House Progressives are facing a backlash from fellow Democrats after more than two dozen liberal lawmakers wrote a letter to President Biden urging him to push more assertively for peace talks in Ukraine.
The letter, led by Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal or Washington, marked a sharp break in the president’s Democratic Party over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war strategy against Ukraine.
“This letter is an olive branch to a war criminal who is losing his war,” Rep. Jake Auchincloss, Democrat of Massachusetts, wrote on Twitter in response to pressure for peace talks. “Ukraine is on the move. Congress should stand firmly behind [President Biden’s] effective strategy, including tighter — not weaker! – punishments.”
Senator Christopher Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said the call for diplomacy risked legitimizing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There is a moral and strategic peril in sitting down with Putin too soon,” he wrote on Twitter. “Sometimes you have to show a tyrant the limits of their power before diplomacy can work.”
The upheaval among Democrats comes on top of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s warning last week that Congress will not provide a “blank check” to Ukraine if the GOP, as predicted, wins a majority in next month’s midterm elections.
It also undermines Democrats’ attacks on what they call “Putin’s Republicans” for promising a closer look at Mr. Biden’s massive military aid packages to Ukraine.
Rep. Mark Pocan, the former chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who also signed Monday’s letter, tore up the timing of the letter, which he said was first written in July.
“I don’t know why he is out now. Bad timing,” the Wisconsin Democrat wrote on Twitter. “He was trying to get a ceasefire and diplomacy while others were beating war drums, not criticizing Biden. I supported the efforts and will continue.
The letter, which cited the “risk of catastrophic escalation” if Mr Biden does not “double his efforts” for a ceasefire, was signed by 30 House Democrats.
“If there is a way to end the war while preserving a free and independent Ukraine, it is America’s responsibility to pursue all diplomatic avenues to support such a solution acceptable to the Ukrainian people,” they said. writes lawmakers. “The alternative to diplomacy is a protracted war, with both its certainties and its catastrophic and unknowable risks.”
Lawmakers said those efforts should include direct talks between the United States and Russia to “explore the prospects for a new European security arrangement acceptable to all parties” – a move that would stand in stark contrast to Russia’s policy. White House not to hold negotiations “on Ukraine without Ukraine”. ”
In response to the letter, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reiterated that policy.
“We are not going to have conversations with Russian leaders without Ukrainians being represented, and that remains the policy and the approach,” he told reporters. “[Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy said that while he obviously wants to end this war, he doesn’t think it’s time to sit down and negotiate a settlement with [Russian President Vladimir] Cheese fries.
The lawmakers also suggested that Mr. Biden would have strong Democratic support for Ukraine aid if he followed their advice, urging the president to “match the military and economic support that the United States has provided to the Ukraine to a proactive diplomatic impulse”.
“As lawmakers responsible for spending tens of billions of American taxpayer dollars in military assistance in the conflict, we believe that such involvement in this war also creates a responsibility for the United States to seriously explore all possible avenues, including direct engagement with Russia, to reduce damage and help Ukraine reach a peaceful resolution,” they wrote.
The letter marked the first indication that unanimous support within the Democratic Party for Mr Biden’s Ukraine policy could be under threat unless future funds are also accompanied by diplomatic demands.
Following backlash from their colleagues, Ms Jayapal issued a statement attempting to backtrack on the perceived rift within the party over the president’s strategy or whether Democratic support for continuing aid was in question.
“Let me be clear: we are united as democrats in our unequivocal commitment to support Ukraine in its fight for its democracy and freedom in the face of Russia’s outrageous and illegal invasion, and nothing in the letter does advocate a change in that support,” she wrote.
“Diplomacy is an important tool that can save lives – but it is only a tool,” Ms. Jayapal wrote. “As we also made clear in our letter and will continue to make clear, we support President Biden and his administration’s commitment to do nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”
As the backlash poured in, Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat and signatory to the letter, issued a statement declaring his “unwavering support for the people of Ukraine.”
“I will continue to support appropriations to help Ukraine achieve self-determination and ensure that the Ukrainian people have the tools they need to protect their hard-won democracy.”
The scramble to roll back Monday’s plea is likely to disappoint progressive anti-war stalwarts outside of Congress who have traditionally been loyal members of the progressive grassroots.
US Progressive Democrats foreign policy co-chair Marcy Winograd welcomed the lawmakers’ letter but said it did not go far enough to push for an end to the war.
“The call for a ceasefire is an important first step and should be followed by votes from Congress to stop sending weapons to fuel a protracted war,” she said. “The solution is not on the battlefield, but at the negotiating table.”