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)

    I have to agree with LARRY L.The Right can't wait for any opportunity to bad mouth the President.This is rank politics.To discredit OUR president by saying he's weak and indecisive is tantamount to treason as far as I'm concerned.The Russians are next door to the Ukraine.The USA is thousands of miles from it.Logistically we are at a disadvantage.The President is trying diplomacy first,makes sense,sanctions probably next,then what?To those who would rush in with a military response I have one question.Have you or any member of your family been in a war or combat?If you have then you know that is the last thing you want to do.If you have not I suggest you let our leaders do what they can to avoid a war.

    March 2, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  2. NorCalMojo

    It should be interesting to see how the old school neocon GOP and new school Tea Party GOP align on this.

    I hope the Tea Party use it as a wedge to lever the entrenched pork-winners out of leadership.

    March 2, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  3. Maryellen

    I agree with William Miller, Lindsey Graham is a traitor. The entire GOP makes me sick to my stomach. The party of absolutely nothing to contribute to America!

    March 2, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  4. smjhunt

    What B.S.

    The U.S. has no power to unilaterally suspend Russia from the G8. They also can do nothing in the U.N. because Russia has veto power on the security council. It's easy to say do something every day but notice he doesn't tell you what. The thing he mentioned, suspending Russia from the G8, give you a god clue that he really has no idea what to do. He also provides no evidence that what he does suggest would be effective. If you wanted to get Putin to withdraw you would need to find that.

    Ukraine is not a member of NATO so you can't really justify military action and does he really think that's what we need is to get in to a war with Russia.

    He also conveniently forgets that we need Russia's support for dealing with Syria and Iran.

    March 2, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  5. SeattleReign

    And what would that sniveling, wimp Graham know about anything? He and McCain are joined at the hip, and Lindsay mimics whatever the war monger McCain spews. They're both relics and need to retire.

    March 2, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  6. Thomas Gentry

    Does anybody understand international politics anymore? Certainly not the mass of Americans claiming that we must go fight. First and foremost the main reason for our lack of moral authority here is that the United States invaded Iraq, took control, and had no justification for the action. EVERYONE in the world knows this. We lost our moral authority. It's gone. Putin is acting on the premise that we will not strike (we won't) and that President Bush laid down the new rules for invasion.

    Finally, those claiming Obama is some kind of weak President really have no idea what his international polices have been. He has pursued the Bush doctrine across the globe and has rarely hesitated to use force when necessary. My advice to those interested in bashing Obama is to look at the policy; it was formed years ago and decisions we make are framed by policies established by government bureaucrats.

    March 2, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  7. Robert Lemasters

    Our law makers do is because of what the law makers have done to our country and citizens, for their self profit and gain, these last five decades that Russia and the world could care less what we think. Russia and the world does not need the USA for anything. Fives decades of corrupt, incompetent, foolish and in my opinion illegal and treasonable government actions and policies, all of which have resulted in catastrophic failures have also resulted in the bankrupting and weakening of our people and military. Undeclared, unjustified wars mostly for the profiteering of contractors and suppliers along with the off-top -top pay offs of the politicians in the usual manner. Our seventeen trillion dollar national debt and dependence on Communist China for our finance of government and for our manufacturing needs precludes any response to Russia's declared military action in the Ukraine...and it was voted on by their Parliament unlike our unjustified military invasions and occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam which our Congress did not.

    March 2, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  8. Robert E Lee

    Sen Grahm is correct President Obama is WEAK & INDECISIVE.
    Valdimir Putin is 10 times more a world leader than Obama could ever imagine himself. The US has become the World's patsy pushover.
    Mr. President either should lead or go back to Chicago. You are not doing anyone any good.

    March 2, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  9. Nathan

    If we went to war against Russia; they would enact the draft we go again.

    March 2, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  10. smjhunt

    What B.S. Notice he says do something every day but he doesn't say what. The one thing he mentions, removing Russia from the G8 is not something the U.S. can do unilaterally. You have to wonder if he is just naive or simply trying to attack Obama for the sake of attacking him. In reality, we have very little leverage. Ukraine is not a member of NATO so we can't really act militarily unless we did so unilaterally. Why on earth, given all our economic concerns here in the US would we want to get involved in a conflict with Russia over a country in which we have no real strategic interests.

    In fact we have many more strategic interests in Russia. We need their cooperation to deal with Syria and Iran. We use their land as a refueling stop for military trips to Afghanistan.

    March 2, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  11. Jasmine Lindros

    Way to stab us in the back, Sen. Graham. I'm sure the traitors in South Carolina who voted for you are delirious with joy. Do you suppose other members of the G8 and G20, many of whom are our allies, might resent America dictating what they will, and will not, do? Do you suppose we have a lot of troops in Ukraine who can help defend against the invasion? Do you suppose we have a large naval presence in the Black Sea? Do you suppose we have air bases close enough for drone surveillance? The answer to these questions is NO, Sen. Graham. Did you have anything to contribute, anything that would help our country, or did you just get some face time to bash the President again?

    March 2, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  12. Sue

    The crazies in the world--Putin, Iran, North Korea, AlQaida/the terrorists--easily saw that we had a weak, clueless, incompetent, person in our White House-and that is why we are seeing the increased turmoil/violence/concerns throughout the world.

    If we had a strong, competent, respected, LEADER in the White House-backed by a strong/competent/forceful military-we would not be seeing this turmoil/violence throughout the world at the present time. But, instead we have the weak, clueless, incompetent, Obama.

    These crazies throughout the world recognized that Obama is weak, clueless, and incompetent-–so they are now "testing the waters".

    Ronald Regan said "peace through strength" and "speak softly but with a big stick" and he was right. If these crazies throughout the world would have feared what a strong/competent/respected LEADER in the White House-backed by the strongest/most powerful military in the world--would do-they would not be "testing the waters" at the present time.

    And, as these crazies gain more power/control throughout the world, it places are own country at increased risk.

    I hope that you are happy Obama voters-and that your kids/grandkids will be able to forgive you-for the new world/reality that you have created for them/their futures.

    Votes have consequences Obama voters--and now the WORLD is experiencing the results of your votes!!

    March 2, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. Plain white t

    Another Arm Chair quarterback with absolutely no experience in any thing other than graft, greed, free happy hours and dinners using his mouth to procure more illegal money from lobbyist and PACS. Blow on O trumpeter of a useless congress.

    March 2, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  14. mz

    HAWKS, HAWKS, HAWKS! It's always a go it alone military option! Get the facts, build a coalition, review the facts, apply economic pressure, get the truth, apply world pressure. Did the Iraq conflict teach anything, as I am still waiting for weapons of mass destruction existence.

    March 2, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  15. Matt

    I'm no fan of Lindsey Graham, but doing something would be an improvement over the status quo. Threatening to not attend a meeting? That's like a child threatening to hold his breath until he gets his way. Actually it's worse, because at least with the child, mom DOES CARE whether the child succeeds in blacking out or not.

    March 2, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  16. anonymous

    I hope all the other countries that broke away from the old Soviet Union are paying attention. The Russian bear is on the prowl again. Join NATO or risk the same happening to you.

    March 2, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  17. Nodack

    So sick of Republicans. They don't care what the situation is, the only thing they care about is attacking Obama. A global problem we need t deal with as a nation and they can't help themselves but to pull this partisan BS! Call him weak and demand action until he does then he's a war monger. It doesn't matter what Obama does, they will choose the opposite stance no matter what even if his stance was the one they demanded 24 hours earlier.

    Take Libya. They demanded action. They demanded a no fly zone and called Obama weak for not acting. Then the US meets with Europe/UN/NATO/Arab League and they all come together and act as one to initiate a no fly zone and the next day Republicans demand Obama be impeached for Benghazi a war monger and starting a war they didn't approve of.

    You guys make me sick. Will never vote Republican as long as I live.

    March 2, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  18. TexEcon

    It's 1938 again.

    March 2, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  19. Tim

    You've got to be kidding me right? Is Obama working with the international community a bad thing? Has anyone noticed how NOBODY respects us anymore after the Bush wars? I would say Obama is trying to gain that respect back by actually following international laws (like we're supposed to). Republicans need to shut their traps already because they are destroying our image of a strong democracy by undermining our presidents decisions. Last time I checked they are not in the White House and it needs to stay that way for obvious reasons.

    March 2, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  20. Martha in CF

    Graham should keep his mouth shut. Obama is doing what should be done. He is not getting the guns ready to fire as Graham would like. Sometimes countries must take care of their situations and not have everyone interrupting the processes at hand. Jumping to conclusions will only make matters worse. I hope Graham is voted out come November. Time for someone who isn't a war monger.......Take McCain with ya

    March 2, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  21. my10cents

    More powerful oratory from the mouth of the south Senator Graham. When the President uses executive powers but it is not blessed by the GOP he is suddenly a dictator, or emperor; when he doesn't he is weak and indecisive. The GOP is the most useless party in existence, they do nothing and then crow about it like they've achieved a massive accomplishment. If the GOP and it's illegitimate child Tea Party disappeared from the political spectrum this country might be able to rise back up and be prepared for the future that awaits us. The GOP believes in stagnation unless there is a profit to reap. Don't fix if it if isn't broken unless of course my corporate funders can make a huge profit at somebody else's expense. This is why our power grid is an antique, the bridges and roads are crumbling, and the country is running out of drinkable water but we rolling in oil and natural gas. If the half of the population of this country that voted for Obama died tomorrow the GOP wouldn't even care because they don't see them as their type of American. There is no 'us' for the GOP there is only 'me'.

    March 2, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  22. Paul

    The GOP has become a terrifying fringe party… Even in a time of crisis, instead of criticizing Putin our enemy, they eviscerate the president of the united states…. What a horrible party the GOP it has become – not patriotic at all, just a bunch of wacko birds… Obama has to be careful here, despite the nonsense from the GOP… If the U.S. attacked Russia militarily, it would be WW3, with millions dead… Is that what Linsdey Graham and company want? Clowns...

    March 2, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  23. USA John

    Reagan was not President when we were at war with Iraq, Nobody calle dfor war with Russia, but serving Economic sanctions would be in order, along with the rest of Europe it would hurt them with out fireng a shot, Drawing more 'Red Lines' do in fact make the US look week... by the way im not a Dem OR GOP supporter, just an American that remembers when we were more respected.

    March 2, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  24. L. Davis

    Amen, Jboh!

    March 2, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  25. Jay

    It is so interesting and disconcerting that Republicans desire to undermine President Obama is so deeply held that they attack him in this very critical time. Shameful.

    March 2, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
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