Democrats withdraw letter urging Biden to rethink Ukraine war strategy


The Congressional Progressive Caucus has withdrawn a letter, signed by 30 House liberals and sent to the White House on Monday, which urges President Biden to negotiate directly with Russia to end the war in Ukraine.

The withdrawal comes a day after the letter, led by Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), triggered fierce pushback from many Democrats, as well as from Ukrainian officials, who argued that it was unrealistic to negotiate with Russia. President Vladimir Putin.

They also worry that the letter could create more pressure on Biden as he tries to shore up domestic support for the war effort, at a time when the region is heading into a potentially difficult winter and Republicans have threatened to cut aid to Ukraine if they retake Congress. .

On Tuesday, Jayapal said the letter had been drafted months ago and “was released by staff without checking.” He also sought to distance Democrats from recent comments by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who suggested the GOP-led House would not support additional aid to Ukraine.

“As Caucus Chair, I accept this responsibility,” Jayapal said in a statement. “The closeness of this statement creates an unfortunate appearance that the Democrats, who have strongly and unanimously supported and voted for every package of military, strategic and economic assistance to the Ukrainian people, are somehow aligned with the Republicans who are trying to pull the American plug. support for President Zelensky and the troops Ukraine.

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Earlier, several signatories of the letter also withdrew their support for the letter, saying it was written months ago. Late Monday, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) seemed to commiserate with others critical of the letter on Twitter.

“Listen to you. First, this was written in July & I have no idea why it came out now. Bad timing,” Pocan tweeted.

“Timing in diplomacy is everything,” Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), one of the letter’s other signatories, tweeted Tuesday morning. “I signed this letter on June 30, but a lot has changed since then. I will not sign it today. We must continue to support Ukraine economically and militarily to give them the leverage they need to end this war.

In the original letter to the White House, dated October 24 and first reported by The Washington Post, lawmakers called on Biden to pursue “a proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to find a realistic framework for a ceasefire.”

Liberal Democrats say the war’s dire consequences are being felt far beyond Ukraine, including rising food and gas prices in the United States and rising prices of grain, fertilizer and fuel that are creating global food shortages, not to mention danger. nuclear attack by Moscow.

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The letter was signed by some of the best-known and brightest liberal Democrats in Congress, including Reps. Jamie Raskin (Md.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Cori Bush (Mo.), Ro Khanna (Calif.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn. .).

For now, the position remains a minority in the Democratic Party, which has strongly supported Biden’s denunciations of Russia and the leadership of the global coalition to provide substantial support to Ukraine. Biden has framed the conflict as part of a broader view that the world is witnessing a historic confrontation between authoritarianism and democracy.

White House spokesman John Kirby said Monday that the administration appreciated the lawmakers’ “deep concern” but indicated no shift in the administration’s strategy in Ukraine.

“We’re not going to talk to the Russian leader without being represented by Ukraine,” Kirby said in a briefing with reporters Monday. “Father. Zelensky must determine – because it is his country – how to succeed and when to negotiate.

Privately, some administration officials questioned the timing of the letter, which came two weeks before the midterm elections and a week after McCarthy said the GOP might oppose more aid to Ukraine.

Jayapal issued a statement Monday evening “clarifying” the progressive position outlined in the letter, stressing that they remain in support of Ukraine and Biden’s commitment to ensure Ukraine is represented in any discussion about its future.

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

Democrats were not made aware the letter would be released Monday, including those who had signed the letter over the summer, according to three congressional aides who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue. A person close to the progressive caucus, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said it was strange to publicly release a letter with only 30 signatures from the 220 Democrats in the House.

Many blamed Jayapal for the mistake, and some aides said they believed it could hurt his chances of winning a spot in the Democratic leadership. Jayapal had made early calls to his colleagues to express interest in running for the leadership post, leaving the impression among some members that he would challenge Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.), who is also a member of the progressive caucus. , for suspected No. 2 point in the party.

Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.


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