A group of House Democrats on Tuesday withdrew a letter sent to President Joe Biden a day earlier urging him to pursue a diplomatic end to the war in Ukraine by negotiating directly with Russia.
What You Need To Know
- A group of House Democrats on Tuesday withdrew a letter sent to President Joe Biden a day earlier urging him to pursue a diplomatic end to the war in Ukraine by negotiating directly with Russia
- The letter, signed by 30 Democrats, was swiftly met with criticism from within the lawmakers’ own party
- Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said Tuesday the letter, which her signature appeared first, was drafted several months ago and was released by staff without vetting, although she took responsibility for it
- Jayapal stressed that the Democrats who signed the letter were not backing down from their support of Ukraine in the same way McCarthy suggested Republicans might if they win back the House in the midterms
The letter, signed by 30 progressive Democrats, was swiftly met with criticism from within the lawmakers’ own party. Those critics issued statements and social media posts reaffirming their support for Ukraine while arguing that negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin was unrealistic.
It was the first time Democrats publicly suggested President Joe Biden alter his approach to Ukraine. Congress has approved $65 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine since the war began in February, and lawmakers are reportedly considering another tranche of funding that could be in the range of $50 billion.
In a statement Tuesday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the letter, which her signature appeared first, was drafted several months ago and was released by staff without vetting, although she took responsibility for it.
More lawmakers released statements clarifying their true intentions behind the letter with some cementing their alliance to Biden.
“The war in Ukraine was started on Russia’s terms, but it will end on Ukraine’s. Our role in this conflict, as it has been from the start, is to support Ukraine in their own fight. The suggestion that we should make concessions on behalf of Ukraine is presumptuous, out of touch, and would only embolden Vladimir Putin. Having experienced the brutality of combat firsthand, no one wants to see this war end more than I do, but this is not the way to do it. In fact, by giving Putin what he wants, it makes things worse,“ Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., told Spectrum News.
“While I had no control over or insight into the timing of the release of this letter, which was originally drafted much earlier this year, the timing and resulting confusion, given Republicans and others actively seeking to undermine the Ukrainian cause, is deeply unfortunate," Rep. Ayanna Pressley told Spectrum News.
“This letter does not reflect the views of Congresswoman Adams, and she did not have the chance to review and approve the use of her name before it went out," Alma Adam's office said in a statement to Spectrum News.
The letter was sent less than a week after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Republicans will not write a “blank check” for Ukraine if they win back control of the chamber in next month’s midterm elections. Jayapal stressed that the Democrats who signed the letter were not backing down from their support of Ukraine in the same way McCarthy suggested Republicans might.
“The proximity of these statements created the unfortunate appearance that Democrats, who have strongly and unanimously supported and voted for every package for military, strategic, and economic assistance to the Ukrainian people, are somehow aligned with Republicans who seek to pull the plug on American support” for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people,” Jayapal said.
“Nothing could be further from the truth.”
In their letter Monday, the House Democrats asked Biden 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.”
“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,” the letter said.
In making their case, Democrats pointed to public statements Biden has made that “there’s going to have to be a negotiated settlement here” and that Putin “doesn't have a way out right now, and I'm trying to figure out what we do about that.”
The Democrats said they agreed with the Biden administration that “it’s not America’s place to pressure Ukraine’s government regarding sovereign decisions” but added that “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.”
Several Democrats pushed back on that idea and the message it potentially sent to both Kyiv and Moscow.
“Ukrainians must know unequivocally: we have your back,” Sen. Richard Blumenthan, D-Conn., tweeted. “No negotiations w/o you. No naïve trust in Putin, a genocidal war criminal. No pullback in support—in fact, increased arms, humanitarian & other aid. Putin is a bullying thug who understands only force.”
“There is moral and strategic peril in sitting down with Putin too early,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., wrote on Twitter. “It risks legitimizing his crimes and handing over parts of Ukraine to Russia in an agreement that Putin won’t even honor. Sometimes, a bully must be shown the limits of his power before diplomacy can work.”
“We cannot engage in magical thinking regarding the nature of the Russian threat,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., tweeted. “Russia has lied about its intentions in Ukraine and overturned international agreements fundamental to safeguarding peace on the European continent.”
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky applauded the Democrats’ now-retracted letter.
“Thank you for having the courage to push back against the narrative,” he tweeted Monday. “We are long overdue for an honest national discussion about what a peaceful end to the war in Ukraine looks like.”
Biden said in June that the United States will allow Ukraine to decide when it wants to try again to negotiate with the Kremlin.
“Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” Biden said at the time. “It’s their territory. I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated that position Monday.
“We’ve been very, very clear,” she said. “This is a decision that President Zelenskyy is going to have to make when it comes to any type of conversation with Russia, any type of negotiation. That is something that Ukrainians need to make.
“We will continue to support them as long as — as long as it takes,” Jean-Pierre added.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC News last week that despite Putin showing signs of desperation in Ukraine — including declaring martial law in four Russian-occupied territories — the U.S. believes there is “no interest on the part of Putin in meaningful diplomacy.”