WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Ukraine on Monday night to bolster the new government in Kiev while the top leaders of the G-7 put pressure on Russia Sunday by suspending planning for a summit in Sochi.
Russia, the newest member of an offshoot of the global group — the G-8 — risks expulsion from the organization in the wake of sending troops to Ukraine. The suspension is the first of a series of potential punishments against Russia for what the G-7 leaders said in a statement was a “clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Earlier on Sunday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called for sanctions against Russia during Sunday show interviews.
With sharp divisions between Democrats and Republicans, Kinzinger called on Congress to put aside differences “to stand very strong with the president” during this crisis.
The Illinois lawmakers — Kinzinger on ABC’s “This Week” and Durbin on CNN’s “State of the Union” — commented as Kerry announced he would travel to Ukraine for “discussions” in Kiev on Tuesday.
Durbin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, defended President Barack Obama after Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on the same CNN show said Obama should “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 anyone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine. We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression,” Graham said.
Disagreeing, Durbin said, “You would expect the president of the United States to speak out against what Putin is trying to achieve here. We got to remember that Putin developed his diplomatic finesse as the head of the Soviet secret police. And his idea of invading countries, occupying them and really daring people to go to war is the tactics — those are the tactics of a bully.”
Kerry said he will ask Congress to approve assistance to the new government in Kiev as the finance ministers of the G-7 announced Sunday financial assistance for the new Ukraine government through the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
“We will call on Congress immediately to the degree that they are prepared to be helpful that they immediately lay down with us an economic package in order to assist Ukraine,” Kerry said on “This Week.”
Kinzinger, a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, predicted the GOP-controlled House — reluctant to allow votes on Obama proposals — would be a partner with Obama when it comes to Russia and Ukraine.
“I think you’re going to find a House that’s very cooperative with the administration on this, “ Kinzinger said.
“So, I think it’s important for Congress, and I think you’ll see this, to stand very strong with the president and saying, ‘look, we may not be able to respond militarily, but we’re going to make it clear that Russia is a pariah state and not just for the next year, but for the next decade or two going forward,” Kinzinger said.
Kerry urged a variety of international organizations to pressure Russia in the wake of Putin’s Ukraine aggression. “We think it’s very important for the international entities, the OSCE, the UN, NATO, the North Atlantic Council, the EU Foreign Affairs Council, which will meet tomorrow, all need to weigh in. And I believe they will weigh in heavily,” Kerry said.
Besides ejecting Russia from the G-8, other options Kerry mentioned in interviews Sunday on CBS, NBC and ABC:
♦ Freezing the assets of Russian companies.
♦ Urging U.S. companies not to do business in Russia.
♦ Making it tougher for Russians to secure visas to western nations.
Kerry said Putin is “going to lose all of the glow that came out of the Olympics, his 60 billion dollar extravaganza. He is not going to have a Sochi G-8. He may not even remain in the G-8, if this continues. He may find himself with asset freezes on Russian business, American business may pull back. There may be a further tumble of the ruble. There’s a huge price to pay. The United States is united, Russia is isolated. That is not a position of strength.”