Suspend Russia from G-8, senators agree

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday called for Russia to be suspended from the G-8 as a response to its aggression in Ukraine.

ADVERTISEMENT
"Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everyone's eyes roll including mine. We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression," Graham said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday morning. "President Obama needs to do something. How about this: Suspend Russian membership in the G-8 and the G-20 at least for a year starting right now and for every day they stay in the Crimea add to the suspension. Do something."

Durbin fired back against Graham's attack on Obama, but agreed with the South Carolina Republican's suggestion, which has also been made by some in the Obama administration.

"This notion of taking him out of the G-8 has already been suggested by the administration, some members, and I think that's the right thing to do," he said.

Russia has moved a large number of troops into the Crimea in southern Ukraine as a response to the overthrow of a pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, triggering international concerns about Moscow's actions. The U.S. and other Western countries have condemned the move but have stopped far short of suggesting a military response. Russia is scheduled to host the next G-8 meeting in Sochi, which just held the Winter Olympics.

"Vladimir Putin and the Russians just spent $50 billion on this Sochi charm offensive to try to redefine Russia in the 21st century. This Sochi charm offensive died on the streets of Sevastopol, when he moved in thousands of troops days after the closing ceremony," Durbin said.

Both senators suggested other diplomatic pressures on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Durbin called for congressional action to encourage help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Ukraine's government, while Graham called for the U.S. to be more confrontational toward Russia on a host of other issues, including a missile defense shield in Central and Eastern Europe and more support for Georgia.

"Now what Congress has to do, what the Senate should do quickly is a resolution condemning what Putin has done. Second, saying that, if Ukraine will stand up for real reform, that we're going to back them through the IMF, and making it clear to our allies in NATO that that alliance is strong and neighbors of Russia that we are going to do everything in our power to discourage further aggression by Putin," Durbin said.

The Illinois Democrat also called for pressure to be put on Putin's close allies, the wealthy Russian oligarchs who help prop up his regime.

"His oligarchs should be denied an opportunity to fly back and forth from Europe at will," he said. "We've got to make him feel that there's a price to pay for this kind of conduct."

"He does care about missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. He does care about the fate of Georgia; he invaded the country. So let's challenge him where we can; let's secure our friends," Graham said.

— This post was updated at 11:00 a.m.