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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript: Crisis in Crimea


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CROWLEY: Joining me now, Senator Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham, republican from South Carolina. He sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Gentlemen, thank you both for joining me today. I'm kind of tempted to say Ukraine go and see what comes out because this is an ever-changing situation.

Let me, though, try to sort of channel this and say to you, Senator Graham, the president has come out and spoken very forcefully on Friday about consequences. The U.S. has made it clear that it disapproves of what Russia has done. You've been tweeting about strong statements. What more do you want from President Obama at this point?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, number one, 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.

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 Crimea, add to the suspension. Do something.


CROWLEY: Does any of this -- I hear of, you know, resolutions of condemnation. I hear the president say this is wrong, you're violating the law. There'll be dire consequences. Given the stakes for Putin in this area of the world, why would he care about any of this?

GRAHAM: Candy --

DURBIN: I'm not sure that he does --

CROWLEY: I'm sorry. Go ahead, Senator Graham. We'll be back, Senator Durbin, in a second. Go ahead.

GRAHAM: Well, I tell you what, he very much cares about Democracy on his borders. I would like to create a Democratic news around Putin's Russia. Durbin -- Dick Durbin is right. Georgia is trying to seek NATO admission through the membership action plan. Let's accelerate Georgia's admission into NATO. Moldavia is under siege by Russia. Let's help Moldavia. Poland and the Czech Republic.

We abandoned our missile defense agreements with them to protect Europe from a rogue missile attack coming out of the Mid East. Russia backed Obama down. If I were President Obama, I would reengage Poland and the Czech Republic regarding missile defense. I would admit Georgia to NATO. I would have a larger military presence in the Balkans to NATO members who are threatened by Russia.

I would fly the NATO flag as strongly as I could around Putin. I would suspend his membership in the G-8, be the G-7. The G-20 would become the G-19 at least for a year. And every day he stays in the Ukraine, I would add to it.


GRAHAM: And 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, and if at the end of this, Candy, he has not paid a price, if Russia is not isolated, if there continue to be membership in good standing with every international organization, shame on us all.


CROWLEY: Senator Graham, I want to read you something from Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. She is part of a Ukrainian caucus on Capitol Hill, Democrat from Ohio, in which she said in an interview, "If I was President Putin, I would have been worried with the collapse of the party of regions" -- that is the government in Kiev -- "about peace in the Crimea. I understand Russia's military posture."

This, obviously, runs counter to anything either you or Senator Durbin is saying right now. What do you make of that position that there is, you know, a Russian view to this that is not totally understood or taken into account?

GRAHAM: It's a horrible position for American political leader to take, to legitimize what's happening. The Crimea is part of the Ukraine. In 1994, there was an agreement as the former Soviet Union split up -- and by the way, Putin's trying to create a new Russian empire and we should stand up. The Crimea is complicated, but it is part of the Ukraine. 1994 agreement, the Ukrainians gave up all nuclear weapons to maintain territorial and sovereignty.

This is not the way to influence a democratic state. Yes, people in Kiev need to understand Eastern Russia has its complications. But nobody in the world, including a member of Congress, should legitimize using 15,000 troops to invade a country to have your say about what's going on regarding your neighbor. This is an invasion. The Crimea is part of the Ukraine. This is not the way you settle disputes.

Can China go in and take islands away from Japan? The Iranians are watching. If we do not decisively push back against Putin and make him weaker and all of our friends in the region stronger, the Iranians are going to misunderstand yet again (INAUDIBLE) regarding their nuclear program. So much is at stake.

Putin's on the wrong side of history. He's 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. Not just in words, but in deeds.


CROWLEY: Senator Graham, it certainly sounds as though, given the state of the world and the kinds of warfare that are seen in the future, that you don't need as many people as you did when there were World War I, World War II, Vietnam, any of those.

GRAHAM: Well, my goal is to deter war. Read the report as to what's going on in North Korea. Do you think the person running North Korea is rational? It is a gulag. It is Nazi type tactics being practiced in 2014. What if the leader of North Korea woke up tomorrow and said it's time now to take the south. 440,000 members of the United States army is a gutted army. We do have a lot of technology available to our troops. Every soldier goes into battle with an array of technology and equipment not possessed in World War II. But you still need trigger pullers.

So this budget by President Obama guts our defense. It is the smallest army since 1940. The smallest Navy since 1915 and the smallest air force in modern history. If you went into Iran tomorrow to have to neutralize or stop their nuclear program, you're going to need every b-2 and f-22 you can get. The f-16 and f-18 are great planes but they're not stealth. So if you're going to modernize your military for future conflicts, this budget will not allow you to do it. And the idea you're going to make -- you taking off what kind of wars you're going to fight assumes the enemies of our nation will agree with you.


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