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 Smith

    Simple solution Graham. Get a plane ticket and strap your 50 gums to your back and goto the Ukraine. I am sure they could use someone with your Rambo qualifications!

    March 2, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  2. Gurgyl

    Send Raphael to Ukraine along with Linsey Graham, McCain. Evil goes away from USA. Don't send our dollar though.

    March 2, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  3. f Peach

    Graham need a few more drinks to steady up, Barack need to step out to the balcony to take a few tokes to mellow out. Putin is laughing at both of them and all of the world who can do nothing to stop him. Iraq was a disaster for everyone except the US government contactors. Afghanistan is a complete loss. And the beat goes on.

    March 2, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  4. Duncan

    I have always supported Obama, but in this case I think the president is too slow to make a decision on what to do with Russia. I support suspending them from G8 and G20 for starters, and apply more economic sanctions each extra day they stay in Crimea.

    March 2, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  5. Thomas

    No More Mr. Nice Guy !

    The world needs a strong non violent leader to fight corruption on a global scale , the people of this planet are sick of GANGSTER POLITICIANS !


    March 2, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  6. Danram

    Not only should Russia be immediately kicked out of the G8, but they should also be kicked out of the WTO as well. The billions of dollars that Putin and his flunkies have stolen and stashed in western banks should be frozen. Their travel visas should be immediately revoked. A ban on all capital flows into Russia should be imposed.

    Finally, US air power should be deployed into the Black Sea and into Ukraine in force.

    March 2, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  7. Bringreason

    Some of these comments are useful and provide important perspectives. However, those that use terms like "Obummer" and throw around the word "Liberal" like it's a curse word just lose all credibility. Let's see some real useful and thoughtout input!!!

    March 2, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  8. JonFX

    Busy year for Washington, trying to bring in three new governments at once. Syria (CentCom), Ukraine (EuCom) and Venezuela (SouthCom). These wars are only created for the benefit of corporations, and it is good business. Living in Europe we get a generally better view of the actual news. Watching the news on American channels is something quite different. Your fed information to sway your opinion, so having an informed opinion is almost impossible.

    Crimean parliament voted to hold an independence referendum on 25 May 2014. Since most of the population are Russian, the outcome might not be in the Wests best interest. The Ukrainian president requested Russia bring stability back, this was the democratically voted president. Not the one put in power by the west.

    The IMF cant wait to get into Ukraine, and start austerity measures after the loan. So there go the Ukrainians resources for a few generations. This is all about money and gaining strategic land.

    Now I am not pro Russian, or anti American. Just someone living in western Europe looking at the bigger picture.
    America is a economic disaster zone, More American soldiers commit suicide at home then die at war. There were 6,500 former military personnel who killed themselves in 2012, truly sad statistic. But if we look back at history when ever there are real issues inside America, they remove the focus from the internal issues and start a fight some where else.

    March 2, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. USAF veteran

    How the hell does congress and the president expect to hold up the the US's promises and threats to putin if we have forces that will be at their all time lows! You better stop cutting and discharging troops if you want us to properly back up your big mouths!!

    March 2, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  10. 4mirrorlogic

    Distance America to Ukraine = 5,687 miles
    Distance Ukraine to Russia = 0 miles

    Think about it????

    March 2, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  11. jn122736

    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."

    Does Graham think that The president of the United States has the power to do that without the assent of the other G8 members?. President Obama and his advisers are considering ever avenue of response to Putin's actions, which is what any intelligent president should do.

    Shooting from the hip gave us the Iraq fiasco.

    March 2, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  12. happyfrenchman

    So much for supporting the President in an international crisis. The Republicans are bordering on treasonous saboteurs. But that is nothing new, They have been doing that for 5 years now. They all cried for intervention in Iraq. They have short memories.

    March 2, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  13. Jack

    Say a prayer of thanks that neither Lindsey Graham nor John McCain is commander-in-chief of our nation and pray that they never are.

    March 2, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  14. Mike Littoris

    Sean G:

    Considering the POTUS went to Harvard and Columbia and was editor of the Harvard Law Review, the last thing I would worry about were his grades in college 30 years ago.

    March 2, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  15. Rich

    We should just nuke Russia. Will that make the tea nutters happy? Seems their response to everything is to immediately send troops in. And then keep tem there for 20 years. Such family values.

    March 2, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  16. America the Beautiful

    Lindsey Graham, you should be put on trial for treason against your country and the office of the President of the United States. Our country is in a situation where the outcome will affect the entire world and all you can think to do is throw sound bites at President Obama.

    March 2, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  17. 4mirrorlogic

    Pushing a domino over when it pushes another and another is not always a good thing to do, unless you truly want the end result of all those dominoes falling... What end result is there in this? Crimea is primarily Russian, Ukraine on the boarder has a huge Russian population as well. Only further to the west is Ukrainian ethnic populations more in the majority.

    This is something being driven by those population dynamics - so why is Graham trying to push a domino? Testosterone rules...and feeds a certain political element out there.

    March 2, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  18. Amador Amor

    Here goes the Republicans again.... the war hungry party who started the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What do you want Obama to do? Send military troops to Ukraine and declare war against Russia? These wackos from the Republican/Tea Party politicians are once again shouting for blood in Ukraine. Enough of your showboating tactics. We're still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq and there's a turmoil in Asia along the China Sea where China is threatening to claim all the islands surrounding her neighbors.

    March 2, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  19. Jason

    Obama is a weak leader and I love how his Democrat pals on here always say that he is simply 'assessing the situation. Case and point, Mr Obama doesn't have the gall to do anything to protect this nation.

    March 2, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  20. Ed

    To those of you who blame this on the Republicans: Are you so willfully ignorant that you completely skipped over the part that Sen Durban - one of the furthest from the left, one of President Obama's biggest supporters - says the same thing?

    No, this is not a straight "Obama's fault" situation. Russia has been regrouping for years while Clinton, Bush and Obama have fought us to exhaustion so there is no will to fight another battle. Russia is taking advantage of that. North Korea is watching our response and will soon, too.

    March 2, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  21. ehunt29

    I see some people are waking up to the danger of this situation. Nothing worse though than under-cutting the President in front of the world. Some of you have called it what it is.

    March 2, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  22. gustav

    I am sure the Democratic National Committee posted most of these lol

    March 2, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  23. oy

    I think the laughing stock, idiot President you're thinking of is Bush. If you don't realize that Lindsey and crew are beating the war drums here simply because they love war (and the profit they make off it), you are more clueless than you already seem. Jumping into a military operation without thinking ahead is NOT how a President should act. Remember the mess called Iraq?
    Btw, President Obama was not only the President of the Harvard Law Review, but graduated Summa Cum Laude. You do not attain these things with bad grades, but keep reaching. Every silly claim that comes out of your mouth is just a nail in the coffin of the T-Party, so keep talking.

    "Sean G

    Obama is a laughing stock to half the world! Not just this country, the world! Maybe when they release his college grades we will see that how poorly he grasped western civilization and US history. Talking accomplished nothing in Syria and now Ukraine. You need to step up, stop thinking everything can be handled by community organization and be a President. There are way to many ex-presidents turning over in their graves right now thinking.... "Omg, how dumb was America to elect this idiot twice.'"

    March 2, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  24. Kyle

    as many have said, Graham and McCain look for any and every opportunity to criticize the president with their sabre rattling war talk.....if it was up to them when would be at war on just about every continent.....please shut up!!!

    March 2, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. ivan

    Obama is correct. He is not crazy to start a war with Russia without trying all diplomatic measures and international support. Republicans just say nonsense.

    March 2, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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