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Progressive Lawmakers Ask President Biden To Rethink Ukraine Strategy

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Some top Democrats are asking President Joe Biden to change his strategy on Ukraine and begin direct negotiations with Russia. A group of 30 liberals in the House made the request of the president in a letter sent to the White House on Monday, the Washington Post reported.

“We write with an appreciation for your commitment to Ukraine’s legitimate struggle against Russia’s war of aggression. Your support for the self-defense of an independent, sovereign, and democratic state has been supported by Congress, including through various appropriations of the military, economic and humanitarian aid in the furtherance of this cause. Your administration’s policy was critical to enable the Ukrainian people, through their courageous fighting and heroic sacrifices, to deal a historic military defeat to Russia, forcing Russia to dramatically scale back the stated goals of the invasion,” they said.

“Crucially, you achieved this while also maintaining that it is imperative to avoid direct military conflict with Russia, which would lead to ‘World War III, something we must strive to prevent.’ The risk of nuclear weapons being used has been estimated to be higher now than at any time since the height of the Cold War. Given the catastrophic possibilities of nuclear escalation and miscalculation, which only increase the longer this war continues, we agree with your goal of avoiding direct military conflict as an overriding national-security priority,” the lawmakers said.

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“Given the destruction created by this war for Ukraine and the world, as well as the risk of catastrophic escalation, we also believe it is in the interests of Ukraine, the United States, and the world to avoid a prolonged conflict. For this reason, we urge you to pair the military and economic support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire. This is consistent with your recognition that ‘there’s going to have to be a negotiated settlement here,’ and your concern that Vladimir Putin ‘doesn’t have a way out right now, and I’m trying to figure out what we do about that,’” they said.

The group was led by Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who is the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus

She explained on Monday, after the letter was published, that the Caucus still supported Ukraine.

“Let me be clear: we are united as Democrats in our unequivocal commitment to supporting Ukraine in their fight for their democracy and freedom in the face of the illegal and outrageous Russian invasion,” she said. “Diplomacy is an important tool that can save lives — but it is just one tool.”

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The progressives mentioned what the president had said about Ukraine making decisions for itself.

“Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. It’s their territory. I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do,” the president said. “But it appears to me that, at some point along the line, there’s going to have to be a negotiated settlement here. And what that entails, I don’t know.”

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“We agree with the Administration’s perspective that it is not America’s place to pressure Ukraine’s government regarding sovereign decisions, and with the principle you have enunciated that there should be ‘nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.’ But as legislators responsible for the expenditure of tens of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in military assistance in the conflict, we believe 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 harm and support Ukraine in achieving a peaceful settlement,” the lawmakers said.

“In May, President Zelensky, despite deadlocked negotiations, reiterated that the war ‘will only definitively end through diplomacy,’ and had previously explained that ‘any mentally healthy person always chooses the diplomatic path, because he or she knows: even if it is difficult, it can prevent the loss of thousands, tens of thousands…and maybe even millions of lives,’” they said.

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“In conclusion, we urge you to make vigorous diplomatic efforts in support of a negotiated settlement and ceasefire, engage in direct talks with Russia, explore prospects for a new European security arrangement acceptable to all parties that will allow for a sovereign and independent Ukraine, and, in coordination with our Ukrainian partners, seek a rapid end to the conflict and reiterate this goal as America’s chief priority,” they said.

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