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. Secession Solution

    It is always funny to see one gang of Washington criminals tell the other gang of Washington criminals what to do. If the Russians ever invade Washington, they will have to fight off millions of patriotic Americans who will want to join them.

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

    Lindsey Graham would have us get into a Nuclear war with Russia so that we call all die. Then Fulfilling his wacko snake charming christian base biblical prophesies. Then all the GOP can go to their heaven with Luxury Condo loft gated communities in the sky. NO THANKS!

    March 2, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  3. Kurt

    As an outsider (Canadian), I have to marvel at the duplicity of your country's Republican Party. Even if it were true, and I don't believe that it is, that the president was "weak and indecisive" I can't imagine the rationale behind making a public statement like this during a major crisis because it in itself serves to undermine the president's authority. Cravenly trying to score political points with an extremist fringe in your party during a time of crisis should disqualify one for public office.

    March 2, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  4. Ready Freddy

    Its a no win situation for Obama no matter what he does people like Graham are going to complain anyway, if the President says nothing then he is weak if he speaks out then he is a bully..SMH

    March 2, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  5. Ann

    Mr. Graham, I am a Southerner too, but we would all be better served if you would take this time to be quiet.

    March 2, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  6. TR

    Why are some of these Republicans so Hell bent on bombing a country the minute something out of the ordinary happens. We don't need another war, and I especially think it is dangerous picking a war with Putin. I think President Obama is doing right by closely monitoring the situation and being in contact with Russia. He is playing a very high level game of Chess, just like President Kennedy did with the Cuban Missile Crises; and President Obama is a very intelligent man. He certainly has more accesses to sensitive information than we do. Some people are so trigger happy, they would have the world in ashes in a matter of days.

    March 2, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  7. Jon. L.

    I wonder if graham realizes that if we invade russia or get directly involved with ukraine without their requesting it that it would be the same as declaring WAR with a country that still has nukes. if the republicans really want a war, then put it to a vote in congress instead of demanding that POTUS act on his own so they can blame him if it goes south.

    seriously, republicans, shut up and do YOUR job instead of telling someone else how to do theirs!

    March 2, 2014 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  8. Juanito

    Putin and other world leaders are emboldened by Obama's lack of understanding and resolve in the world politic. Putin knows that no matter what, the Obama admin is easily placated with words. Even when he withdraws his troops, he will have accomplished what he set out to do: install a puppet regime in the Ukraine directly under Russian influence.

    We have lost the Middle East to Putin's sphere of influence, and everyone knows this. He and other European leaders laugh at Obama's lack of experience, understanding and resolve in foreign policy, and will continue to press for their interests while this joke of a president continues to occupy the office.

    March 2, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  9. menisino

    Beverly, you are right on...he's watching. .He has been doing that for a long, long time. I seldom agree with Graham but he is dead on about Obama speaking loudly & carrying a's almost like a recording. Obama should never been elected president. He is setting back the aspirations of American blacks for , perhaps, centuries to come, with his inability to make tough decisions, very much like his fence sitting in the senate.

    March 2, 2014 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  10. jerseyproud

    Ok Lindsey Graham. Like anyone is listening to a guy from South Carolina.
    We are certainly not going to get a totally objective point of view from you about a black, democratic leader.
    Your time to show us that race no longer influences your attitude, opinion an policy decision is up.

    March 2, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |

    Lindsey Graham didn't say "Benghazi" so no photo of Ted Cruz for him.

    March 2, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  12. Ready Freddy

    This is not about Obama it is about the entire US government and the United Nations trying to find a diplomatic solution, Russia is not some small mideastern country you have to think before you talk about using military force, and as far as Syria Obama was ready to end the mess there its only because of Russia that Assad is still in power there.

    March 2, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  13. DaveInFlorida

    I feel sorry for the people of South Carolina (re: Lindsey Graham constituents). He hasn't gotten it right yet.

    March 2, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. Donnie the Lion

    Graham is such a d!ck....slams Obama for doing nothing, then proposes....nothing. Suspension from the G8 and G20?

    Obama could end cancer and Graham's response would be "Look at all those researchers he put out of business."

    Obama, don't listen to anyone but your own advisors. People like Graham would be okay hurting the USA if it hurt you at the same time.

    March 2, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  15. Molly

    Raphael: give the Ukraine up???? Ukraine is 1/2 Western oriented, the other oriented toward Russia... different cultures, different languages. I war is not the solution... it's a CIVIL war. Why does our country have to get involved in every dispute other countries have?

    March 2, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  16. Donnie the Lion

    "We should be sending troops into Ukraine right now." You are pretty much one of a very, very small number of people who feel that way. Enough with sending ground troops onto foreign soil. It isn't 1945 anymore.

    March 2, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  17. Alan Fisher

    Does anyone have Popcorn?..... Russia is wrong for what they are doing and so were we for invading Iraq. I would love to get a definition on weak or strong. ....Are we strong when we send in our troops? Are we weak when we do not send in our troops? Are we weak as a nation that we do not take responsibility for the home coming of our wounded soldiers to the best of our ability?..... Syria, Sudan, Ukraine, Iran, Iraq, what is the answer instead of being a critic..

    March 2, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  18. 1alien1

    everything here is just politics. even sending troops places without reason. i would have thought the great patriots in the gop would have learned from iraq and afghanistan. nope, they are still willing to go to war without reason.

    March 2, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  19. JayHobeSound

    Perhaps Southern Belle Graham would like to deploy to Ukraine to resolve the conflict.

    Or just claim on his homepage bio that he deployed to Ukraine, but really just stay home. Like he claimed to have deployed to Desert Storm One. LoL

    March 2, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  20. veggiedude

    For those who think Obama is weak on this, it is a direct result of the USA losing its clout and respect in the world – because of the eight years of GW Bush. The US is weaker in influence, weaker financially and in being able to claim the higher ground, and also in military might because of the years fighting puny dictators over matters it had nothing to do with. Putin smells the US is on the ropes, being war weary and tarnished by amateur terrorists. Thanks GW.

    March 2, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  21. msennett

    This guy is a tool. He came to Baghdad as a "reserve O6 legal officer" and then demanded to be treated like an out of uniform senator. He's an embarrassment to his state and his office (if that's even possible anymore). If he's such a fan of being decisive, why doesn't he own up to who he really is.

    March 2, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  22. 1alien1

    tell me graham, did the blood from iraq and afghanistan stain your hands?

    March 2, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  23. Rogue351

    Is this really a crisis, or is it yet another political orchestrated crisis. Either way I would be inclined to believe the republican / tea party is not your first choice of diplomates to error on the side of keeping America OUT of yet another war. We have gone over this time and time again. No one wins if the US and Russia go to war. Money will be made if the two go to war but are those jobs, and million dollar contacts worth the lives ?

    March 2, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  24. Mjb

    It's ironic that Putin is using the same excuses Hitler used to invade Czechoslovakia in the 1930's and look what happened when the world did nothing.

    March 2, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. wendel

    old Mc Caine is running his mouth too.Glad he didn't become president. We would be broke from all the wars he would have gotten us into. Republicans don't seem to be able to unite at all in times of crisis instead they just want to point fingers and use it as political fodder. So much for standing behind the USA Vote all these creeps out . Give diplomacy a chance. Our boys can't fight everyone.

    March 2, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
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