In a wholly unexpected development, given that until just yesterday any prominent person wishing to talk Ukraine peace plan possibilities or who expressed hope for a negotiated end to the war was denounced and shouted down as a ‚Kremlin agent‘, a group of 30 House Democrats is now urging the Biden administration to pursue a diplomatic track with Moscow.
The Washington Post, which detailed the contents of a letter sent to President Biden by the Congressional Dems, underscored they are calling for the US to „dramatically shift“ its strategy on the Ukraine war for the first time, with the grinding conflict now reaching the eight-month mark.
„The longer the war in Ukraine goes on, the greater the risk of escalation — to widespread, devastating effect,“ Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who is leading the efforts for a comprehensive strategy shift, told the Washington Post. „We should have no illusions about the challenge ahead of us, but … my colleagues and I are urging the Administration to engage in a proactive diplomatic push in an effort to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire.“
Crucially, it seems the past month of heightened nuclear rhetoric is actually waking up some of the politicians who appeared to be sleepwalking straight into „Armageddon“ – as Biden’s own ultra-alarming remarks on October 6 put it. Biden had said at the time before a Democratic audience at a New York fundraiser, „We’re trying to figure out what is Putin’s off-ramp? Where does he get off? Where does he find a way out?“ And he then asserted of the Russian president, „He is not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological and chemical weapons.“
The group of 30 Dems in their letter seize on some of these past warnings of stumbling into WW3, addressing Biden as follows…
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.
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.“
Except that there really hasn’t been much in the way of earnest „efforts“ seeking a „realistic framework“ for ceasefire for a long time… arguably not since the opening three months of the war, which left off with the Istanbul negotiations. One exceptional bright spot to come out of Istanbul, however, was the UN and Turkey-brokered grain export deal, which it should be noted has been hanging by a thread.
This new push for the US to get serious about the negotiating table comes after leading Republicans signaled that in a future GOP-led house, there would be no „blank check“ writing for Ukraine, after the US has already pledged an unprecedented tens of billions of dollars. So now it seems a contingency of Democrats are bracing for that distinct possibility given the nearness of the November mid-terms.
„We are under no illusions regarding the difficulties involved in engaging Russia given its outrageous and illegal invasion of Ukraine,“ the Democrats’ letter continues.
„If there is a way to end the war while preserving a free and independent Ukraine, it is America’s responsibility to pursue every diplomatic avenue to support such a solution that is acceptable to the people of Ukraine.“
And yet, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to never negotiate or compromise on ceding territory (apparently including Crimea), especially so long as Putin is still in power. But likely Washington alone has the power to push Zelensky to back off this maximalist stance. It seems some within Biden’s party realize such an intractable posture in Kiev is recipe for a lose-lose escalation leading to catastrophe in the making.
Yet, so far those voices remain a minority. WaPo notes that despite the big Democratic Progressive names on the letter, including AOC, a major shift in administration policy in Ukraine remains unlikely for now. „The letter was signed by some of the best-known and most outspoken liberal Democrats in Congress, including Reps. Jamie Raskin (Md.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Cori Bush (Mo.), Ro Khanna (Calif.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.),“ the report details.
Maybe the growing pressure from progressive anti-war activists had something to do with AOC doing some soul-searching on the Ukraine issue?…
WaPo concludes, „For now, their position remains a minority in the Democratic Party, which has overwhelmingly supported Biden’s denunciations of Russia and his spearheading of a global coalition to funnel massive support to Ukraine. Biden has framed the conflict as part of his broader view that the world is witnessing a historic confrontation between authoritarianism and democracy.“