March 25, 2023

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Democrats withdrew the letter asking Biden to negotiate with Putin for peace in Ukraine

US House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (photo article)withdrew a letter sent by 30 of its members urging Joe Biden to engage in direct talks with Russia to end the war in Ukraine, following a heated debate within the Democratic Party over future strategy in the with this conflict.

Although the letter was sent to the White House the day before, it was understood that it was all a mistake. “The letter was drafted a few months ago, but unfortunately it was circulated by staff without verification,” Jayapal said.

Jayapal reasoned the party’s decision was actually a confusion between progressive Democrats’ call for a diplomatic end to the war in Ukraine and a recent statement by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who threatened to end aid to Ukrainians in if the Republican party takes over the House in the mid-term elections next month.

“The letter sent yesterday (no – Monday) was confused with the Republicans’ opposition to the support given to the Ukrainians for the just defense of their national sovereignty. As such, it is a distraction at this time and we withdraw the letter,” added Pramila Jayapal.

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The controversial aspect of the letter

This turn of events is one of the strangest choices made by democratic politics, British journalists note.

In the letter sent to the White House on Monday, progressive Democrats asked Biden to make “vigorous diplomatic efforts” toward a “negotiated settlement and ceasefire.” They pointed to world hunger and poverty that could result from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, as well as “high gas and food prices in our country,” concluding that America’s top priority should be to seek “a quick end to the conflict”.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the letter, The Guardian notes, was the proposal that Biden explore “incentives to end hostilities, including some form of sanctions relief” for Russia.

The letter sent to the White House was published on Monday, and in June it was signed by 30 of the US president’s Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives. The act also sparked heated debate among Democratic lawmakers — including one of its signatories — and drew a chilly response from the White House.

The letter was also interpreted as the first sign of a row over Ukraine within the Democratic party, which has until now staunchly supported Biden’s unconditional support for Kyiv in its fight to defend and reclaim its sovereign territory from Moscow. Even the timing of the mailing was criticized, coming at a crucial stage in the war and just a week after Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, said Congress “will not write a blank check for Ukraine.” .

The backlash from Democrats was so intense that within hours of sending the letter, Jayapal was forced to issue a “clarification.”

“Let me be clear: we are united as democrats in our unequivocal commitment to support Ukraine in its fight for democracy and freedom in the face of Russia’s illegal and outrageous invasion, and nothing in the letter advocates a change in that support,” she said.

The original letter was signed by several of the most prominent left-wing Democrats in the House, including the so-called “Squad” of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.

The White House’s curt response

Jamie Raskin, a member of the House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, was also among the 30.

The White House responded by repeating Biden’s central approach — that Ukraine would decide for itself when and how to negotiate with Russia. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated that there would be “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”

Individual Democratic lawmakers were more blunt in their reaction, including the signatories. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin congressman who signed the letter, said it was first drafted in July and indicated he was caught off guard by its publication.

“I have no idea why it was published now. It came at the wrong time,” he said.

A second signatory, Mark Takano of California, released a statement after the letter was revealed, saying he remained “firmly in support of the Ukrainian people.”

Ruben Gallego of Arizona, a member of the progressive group that refused to sign the letter, posted a scathing response on Twitter. “The way to end a war? To earn it quickly. How to earn fast? Giving Ukraine the weapons it needs to defeat Russia,” he wrote.

The US has allocated 66 billion dollars to Ukraine so far

The sharpest comment from a Democrat came from former Marine and Massachusetts representative Jake Auchincloss. He condemned the letter as “an olive branch for a war criminal who is losing his war. Ukraine is on the march. Congress should strongly support Biden’s effective strategy, including a tighter strategy – not a weaker one! – sanctions”.

After the initial wave of criticism, some of the progressive signatories defended their action. Ro Khanna of California, who pointed out that she voted for each of the aid packages for Ukraine, said: “Our nation should never silence or shout down debate.”

Congress has so far approved about $66 billion for Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February, including military, humanitarian and economic aid. With Ukraine increasing its advance on Russian positions, a potentially punitive winter looming, and the US midterm elections looming on November 8, the letter from the progressives could not have landed at a more sensitive time.

Russian experts warned that the intervention could embolden Putin and weaken the US commitment to lead the international coalition in support of Ukraine. Yoshiko Herrera, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said: “The biggest problem with the letter is that it may weaken US support for Ukraine, creating divisions among those who support Ukraine.”

The cracks, albeit fine, are already clearly visible on the Republican side. The largest aid package for Ukraine, worth $40 billion, was passed in May, with 57 Republicans in the House of Representatives and 11 in the Senate voting against it.

Supporters of the letter said it reflected a desire to end the war through diplomacy — an aspiration that Biden himself supported. He was explicit about that goal in a speech he gave in Delaware in June.

“It seems to me that at some point there will have to be a negotiated settlement here. And what that entails, I don’t know,” said Joe Biden.

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