in a foreign country.

    Seems, I recall a certain President and VP of the United States getting U.S. Congressional support and invading a soverign country and killing thousands of Americans on less evidence.

    And dear Ms. Graham, the only time I envision you rolling your eyes, is tonight when you cannot decide what nail polish to wear with your gown, to the Oscar viewing party, somewhere deep in Dupont Circle!

    March 2, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  4. radar8

    "I would like to create a democratic noose around Putin's Russia," Graham said.

    Graham is nothing but a warmonger. How do yo think the US would react if Putin said "I would like to create a communist noose around Obama's USA,"?

    Pull out from the G8 and add sanctions, but quit the saber-rattling.

    March 2, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. Joe NYer

    I see a post which said Republican attacks on Obama are like the boy who cried wolf. Altogether now; Obama IS the boy who cries wolf.

    March 2, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. Gen Britt

    This dispute is none of our business. The takeover in Kiev by an armed mob is not a legal government and Russia has a right to protect its follwo countrymen in danger is a destableized neighboring country.

    March 2, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. Tommy G

    Vladimir Putin saw Obama in those soccer mom jeans andit told him everything he needed to know about Obama. And after 5 years of Obama hot air, bluster, red line after red line, I promise I'm going to get really really mad if you do something, Putin knows he is dealing with an incompetent amateur. Obama has weakened this country around the world in a way we may never be able to recover from. And I'm sure Iran, North Korea and China are taking very good notes.

    March 2, 2014 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  8. JDinHouston

    Got it – so Lindsey Graham is prepared to attack the Russian's in their own backyard and take on one of their largest navy bases. Let me know how chasing that windmill goes for ya, Sparky.

    March 2, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. shusen

    So predictable. I need say no more. Same as mccain. Any chance to swipe at the President is fine with them

    March 2, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  10. GOP = Greed Over People

    And what happened to the GOP's mantra about deriding the President in time of crisis? Criticizm was just this side of treason, back then.

    Did that only apply to the shrub?

    March 2, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  11. Gurgyl

    Lindsey, you are an idiot, shut up. No more wars. What did Bush do when Georgia was invaded by Russia under Bush. Where did you go? Idiot.

    March 2, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  12. Steve Smith

    More GOP nonsense. That appears to be the GOP answer–lets go to war and get nothing out of it. Its the GOP that are the thugs and the bullies. Graham is what is wrong with America.

    March 2, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  13. Randy k

    Oh, yes, please let's hear from the loony right wing about how to run foreign policy. They got a hold of our foreign policy under Bush and it was one of the most shameful and disastrous chapters in our history.

    Talk tough about Russian. Great, you can see them from your porch and look into Putin's eyes and see his soul. But try to understand the world and deal with other nations in an intelligent way? How about we leave that to the grownups?

    March 2, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  14. Seth Hill

    Russia has enough thermonuclear bombs aimed at us to kill every American several times over. So the Republicans want us to get tough?

    March 2, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. truth hurts but reality bites

    Immediately and without warning attack Syria, take down Assad and destroy the naval facility there. This will be the ONLY thing Russia understands. Obama was a fool last time and back down in Syria and he has been played for a fool once again. Obama has to prove to Putin and the world he knows how to make somebody pay for this type of aggression. If he doesn't then he will once again prove he is just an empty gas filled suit.

    March 2, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  16. Lee Brown

    Would someone put a sock in Graham's big mouth? He can hone in on a microphone even faster than McCain. What a mouthy pair.

    March 2, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  17. Jim

    The President doesn't have the luxury of crowing on CNN about what his toughest specific options are like Sen Graham. Anybody who thinks that the thought of the "tough action" Graham suggests would have prevented Putin from taking this calculated step against what he sees as a threat to Russia, more in terms of their naval base in Crimea and the prospect of all of the Ukraine allowing with the EU / West / NATO is delusional. What if we make that public threat and it fails? Gunslinging?

    March 2, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  18. lloyd roberts

    So, it was okay for the US to send troops into Grenada because US citizens were at risk, but in the Crimea where there have been ethnic Russians for 150 years, it's not okay for Russia to protect Russians. Just sayin'. Don't get me wrong, can't stand really any of them. the Ukrainians pulled off enough atrocities in WWII with their Einsatz Gruppe death troops, I personally don't care what fate awaits them. But what should Obama do, send troops to the Crimea, still in the closet Lindsey. It's on Russia's door step, we don't stand a chance militarily

    March 2, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  19. GarryOwen

    Let me get this straight, the Red Neck Right wants to invade, invade, invade.

    March 2, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  20. lou

    Shut up and sit down. You're nothing but an opportunist that needs to be quiet while the grown ups handle it.

    March 2, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  21. Marc Florida

    Give the Republicans the opportunity to make war on somebody and it is amazing how they stop talking about the deficit.

    March 2, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  22. Dave

    Graham knows better than anyone the only ones who can implement what he's talking about is Congress and they can't agree that the sky is blue so this is nothing but another Republican trying to capitalize politically on a very serious matter. They screamed impeachment every time Obama has threatened doing anything unilaterally but suddenly now they want him to declare war with Russia. Congress needs to act and start sanctions, there's no doubt the president will sign off on that. But we need to be careful when talking about starting another war. Jesus people how much weed are you smoking? Your short term memory loss is epic!

    March 2, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  23. Joseph

    President Obama should be more aggressive. A dictator is a Dictator. Putin always tries to defeat US in all issues.

    March 2, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  24. Stang05

    More empty threats from the community organizer. A man not respected for all his previous empty bluster. He has helped to embolden the bullies with the proposed and future emasculation of the military. Remember that with the numbers quoted, only 1 of 4 are boots on the ground so the amount of troops in the Russian exercise will be more than the U.S. total fighting force. In this case military force is not the answer but the threat of one is and the threat is weakening. Wait for N. Korea and Iran to flex and test. The organizers' agenda to abandon the past and grow his social agenda for those who do not contribute takes precedence and will continue. The past will repeat itself.

    March 2, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  25. Sonny

    Bama ain't nothin but a pvssy @s $ed Po po b ! Tch.

    March 2, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
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