Should the US directly negotiate with Russia regarding a ceasefire in Ukraine?
Until today this was basically a right wing position but now:
A group of 30 House liberals is urging President Biden to dramatically shift his strategy on the Ukraine war and pursue direct negotiations with Russia, the first time prominent members of his own party have pushed him to change his approach to Ukraine.
The letter, sent to the White House on Monday and obtained by The Washington Post, could create more pressure on Biden as he tries to sustain domestic support for the war effort, at a time when the region is heading into a potentially difficult winter and Republicans are threatening to cut aid to Ukraine if they retake Congress.
In a letter led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the 30 Democrats call on Biden to pair the unprecedented economic and military support the United States is providing Ukraine with a “proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire
The Democrats are specifically concerned that the United States is not engaging in regular dialogue with Russia as part of its effort to end a protracted war that has caused thousands of deaths and displaced 13 million people. The Biden administration has been adamant that it is up to Kyiv whether and when to negotiate with Russia, arguing that Ukrainians as a free people should decide their fate.
“The longer the war in Ukraine goes on, the greater the risk of escalation — to widespread, devastating effect,” Jayapal said in a statement to The 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.”
But some Russia experts say Moscow will only negotiate with the United States, a fellow superpower. The lawmakers say that opening must be seized given the war’s spreading devastation, adding, “The alternative to diplomacy is protracted war, with both its attendant certainties and catastrophic and unknowable risks.”
The liberal Democrats note that the war’s disastrous consequences are increasingly felt far beyond Ukraine, including elevated food and gas prices in the United States and spikes in the price of wheat, fertilizer and fuel that have created global food shortages, not to mention the danger of a nuclear attack by Moscow.
The lawmakers are at pains to differentiate themselves from the Republicans who are also challenging Biden’s approach to Ukraine. Some conservatives are now questioning U.S. aid to Ukraine because of its cost and, in a few cases, voicing apparent sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We are under no illusions regarding the difficulties involved in engaging Russia given its outrageous and illegal invasion of Ukraine,” the Democrats’ letter states. “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.”
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.).
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.
The liberals’ appeal for a shift in strategy comes amid some of the most significant U.S.-Russian diplomatic engagement in some time, as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently talked with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, for the first time in months. The two spoke by phone Friday and again on Sunday at Shoigu’s request, Austin wrote on Twitter.
Despite Biden’s success so far in rallying support for Ukraine, he now faces the prospect of cracks in the coalition as Europe heads into a difficult winter, gas prices remain high at home, Putin threatens nuclear actions and both sides appear to be digging in for the long, bloody haul.
Biden scrambles to avert cracks in pro-Ukraine coalition
In the United States, most of the challenges to date have come from the right, as some conservatives question spending billions of dollars on the faraway war. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — who would be likely to become speaker if the Republicans retake the House on Nov. 8 — signaled last week that a GOP-led house would oppose more aid to Ukraine.
“I think people are going to be sitting in a recession, and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine,” he told Punchbowl News. “They just won’t do it.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), speaking Monday at an international summit on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, downplayed the possibility that U.S. aid to Ukraine would end if Republicans take the House.
“I believe that the support for Ukraine and the people of Ukraine … will not stop,” Pelosi said, adding that “support for Ukraine is bipartisan, it is bicameral.”
But the liberals’ letter suggests pressure may now start coming from the left as well — albeit for different reasons — creating a political pincer movement that would make it harder for the president to blame opposition to his Ukraine policy solely on Republicans.
When asked how long the United States can be expected to pour billions into the war effort, Biden and his top aides frequently say, “as long as it takes.” But privately, U.S. officials say neither Russia nor Ukraine is capable of winning the war outright, suggesting a fundamental change in dynamic would be required if the conflict is to end in the foreseeable future.
For now, Biden’s aides have ruled out the idea of pushing or even nudging Ukraine to the negotiating table, saying it is a matter of principle that nations get to decide their own fate. They say they do not know what the end of the war looks like or when it might happen, insisting that it is up to Kyiv.
But a growing number of lawmakers and foreign policy experts are challenging that position, arguing that Russia will not take any negotiations seriously unless the United States is at the table, given its leadership of the West and its investment in Ukraine’s war effort.
“The risk of the strategy is it has no conception of an endgame,” said George Beebe, director of grand strategy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, adding, “It’s a recipe for continuing this war.” The Quincy Institute, which advocates for diplomatic solutions to international conflicts, is one of several groups that endorsed the liberal lawmakers’ letter after seeing an early version.
Behind the liberals’ concern is the reality that the war only seems to be escalating. Russia last month illegally annexed four Ukrainian territories, a move condemned by more than 140 countries at the United Nations. Putin has also repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons, prompting Biden to warn that the world faces the most serious “prospect of Armageddon in 60 years.”
“President Biden said quite accurately that if present trends continue, we could be headed toward the most dangerous crisis we’ve faced since the Cuban missile crisis. The question then is, what do we do about that?” said Beebe, ,..